Midwest banks tighten lending, as low farm incomes persist

OMAHA, Nebraska-  The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index for December rose above growth neutral after slipping below the 50.0 threshold in January, according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy.    

 Overall: The overall index climbed to 54.2 from November’s 49.9, its first sub-growth neutral reading since January 2018. The index ranges between 0 and 100 with 50.0 representing growth neutral.

“Our surveys over the last several months indicate the Rural Mainstreet economy is expanding outside of agriculture. However, the negative impacts of tariffs and low agriculture commodity prices continue to weaken the farm sector,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business.  

Larry Winum, CEO of Glenwood State Bank in Glenwood, Iowa, said, “Glad to see Congress passed a bipartisan farm bill. (It) allows farmers and their community bankers to budget more accurately in the future.”   

Farming and ranching: The farmland and ranchland-price index for December slipped to 35.7 from 35.9 in November. This is the 61st straight month the index has fallen below growth neutral 50.0.  The December farm equipment-sales index increased to 37.1 from November’s 30.6. This marks the 64th consecutive month that the reading has moved below growth neutral 50.0.

Iowa: The December RMI for Iowa rose to 53.7 from November’s 48.7. Iowa’s farmland-price index was unchanged from November’s 35.6. Iowa’s new-hiring index fell to 54.8 from November’s 60.7. Larry Winum, CEO of the Glenwood State Bank in Glenwood, said, “The early snow fall in the Omaha area certainly has hampered harvest. The great yields anticipated will certainly be impacted negatively.” Over the past 12 months, Iowa’s Rural Mainstreet economy added jobs at a 0.6 percent pace, while urban areas in the state increased jobs by 2.0 percent.  

Nebraska: The Nebraska RMI for December expanded to 53.7 from November’s 49.5. The state’s farmland-price index slipped to 35.7 from last month’s 35.9. Nebraska’s new-hiring index fell to 54.9 from 64.1 in November. Over the past 12 months, Nebraska’s Rural Mainstreet economy added jobs at a 0.4 percent pace, while urban areas in the state increased jobs by 2.1 percent.

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