Creighton University released its Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) for April 2016, and the monthly survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state Midwest region showed a downward trend of several things, including cash rents, equipment sales and farmland prices.

The index, which ranges between 0 and 100, settled in at 38.2 for April 2016, down from March’s 40.2.

“This is the eight straight months the overall index has moved below growth neutral,” says Ernie Goss, who chairs Creighton’s Heider College of Business. “Compared to 12 months earlier, prices for farm products are down by 16%, and energy products are 8% lower.”

Bankers participating in the survey reported an average cash rent per acre of $211 in 2016. That’s down 7% from the same time a year ago.

“Cash flow is king and will continue to be the difference-maker for producers,” says Jeffery Gerhart, chairman of Bank of Newman Grove in Nebraska. “Those who manage it well will benefit, [and] those who don’t manage it well will not.”

RMI’s farm equipment sales index rose to 11.1, but that rises from a record-low 6.7 in March. Goss says farm income weaknesses, low commodity prices and reduction in farm prices have negatively affected this sector of agriculture.

Bankers also reported the following as the “biggest economic threats” to their operations in the next five years.

  1. Rising regulatory costs – 43.5%
  2. Slow to negative economic growth – 23.9%
  3. Farm foreclosures – 8.8%
  4. Increasing competition from credit unions and Farm Credit – 8.7%

For more information, including RMI historical data and forecasts, visit www.creighton.edu/economicoutlook.