The Iowa Farm Bureau Federa­­tion (IFBF) will host a major agricultural summit on June 27 at the organization’s headquarters in West Des Moines to provide farmers insights and strategies for managing in a far more stressful economic period.

There is a very clear need for an agricultural economic summit in 2016 because of the sharp downward shift in commodity prices and farmers’ margins, said Craig Hill, IFBF president.

"When we held our earlier economic summits a couple of years ago, times were much better. But we always knew the economy would shift because agriculture is cyclical. So now it’s critical to provide farmers with the information they need to manage through these much tougher times," said Hill, a Warren County farmer.

The one-day summit, titled "Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride," will be designed to help farmers prepare for what appears to a three-to-five year period of tight to negative margins on crops and livestock, said Dave Miller, IFBF director of research and commodity services. "These challenging times call for very different management strategies than ones that worked a few years ago," he said. "We want to help farmers find the tools they need to manage through this period and survive to stay in business."

A range of speakers

The summit will feature a range of Iowa-based and national experts, ranging from economist Nathan Kaufmann of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Iowa State University’s (ISU) Chad Hart and Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank. Mitchell, a popular speaker, will discuss monetary policy and the outlook for the economy during the 2016 presidential election season.

The 2016 IFBF economic summit, which will begin June 27 at 7:30 a.m., will also feature panels on key issues facing farmers today.

The first will be a panel of experts to discuss the outlook for crop and meat exports. The panel will also look at the potential for farmers in proposed blockbuster trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Pacific nations and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. "We have real challenges in export markets today, but we know that we need stronger export demand to get us out of the commodity price funk we’re in right now," Miller said.

A second panel will discuss land prices, rental rates, asset values and credit issues facing farmers today. "It’s very important for farmers to know the attitude of lenders today," Miller said. "With the more difficult economics we are seeing, managing credit and maintaining cash flow are going to be a bigger part of remaining in business."

In addition, ISU’s Matt Darr will explore how farmers can employ technology and big data to improve profit potential in a tougher economy.

Sharpening skills

The IFBF selected the speakers at the 2016 summit to provide farmers information to improve their management and marketing skills, Hill noted. "We all need to sharpen those skills, which we might have let slip a bit during the period when things were so good."

Registration for the summit in West Des Moines is $75 per member before June 17 and $100 after that (non-members may register for $100). Information on the summit, including on-line registration form and agenda, can be found at

Look for more on the 2016 Iowa Farm Bureau economic summit in future issues of the Spokesman.