Farm tractor unit sales rose 41 percent in February compared to the same time last year. Curt Blades is the Senior Vice President of Agriculture Services and Forestry with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. He says February’s solid growth continued a positive trend for tractor sales that began in 2020.
“We continue to be very pleased with the tractor and combine numbers. For the last 12 months, starting with April of last year, we’ve seen solid numbers month-over-month, year-over-year, across pretty much every sector, every category of tractors in the United States. The tractor sales have been largely driven by small tractors under 40 horsepower. That’s been the brightest spot but, later on in the year, the row crop tractors also started to take off, as well as combines holding their own, and even articulated four-wheel-drive tractors have been pretty good across the board.”
He says AEM was surprised at how well equipment sold despite the overall economic challenges brought on by COVID-19.
“We were. Talking to some members early-on about this time last year, frankly, and they said there was a time in March last year where sales just stopped. And, like everything in the economy, everything stopped for about two weeks. As a result, our March numbers last year saw a bit of a step backward. But then, they came back strong in April, and May, and June, and they continued on. We looked at those numbers and kept saying we don’t know what’s behind this or how long it’s going to last, but it continued to be strong.”
COVID-19 might have played a role in the surge of smaller-implement sales.
“A whole lot of yard tractors, small acreage tractors, and hobby farms. If you look at the overall economy, certain sectors have done remarkably well. Home improvement items have done particularly well, luxury items have gone particularly well, and cars have gone particularly well. What it amounts to is folks that normally may spend some of their disposable income on a vacation or a nice dinner somewhere have been reinvesting in their homes and reinvesting in other things. And fortunately, the smaller tractor market, oftentimes for those non-farmers, falls into that category of nice, I don’t want to call it a luxury good, but we certainly have been able to take advantage of that sort of COVID bump over the last couple of months.”
Blades is optimistic about agriculture and equipment sales heading further into 2021.
“A strong farm economy? We love that. That means farmers are making money and they’re wanting to invest in their capital goods. But what I get very excited about is it seems like there is some new demand out there to take advantage of the new technology, whether that’s the new technology in planters; there are some great new planters out there; new technology in harvesting equipment with fantastic features and new models. Or, whether it’s upgrading to the latest tractors with maybe some precision agriculture capability or more efficient engines or other things like that. That to me is really exciting because that’s an indication of what the future is going to hold for us.”