By Jessica Domel
Economic uncertainty, trade tensions with China and adverse weather conditions are taking their toll on farm equipment sales in the United States.
Sales of self-propelled combines were down 25.9 percent in July compared to the same time last year.
Ag equipment dealers sold 9.8 percent fewer 100-plus horsepower tractors.
“The numbers were pretty soft across the board and that’s kind of in all categories,” Curt Blades, senior vice president of Agricultural Services for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “That’s also what we were expecting. We’ve had these storm clouds around the ag market for a number of months now.”
Four-wheel drive tractor sales were down 4.7 percent in July.
Total two-wheel drive tractor sales fell 0.1 percent.
According to AEM, the only sector that saw an increase in sales in July was 40-100 plus horsepower tractors. Those sales were up 4 percent.
“Year-to-date, we’re still pretty flat to last year in terms of tractor and combine sales,” Blades said. “There is some seasonality that caused some steep decline in self-propelled combines, and I think that has as much to do with the planting being delayed because of the weather.”
The breakdown of U.S.-China talks earlier this summer also likely weighed on sales.
“That does have its impact on the psyche of a farmer. If a farmer doesn’t feel good about their ability to sell the crop, they’re not going to want to make those investments in that equipment and maybe defer another year or couple of months,” Blades said.
U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators came together in late July to resume talks. However, an Aug. 1 announcement of a new 10 percent tariff on $300 billion in Chinese exports to the U.S. again heightened tensions between the two countries.
“I think what the bigger concern around the tractor and combine numbers is the uncertainty,” Blades said.
A path to resolution with China or passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement could bring the necessary certainty to farmers and ranchers and the agricultural economy, Blades said.
“The farm equipment sector represents about 350,000 employees nationwide,” Blades said. “The tractor sales numbers are a pretty good indication of where the farm economy is headed in one direction or another.”