Chamber event focuses on agriculture


EATON — The Preble County Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Agriculture Outlook Luncheon on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the Preble County Fairgrounds Expo Center. Barry Ward, Director of the OSU Extension Income Tax School Program and Leader of Production Business Management served as keynote speaker for the event.

“Our chamber’s mission is to promote business growth and professional engagement in Preble County,” Chamber Executive Director Karen Moss said in welcoming those in attendance. “Our board in discussions this year decided we wanted to bring a little more focus to agribusiness and agriculture in Preble County since it’s such a part of our fabric and our heritage. And so, it’s our joy just to be hosting this luncheon today and it’s a step in that direction.”

“This is a first Lunch and Learn opportunity for agriculture here in the county and a great opportunity for the chamber and agriculture to build a relationship together,” Ag Luncheon committee chair Rachael Vonderhaar said before introducing Ward. “I’m thankful to have Farm Bureau here as part of the networking that’s taking place, and great conversation related to taxation for us.”

Vonderhaar also welcomed and thanked several elected officials and their representatives who were in attendance.

Ward provided an agriculture outlook for 2024, discussed land values, inflation, taxation and interest rates and their impact on the farming community.

“There’s a number of factors that’s thrown in here,” said of the effects of interest rates. “What’s created more complexity in this situation as far as whether or not we’re going to continue to raise interest rates, is some of these regional bank concerns. We had a couple of go out of business, that went down earlier this year, and a couple of others were very close and were at risk, if you will. So there’s still a concern there as the Fed continues to raise interest rates whether or not that’s going to continue to put more pressure on those regional banks throughout the U.S. So the Fed is wrangling with that,” Ward said during his presentation.

“So what are we looking at for this year? I really specialize in crop production. I don’t stray too far out of that. I didn’t raise hogs when I was growing up. That sector is so highly integrated in the state of Ohio and across the Midwest it’s really hard to get the economic side. So we’re going to focus on the big crops in the state of Ohio,” Ward said. He then covered topics pertinent to the production of those crops.

“First of all fuel. This is the Energy Information Administration, their latest estimates or the average prices for these fuel components. This is basically the U.S. crude oil price. And we can see that it’s right around or expected to be about 75 bucks a barrel average in ‘23 and that number increases in ’24,” Ward noted in his presentation.

Among the topics covered, Ward pointed out that natural gas prices have declined, and discussed the jump in farmland values, higher yields, higher input costs and the higher overall cost in farm machinery.

“It’s not those cash costs, and sometimes we can focus on seed fertilizer, chemical, those costs, but it’s that overhead cost that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle that farmers have to deal with. And those machine and equipment costs are meaningful.

“Even with all that, I think ‘23 will be a positive margin year for us here while we’ll continue to put upward pressure on farmland values,” Ward said.

He also touched on development. “I know that’s a subject I try to avoid in most parts of the state because of it’s different viewpoints, different types of opinions, but throughout most of Ohio, there is more development pressure, whether it’s solar, whether it’s continued looking at more pipeline development, other things that are created a lot more pressure — and some of it is simply good old development around the cities, areas where the cities continue to build out and they see more and more that farmland is attractive for development.”

Land rental rates were also a topic. He providedNational Ag Statistics Service data for rental rates, gathered by surveying farmers across the state. “And Preble County was right around 200 bucks an acre.You didn’t get the award for the highest — that went to Auglaize County,” he said.

As for his outlook for 2024, “right now my early outlook is that ’24 will be somewhere near ’23, Reliant on good yields, and prices as they are right now. As I look forward to ’24, I don’t see it falling off a cliff. I don’t see us really seeing negative margins,” Ward said.

The Ag Outlook Luncheon was sponsored by Somerville Bank, Reid Health and the Preble County Agricultural Society.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.

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