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Report Changes Farm Income Figures

December 21, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An Agriculture Department report Wednesday showed that farmers didn’t make as much money the last few years as agency economists had been reporting.

The Economic Research Service, the professional USDA agency that keeps the financial books on agriculture, issued revised estimates reflecting higher expenses than had been used in the earlier computations.

One of the effects was to reduce the net cash income of farmers - the money left over after deducting cash expenses from gross cash proceeds during the calendar year. It includes government payments and proceeds from crops grown in earlier years.

The revisions, based on 1987 figures from the federal census of agriculture, showed that net cash income in 1987 was $54.5 billion instead of the $57.7 billion reported as recently as a month ago.

In 1988, according to te revisions, net cash income of farmers rose to $57.2 billion - not the $59.9 billion stated previously.

This year, according to the agency’s new report, the net cash income of farmers may be in the range of $52 billion to $57 billion. That is unchanged from the earlier forecast.

Economist Greg Gajewski, who oversees preparation of the monthly report, said that the 1987 census benchmark now being used showed that farm expenses turn out about 3 percent higher than had been estimated earlier.

″It suggests farmers did a little less well than we thought they were doing,″ Gajewski said in a telephone interview.

But he noted that despite the downward revisions, the new income numbers for those years are still records and that ″the rebound from the financial crisis is still very real.″

The revised figures also prompted changes in another method of farm accounting used by the agency. That involves ″net farm income,″ which measures the value of production, including federal payments, in a specific year. Changes in the value of crop and livestock inventories are part of the annual accounting.

Under this method, net farm income in 1987 was $43.5 billion instead of the $47.1 billion reported previously. In 1988, net farm income was revised to $42.7 billion from $45.7 billion.

This year’s estimate was pegged at $48 billion instead of in a range of $48 billion to $53 billion used a month ago.

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