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Farmers, ranchers face hard decisions as ag economy continues to slide

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    John Geigle and his son Sully, 5, sometimes do chores together on the family farm north of Wall, S.D. Sully, who helped his dad break up an ice jam in a canal on a recent morning said working with cows is his favorite part of. Sing a young ranch hand. Photo: Bart Pfankuch

A 5-year slide in the agricultural economy in South Dakota has left many producers operating at a thin profit margin and having a harder time getting annual equity loans that enable them to plant their crops or raise their cattle.

USDA data show that cash receipts for agricultural products are down significantly in all Great Plains states, including the Dakotas, from 2013 to 2018, and that net farm income has trended downward as well.

A major decline in most commodity prices, extended drought and now a trade war with China have combined to put financial and emotional stress on farmers who are increasingly facing the prospect of putting off improvements, reducing family expenses or even leaving the industry completely.

This story by South Dakota News Watch reporter Bart Pfankuch examines the challenges and looks to the future. Click here to read it.