We strive to educate our communities and provide the most current information on relevant agricultural topics. Each issue is comprised of articles written by our extension faculty on topics ranging from global trade to the economics of small vegetable farms. 

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Recent Articles

Tools to Manage Risk for Dairy Producers

Kenny Burdine  |  September 30th, 2021

While producer price differentials (PPD’s) have been less of an issue thus far in 2021, increasing feed prices are hammering dairy margins. Milk price volatility and rising feed costs continue to be risks that dairy producers are forced to manage. Fortunately, there are several tools available to dairy producers... Read more >> 

Fall 2021 Wheat Planting Decision

Greg Halich  |  September 30th, 2021

Corn harvest is now underway and Kentucky grain farmers will soon decide if and how much wheat they will plant this fall. Compared to last year there is a significant increase in wheat and soybean prices, as well as major increases in all fertilizer prices. Read more >>


Characteristics of Higher Profit Farms

Lauren Omer Turley

Lauren Omer Turley  |  August 31st, 2021

In today’s farming culture, the goal of most producers is to be at the top of the profitability curve in order to stay competitive. Although crop yields do play a major factor in management returns, the diversity of the operation also has an impact. Read more >> 


Small Fruit, Big Local Demand

Brett Wolff

Brett Wolff  |  August 31st, 2021

With Kentucky Farmer’s Markets regularly reporting strawberry prices between $5 and $8 per quart, blackberry prices between $5 and $12 per quart, and blueberry prices of $7-12 per quart, these fruits could be great supplemental products for sellers looking to expand their offerings with something customers want. Read more >> 


The Steer-Bull Price Differential: A Historical Perspective

Kenny Burdine  |  August 31st, 2021

In extension settings, I am often asked whether I think it pays for a cow-calf operator to castrate bulls and sell steers. Castration is not without cost as it requires time and facilities and does stress calves for a period of time. Like so many management decisions, there are numerous ways that one can look at this decision and there is more to be considered than economics alone. Read more >> 

2021 Land Values

Steve Isaacs  |  August 16th, 2021

Average Kentucky farm real estate values were $4,000/acre as reported in the annual Land Values Summary released by USDA on August 6. This was 2.0% higher than 2020 and the first-time average values have reached $4,000. Nationally, farm real estate was valued at $3,380 up 7.0% from 2020 and the largest percentage increase since 2014. Read more >>

Grain Market Shift and Profit Implications

Greg Halich  |  July 27th, 2021

The grain markets have been on a tear for the last year and have exceeded just about everyone’s expectations as to where they would be going into the summer of 2021.  Current prices for 2021 fall delivery are near $5.50/bu for corn and $13.50/bu for soybeans in many areas in Kentucky (7/22/21). If you haven’t marketed much of your 2021 crops now would be a good time to start getting serious about it. Read more >>

Mid-Year Inventory Report Suggests Opposite Trends for Beef and Dairy Numbers

Kenny Burdine  |  July 27th, 2021

On Friday, July 23rd, USDA-NASS released their mid-year estimates of US cattle inventory. Most all beef-related inventory categories were lower, with all cattle and calves down 1.3% from July 1, 2020. The story for dairy cow inventory was much the opposite as milk cow numbers were up 1.6% from a year ago and USDA reported a 2.5% increase in dairy heifer retention. Read more >> 

"There's an App for That"

Jordan Shockley and Morgan Waldner  |  July 27th, 2021

While there are hosts of mobile apps dedicated to agriculture, there are also mobile apps that deal specifically with agricultural economics topics.  Whether you are looking for pricing information for commodities or help with record-keeping, there’s an app for that. Read more >>

The Importance of Including Non-Cash Expenses

Michael Forsythe

Michael Forsythe  |  July 27th, 2021

When farmers are evaluating their farm profitability, many times, they will only include their cash expenses and they will ignore a very important component of their true profitability. It is very important for a farmer to understand that cash expenses are not the only expenses to a farming operation. If a farmer does not include these non-cash expenses, they will inflate the true earnings of their farming operation. Read more >>

Agriculture Exemption Number Now Required for Tax Exemption on Farm Purchases

Jerry Pierce

Jerry Pierce  |  July 19th, 2021

A new Kentucky law requires that farmers apply for an Agriculture Exemption Number to make qualified purchases for the farm exempt from sales tax. Farmers may still use Forms 51A158 and 51A159 without an Agriculture Exemption Number through June 30, 2022, by using their driver’s license number.  Exemption Certificates without an Exemption Number will expire and no longer be valid as of July 1, 2022. Read more >>

Estate Transfer under Proposed American Families Plan

Jerry Pierce

Jerry Pierce  |  June 29th, 2021

On May 28th the Biden Administration released a general explanation of its proposed tax changes. This includes an explanation of proposed changes in the American Families Plan that would tax transfers of appreciated property by gift or upon death, tax capital income for high-income earners at ordinary rates, increase the top marginal income tax rate, and apply the 3.8-percent Medicare tax to all trade or business income of high-income taxpayers, including transfer of assets. Read more >>

Does the IRS Consider my Farming Operation a Hobby Farm?

Tarrah Hardin

Tarrah Hardin  |  June 29th, 2021

Many producers that have both farm and non-farm income, may question if the IRS considers their farming activities to be a “business” or a “hobby”.  This is a very important distinction to both the farmer and the IRS due to the IRS treatment of business income versus “hobby” income. The IRS has nine factors they use to determine the status of the farming operation. Read more >>

People Skills: Appropriate Feedback

Steve Isaacs  |  June 29th, 2021

People are the most important resource in a farm business. However, managing people is often the least developed of the skills necessary to run a successful farm business. If you think praising people when they do something right and criticizing them when they do something wrong is all there is to knowing how to provide feedback, then don’t be surprised that things aren’t going well in the people part of the business. Read more >>

It May be a Good Time to Sell Your Mature Hardwood Timber

Chad Niman

Chad Niman and Bobby Ammerman  |  June 29th, 2021

If you have purchased a sheet of plywood or a 2 X 4 stud from your local lumber yard or box store recently you very likely have noticed that wood product prices have skyrocketed. The demand for wood has been on the increase and the prices for timber and lumber have risen along with the products. If you are a woodland owner with mature timber, it might be a good time to consider selling—if it fits in with your overall woodland management plan. Read more >>

How Hay Became a Four Letter Word

Greg Halich  |  May 28th, 2021

In some circles of the progressive forage community, hay has already become a four-letter word. It’s been demonized for sucking out the profits on cattle farms and has stigmatized underperforming farmers who feed it as a sign of weakness. Hay should be considered a tool, and like any tool, it can be used wisely or abused. Used wisely and fed judiciously, hay allows us to have a significantly higher stocking rate than we could with no hay feeding, and, in most cases, be more profitable. Read more >>

Solar Farming Considerations

Alison Davis

Alison Davis  |  May 28th, 2021

Both solar and wind energy have the potential to offset a significant fraction of non-renewable electricity demands, yet it occupies extensive land when deployed at levels large enough to meet global demand. The following summarizes some of the considerations for individual farmers, communities, and local leaders... Read more >>

Proposed Gift and Estate Tax Changes

Laura Powers

Laura Powers  |  May 28th, 2021

You may have been reading in the news lately about proposed changes to various tax laws and their impact on farmers. At this point, however, we would like to provide some background information as to what you may be hearing. Read more >>


U.S. and Global Food Price Inflation

Will Snell  |  May 28th, 2021

Last year, COVID induced major disruptions in our food supply chain ranging from temporary closures of meat processing plants and restaurants to the panic buying of consumers. As a result U.S. food prices overall jumped 3.5% in 2020 -- its second-highest annual level spike over the past 30 years. While escalating food prices has been headline news of late,  USDA is projecting that food prices will increase only between 2 and 3% in 2021, as inflation for most food categories is expected to be at or below their 20-year historical averages. Globally, food price inflation is a much greater concern. Read more >>

National Farm Market Impacts from Covid

Tim Woods

Tim Woods and Mahla Zare  |  April 29th, 2021

A Fall 2020 national survey conducted by the Farmers Market Coalition of farmers market managers starts to provide a glimpse into some of the winners and losers in farmers markets across the country.  Farmers markets have been important venues for small vendors and localized food systems, often providing a diversity of kinds of vendors participating. Read more >>

Carbon Markets 101

Jordan Shockley and Will Snell  |  April 29th, 2021

The development of agricultural ecosystem credit markets, specifically carbon markets, is a hot topic in the popular press and Washington, DC.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 10% of carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas, is emitted by the agricultural sector.  While this is relatively a small portion of overall carbon dioxide emissions by the economic sector, agriculture has received a lot of attention in reducing overall GHG emissions recently.  Read more >>

Contractor or Employee?

Jennifer Rogers

Jennifer Rogers  |  April 29th, 2021

Extra help is often needed around the farm.  It can be easy to get someone to come help out when needed and pay them at the end of the day for the job completed.  What gets difficult is knowing the difference between contract labor and an employee. Read more >>

USDA Announces Additional Pandemic Assistance for Farmers

Will Snell and Kenny Burdine  |  March 30th, 2021

On March 24th, U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack introduced USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers that will be distributing more than $12 billion to assist agricultural producers and other agricultural businesses impacted by the Coronavirus. Read more >>


Hemp Contract Considerations

Jonathan Shepherd, Paul Goeringer, and Tyler Mark  |  March 30th, 2021

Engaging in production agriculture is a risky profession, even for mature markets, such as corn and poultry, much less one that lacks the market transparency of hemp. One way producers mitigate risk in mature markets is through the utilization of production and marketing contracts.. Read more >>

Maximizing Value: 2021 Spring Application of Broiler Litter for Grain Crop Production

Jordan Shockley  |  March 30th, 2021

Spring is here and grain producers across the state are gearing up for planting.  One of the many decisions producers have to make before planting is in regard to their nutrient management plan.  Broiler litter provides a great opportunity as a complete fertilizer and is being produced and used throughout the state in grain production.  Read more >>

Summer Stocker Outlook for 2021

Greg Halich and Kenny Burdine  |  March 18th, 2021

Spring means stocker operators are looking to place calves on pasture for summer and is the time of year when we typically see our seasonal highs in the calf market. The purpose of this article is to assess the likely profitability of summer stocker programs for 2021 and establish target purchase prices for calves based on a range of return levels. Read more >>

Cow-Calf Profitability Estimates for 2020 and 2021 (Spring Calving Herd)

Greg Halich, Kenny Burdine, and Jonathan Shepherd  |  February 25th, 2021

The purpose of this article is to examine cow-calf profitability for a spring calving herd that sold weaned calves in the fall of 2020 and provide an estimate of profitability for the upcoming year. Every operation is different, so producers should evaluate and modify these estimates to fit their situation.  Read more >>

ARC-PLC Farm Bill Decision 2021

Greg Halich  |  February 25th, 2021

Starting in 2018, grain farmers have had the ability to decide on a yearly basis between the ARC and PLC Farm Bill programs. In general, the decision for 2021 will not be nearly as important as in most years, as the likelihood for a payout with either program is fairly low with all crop-types. Read more >>

2021 Tobacco Budgets

Will Snell  |  February 25th, 2021

I have always claimed that tobacco returns will generally generate a much greater variation across growers compared to many other agricultural enterprises given tobacco producer differences in labor source (H2A vs non-H2A), labor requirements, yield expectations, equipment and housing/stripping facilities, GAP fees, and price outcomes.  Consequently, growers are encouraged to use our budget templates to develop a baseline that fits their individual farm and then look at our price and yield sensitivity tables to assess a wide variety of outcomes. Read more >>

Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness

Jerry Pierce

Jerry Pierce  |  February 25th, 2021

The Economic Aid Act reauthorized the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through March 31. On January 19, 2021, SBA issued Interim Final Rules concerning forgiveness and review of first and second draw loans made under PPP. Read more >>

Liquidation of the U.S. Beef Herd Continues, but at a Slower Pace than Expected

Kenny Burdine  |  February 2nd, 2021

USDA-NASS released their January 1, 2021 cattle inventory estimates on the afternoon of Friday, January 29th. The U.S. beef cow herd was estimated to be down by 0.6%, which was a smaller decrease than most had expected. Read more >> 


More Government Money on the Way for Kentucky Farmers

Will Snell  |  January 28th, 2021

As a result of the stimulus package that became law at the end of 2020, Kentucky farmers are set to receive a third round of CFAP payments in 2021 (CFAP 3.0).  Currently, USDA is developing specific rules/details on the new CFAP program with farmer sign-up and payments to follow. Read more >>

Cantaloupe, Watermelon, and Pumpkin Market Trends for Kentucky

Savannah Columbia

Savannah Columbia and Tim Woods  |  January 28th, 2021

Cantaloupe, watermelons and pumpkins have been important crops for Kentucky, especially moving through the auctions. Good growing conditions led to both strong yields and quality and, with the strong prices, these three products helped see auction sales move roughly 40% higher for the season compared to 2019. Read more >>

Continued Declines in Hemp Profitability Mixed with Marginal Profit Potential for 2021

Jonathan Shepherd and Tyler Mark  |  January 28th, 2021

For 2021, it is expected that both approved and planted acres for hemp will continue to decline.  Many producers and processors are still working through the biomass and/or processed crude oil from 2019 and 2020 growing seasons. Read more >>


ARC vs PLC – The Basics

Will Snell  |  January 28th, 2021

The 2014 Farm Bill developed two programs to provide income support for specified row crops -- the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. These risk management programs were reauthorized in the 2018 Farm Bill with slight modifications and remain in effect for the 2019-2023 crop years. Read more >>

Paycheck Protection Program Update

Jerry Pierce

Jerry Pierce  |  January 20th, 2021

The Economic Aid Act reauthorized the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through March 31 and made several modifications beneficial to farmers. It also authorizes second draw PPP loans. Read more >>


Additional CFAP Funding Announced

Will Snell and Kenny Burdine  |  January 19th, 2021

USDA announced on this past Friday that additional Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments (labeled CFAP 2.1) will be made for certain producers using leftover funds from the first two rounds of CFAP. Read more >>


2020 Tax Update

Suzy Martin  |  November 25th, 2020

Despite all the events of 2020, the tax law changes were minimal. One item of discussion is the “Recovery Rebate”, which was the stimulus payment of $1200 ($2400 for couples) that was received in the first half of the year. Read more >>


Estimates of What it is Going to Cost Me to Destroy my "HOT" Hemp Crop

Jonathan Shepherd and Tyler Mark  |  November 25th, 2020

We recognize that no one plants a crop with expectations of having to destroy the crop. However, the risk of producing a hemp crop that is non-compliant is a real risk and has a genuine cost associated. This article begins to outline the time and cost estimates associated with the various methodologies of crop destruction. Read more >>

Communication in Stressful Times

Steve Isaacs  |  November 25th, 2020

How we communicate with family, friends, employees, customers, and employers is different in stressful situations. Dr. Vincent Covello of the Center for Risk Communication says that all the communication rules change under stress. The things we say, how we say them, and how they are heard are very different in low-stress situations than they are in high-stress circumstances. Read more >>

The Economic Value of Applying Broiler Litter in the Fall

Jordan Shockley  |  November 25th, 2020

Spring application of broiler litter is ideal for maximizing the economic value, but faces challenges that include wet soil conditions, lack of time to spread litter near planting, and availability of litter in the spring. Therefore, it is a common practice in Kentucky to apply broiler litter in the fall.  While not optimal from an economic, agronomic, or environmental perspective, producers still need to understand the economic value of applying broiler litter in the fall. Read more >>