With 2020 not pulling any punches, I was ready for some good news. So, it was refreshing to look at the results of Ag Equipment Intelligence’s latest Dealer Sentiments & Business Conditions survey when they came across my desk last week.

Whenever I get the results, the first thing I do is scroll down to the page where the Dealer Optimism Index is, to help mentally prepare for what the rest of the report shows. The last two surveys had record lows in terms of optimism (a net 66% of dealers reporting being less optimistic in March and a net 40% being less optimistic in April), but much to my surprise not only was the number an improvement, it was positive — a net 9% of dealers reported being more optimistic compared to the previous month in May.

Not only is that a refreshing change from such low numbers, it’s only the third positive reading we’ve seen in nearly 2 years. And while the survey only had 75 respondents, it was still some much needed good news. Dealers also adjusted their 2020 sales outlook to –3% year-over-year vs. –7% the prior month.

With the OEMs closing plants temporarily due to COVID-19 — after having already reduced production — one dealer in the survey noted “exceptionally long lead times … due to a large backlog.” That backlog looks to be helping used equipment sales, but one dealer noted that there are not enough retail sales with trades coming in to keep the pipeline full.

In the June report, a net 4% of dealers reported their used equipment inventory was “too high,” down from a net 9% who said their inventories were “too high” the month before.

When it comes to used high horsepower tractors, dealers report they’re lacking inventory. A net 9% of dealers reported their used high horsepower tractor inventories were “too low” in May. One Canadian dealer commented, “We are seeing continued strength in used equipment retail sales, which are outpacing new retail sales.”

The late winter and spring certainly threw a wrench into things, but it looks like there is still a little bit of optimism out there — even if it is cautious. As one dealer put it, “If the farmers get crops in, it should be a pretty good year.”