Nearly forty percent of the farmers enrolled in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system’s Farm Business Management Education program expect to lose money this year, and projections suggest that many farmers could be forced out of business in 2010, according to a survey conducted by the system.

“It’s a crisis for some farmers, but not all,” said Richard Joerger, the system’s director for agriculture and business programs, who conducted the survey. Many livestock and crop producers have found it increasingly difficult to obtain credit, the study showed.  Hog and dairy farmers face the most financial stress because the prices they receive for their products are less than the costs of production, Joerger said.

“Our instructors are working very hard to help farmers restructure their debt and find more ways to increase efficiency,” Joerger said. “Despite the best efforts of many professionals, some producers will be unable to continue farming.”

Each year between 3,000 and 3,500 farmers enroll in the system’s farm business management program. Instructors use one-on-one, group and online instruction to help them become better managers.

“This survey helps point out the value of the Farm Business Management program to the state’s farmers,” said Chancellor James H. McCormick. “In these difficult times, this unique program is more important than ever in helping farmers remain solvent.”

The study was conducted July 14 to July 29 by surveying the system’s 73 farm business management instructors about their students’ agricultural operations. Sixty-nine instructors responded for a return rate of nearly 95 percent.

The instructors reported that financial difficulties have forced 86 farmers out of business so far this year, and they projected that another 162 farmers will go out of business by year’s end Businesses within rural communities also are being hurt, and more mental health services need to be readily available, the instructors reported.

Reviewing the results, Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson said, “This survey provides important information that gives us an early warning about the financial stress that many farmers may be facing. With this information, we can better prepare for the difficulties ahead.”

Joerger said the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will work with the Agriculture Department and other agencies to help farmers through these challenging times.  And, he said, “We will be looking for additional resources because there are more farmers out there who could benefit from being in our program.” The program’s annual tuition is about $1,300.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota. The system serves about 250,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 140,000 students in non-credit courses.