Study: High input costs and ongoing drought hinder farm sustainability goals

High input costs are standing in the way of farmers intending to shift to more sustainable practices, according to research by McKinsey and Company.

Consistently high producer input costs, coupled with ongoing drought in many parts of Rural America are creating a difficult planting season this year and pushing off sustainability goals for many as farmers face competing financial pressures.

Inputs Pressure Sustainability Plans

High input costs are standing in the way of farmers intending to shift to more sustainable practices, according to research by McKinsey and Company.

The consulting firm’s research found farmers consider their perceived return on investment as a key factor when adopting more sustainable practices in their operations.

The study also found that the farmers were more likely to adopt practices if the costs associated with the switch were lower and more likely to improve profitability. Producers were more likely to adopt new behavioral practices (like crop rotation and reduced tillage or no-till farming).

On the other hand, practices that involve cost-prohibitive machinery changes (like controlled irrigation) had lower adoption rates because producers anticipate profitability compared to investment.

The firm concluded that due to the consistently high prices of other input costs (like fuel, feed, and fertilizer) are hindering farmers’ ability to adopt some of the more costly sustainable practices that would also help them increase productivity and profitability. The firm recommends investing in education programs and making sustainability programs more accessible.

The Cost of Ongoing Drought

High costs coupled with ongoing drought could also stand in the way of planting season this year.

For the second straight week, prices for all eight major fertilizers are up month over month. And while fertilizer prices have been fairly flat since last October, figures are still relatively high. This could cause farmers to not do any quick or early post-planting fertilizer application.

The Iowa State University Extension recommends manure fertilizer for those looking to avoid higher costs.


And while overall drought around the Midwest has improved this year, the U.S. Drought Monitor still shows producers and cropland facing anywhere from abnormal to extreme levels of drought. In fact, soils are starting in worse conditions now than they were last year.

Related Stories
After years of drought, farmers across U.S. farm country are getting so much rainfall that it’s dampening their spring planting progress later into the season.


Cattle producers recently promoted U.S. beef on a trip to Japan and Korea with the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
According to USDA experts, Brazil and Argentina’s large drop in corn production has more to do with the economics of corn markets than impacts from weather.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, no part of Iowa is experiencing extreme levels of drought for the first time in nearly two years.
Now that the EPA is allowing some states to purchase E15 biofuel during the summer, lawmakers and regulators are touting
Agriculture Shows
From soil to harvest. Top Crop is an all-new series about four of the best farmers in the world—Dan Luepkes, of Oregan, Illinois; Cory Atley, of Cedarville, Ohio; Shelby Fite, of Jackson Center, Ohio; Russell Hedrick, of Hickory, North Carolina—reveals what it takes for them to make a profitable crop. It all starts with good soil, patience, and a strong planter setup.
Champions of Rural America is a half-hour dive into the legislative priorities for Rural America. Join us as we interview members of the Congressional Western Caucus to learn about efforts in Washington to preserve agriculture and tackles the most important topics in the ag industry on Champions of Rural America!
Farm Traveler is for people who want to connect with their food and those who grow it. Thanks to direct-to-consumer businesses, agritourism, and social media, it’s now easier than ever to learn how our food is made and support local farmers. Here on the Farm Traveler, we want to connect you with businesses offering direct-to-consumer products you can try at home, agritourism sites you can visit with your family, and exciting new technologies that are changing how your food is being grown.
Featuring members of Congress, federal and state officials, ag and food leaders, farmers, and roundtable panelists for debates and discussions.
Host Ben Bailey hops in the tractor cab, giving farmers 10 minutes to answer as many questions and grab as much cash as they can for their local FFA chapter.