Farm state growth slowed in spring by higher energy costs

Apr 20, 2012 The Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. -- Economic growth appears to be slowing in rural areas of 10 Midwest and Plains states because of higher fuel and energy prices, according to a new monthly survey released Thursday.

But the Rural Mainstreet survey still suggests the economy will grow because its overall economic index is well above 50. The April index declined to 57.1 from March's 59.8, but remains in positive territory.

"Higher energy and fuel prices are slowing growth for areas dependent on agriculture," Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said. "Furthermore, somewhat slower global growth has negatively affected some portions of the rural and agriculturally dependent economy."

The survey covers rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The survey focuses on 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300.

The farmland price index slipped to 69.4 in April from March's 78.7, while the farm equipment sales index rose to 62.4 in April from 61.5.

Goss said it's clear investor interest in farmland is growing, and some land that wasn't being used for crops is being converted to farmland. The bankers surveyed estimated more than 20 percent of recent farmland sales in their area went to investors. Nearly one-third of the recent farmland sales were for cash.

The hiring index dipped to 59.3 in April from the previous month's 60, but Goss said job growth is now much stronger in urban areas of the region.

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