Net farm income is forecast at $81.6 billion in 2010, up 31 percent from 2009 and 26 percent higher than the 10-year average of $64.8 billion for 2000-2009. Net cash income at $92.5 billion would be a nominal record, 2.3 percent above the prior record attained in 2008. Net value added is expected to increase by almost $20 billion in 2010 to $132.0 billion. The net value added of agriculture to the U.S. economy in inflation-adjusted terms reached its two highest levels since the mid 1970s in 2004 and 2008. Inflation-adjusted net cash income has reached levels not seen since the mid-1970s for the fourth time since 2004, including the forecast for this year. The mid-1970s was the last comparable period when U.S. farming enjoyed multiple years of sustained levels of high output and income.

A second feature of the 2000-2009 decade is the high and persistent levels of volatility in agricultural commodity and input (feed, fuel, and fertilizer) markets. The volatility is reflected in the patterns of farm income during the decade. Net farm income increased in 6 of the 10 years, posting an average increase of 26.6 percent in the years with increases in farm income and an average decline of 23.5 percent in the other years (2002, 2005, 2006, and 2009).

Net cash income includes only cash receipts and expenses and is generally less variable than net farm income. Farmers can manage the timing of crop and livestock sales and of the purchase of inputs to stabilize the variability in their net cash income. Nonetheless, during 2000-2009 net cash income showed a significant degree of variability. In the 6 years when net cash income rose, the average increase was 10.4 percent. In years when net cash income decreased, the average decrease was 15.9 percent.

The values of both crop and livestock production have trended steadily upward over the last decade. However, the year-to-year movements in the two measures have not always been synchronized. In 2010, the rise in the value of livestock production (16.6 percent) is expected to be more than more than five times the rise in the value of crop production (3.1 percent). The forecast for higher farm income in 2010 is responding to increases in cash receipts for all the livestock categories, led by double-digit growth in meat animals and dairy products. Net value added and net farm income have followed the value of commodity production over both the long term and in year-to-year fluctuations. Because farmers typically do not vary their production mix dramatically from year to year, purchases of production inputs have been relatively stable. Expenses for purchased inputs are projected to show a moderate increase of 2.5 percent, after posting a 6.4-percent decline in 2009.