The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index climbed above growth neutral for the fifth time in the past six months. The monthly survey of bank CEOs in a ten-state region dependent on agriculture and energy shows the index increased to its highest level since the survey launched in 2006. The overall index for March hit a record high of 71.9 from a solid February reading of 53.8. The index runs from zero to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. Almost 70 percent of the bank CEOs said their local economy is expanding, while the rest say they’re in a state of little or no growth.
“Sharp gains in grain prices, federal farm support, and the Federal Reserve’s record-low interest rates have underpinned the Rural Mainstreet economy,” says Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University. “Only three percent of the bank CEOs indicated worse economic conditions compared to the previous month.” However, Goss also admits that rural economic activity remains below pre-COVID levels. The farmland price index moved above growth neutral for the sixth-straight month. The March reading is 71.9, the highest level since 2012. The March farm equipment-sales index hit 63.5, the highest level since 2013.