Western Rural Economy Grows Slightly, But Bankers Remain Cautious

Photo: Great Divide water film Arid agriculture
Farmland in Colorado often thrives thanks to water transported from parts of the state where it is more abundant, leaving striking landscapes like this one.

A new report says the economy is expected to continue growing slowly in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but ongoing trade disputes remain a concern.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the recent trade disputes have weakened "already anemic grain prices."

The overall economic index for the region increased slightly to 54.8 in August from July's 53.8. That score still suggests growth because it is above 50, while any score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy.

Colorado's Rural Mainstreet Index fell in August to 55.8 from 57.3 in the previous month. However, the state's hiring index for August grew to 69.5 from 60.8 in July. The report says Colorado exported $109.4 million in agricultural commodities in 2017.

Meanwhile, farm loan applications are being rejected in reaction to weak farm commodity prices and income.

The latest Rural Mainstreet survey says nearly one-third of bank CEOs reported rejecting a higher percentage of farm loans, while nearly 55 percent indicated their banks had raised collateral requirements in the face of weak farm prices and income.​

​Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

The bankers remain concerned about the economy. That confidence index remained in negative territory, but climbed to 46.5 in August from July's 42.7.

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