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Tariffs, low prices hurting rural America, bankers say

wheat harvest is in full swing near Patterson, Wash.

For the first time this year, a monthly survey of bankers in parts of 10 Plains and Western states indicates the regional rural economy is shrinking. | Paul T. Erickson/The Tri-City Herald via AP file photo

OMAHA, Neb. — For the first time this year, a monthly survey of bankers in parts of 10 Plains and Western states indicates the regional rural economy is shrinking.

The overall index of the Rural Mainstreet survey for November sank to 49.9, the first time it’s dipped below 50 since January and down from October’s 54.3. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy in the months ahead, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the farm sector continues to be weakened by tariffs and low commodity prices.

Jeffrey Gerhart, CEO of the Bank of Newman Grove in northeastern Nebraska, says the tariffs are affecting farmers’ income and are “bad policy from the White House.”

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