It looks like farm equipment dealers or manufacturers won’t have the cushion going into 2010 as they did a year earlier when strong early-order sales kept the demand for ag machinery solid through the first half of 2009.

A survey of more than 300 North American dealers conducted by Ag Equipment Intelligence indicates that more than 45% of farm equipment retailers say early orders for machinery are down compared to 2008.

A year ago, early orders for farm machinery were dramatically enhanced by the shortages of new equipment throughout 2008. This resulted in farmers placing their orders in late summer and early fall — much earlier than usual — to avoid the long delays they experienced during the previous year.

But falling commodity prices for grains, dairy and livestock along with the near disappearance of export sales to Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union slowed sales throughout ’09 compared to the record levels seen in 2008.

The uncertainty surrounding commodity prices is also causing farmers and ranchers to wait to place orders for new equipment.