OMAHA, Neb. — A new survey of bankers indicates a waning economy in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, and weak farm income is hurting producers' ability to borrow money from banks.
The Rural Mainstreet survey released Thursday shows its overall index fell to to 50.2 this month from 54.2 in November. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy.
Federal agriculture crop support payments and somewhat higher grain prices kept the overall index from falling into negative territory in December, said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.
Goss also noted that one of every nine bank CEOs surveyed expects 2020 farm loan defaults to expand by 10% to 20%.
Bankers were also asked about their bank’s response to weak farm income, Goss said. Almost two-thirds indicated their bank had increased collateral requirements, while more than a third reported they had rejected a higher number of farm loan applications.
The confidence index — a measure of economic optimism for the next six months — remained in negative territory at 45.8 in December, although it was higher than November's 44.4.
Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.