WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA, U.S. — In April, the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer recorded the fourth largest one-month drop since data collection began in October 2015. The barometer, which is a sentiment index based on a monthly survey of 400 agricultural producers across the United States, declined 18 points to a reading of 115, down from 133 in March.

According to the report, this month’s decline in the barometer was driven by worsening perceptions of both current economic conditions and weaker expectations for the future. The Index of Current Conditions fell 21 points to a reading of 99, and the Index of Future Expectations declined 16 points to a reading of 123.

 This month producers also expressed caution about making large investments in their farming operations.

In the April survey, when asked whether they feel now is a “good time” or “bad time” to make large farm investments, only 22% of farmers stated it was a “good time” while 74% stated it was a “bad time.” That combination pushed the Large Farm Investment Index down 9 points compared to March.

“Producers also expressed less optimism regarding prospects for resolution of the on-going soybean trade dispute with China,” the report said.

On the April survey, only 28% of respondents felt that the dispute would be resolved before July 1, down from 45% in March. However, 71% still feel the dispute will ultimately be resolved in a way that benefits U.S. agriculture. In a separate question, when asked whether they felt that the United States should rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), 47% were favorable, 28% were not in favor, and 25% stated they were uncertain.

 Since January, there has been an increase in survey respondents indicating they have concerns about commodity prices. As a result, the survey has included additional questions related to commodity prices in order to understand producers’ perspectives on the future direction of corn and soybean futures prices.

“Early findings indicate producers have consistently been more pessimistic compared to those who participate directly in the futures and options markets,” the report said. “Moreover, producers became relatively more pessimistic over the course of the winter and early spring. This increasingly pessimistic view of corn and soybean prices may be playing a role in the reduction in barometer sentiment as well as the recent drop in both the Index of Current Conditions and the Index of Future Expectations.”