Minnesota farmers earned less last year than they did the year before, according to a new University of Minnesota survey, as the recession, the steep price of land and feed and the spiraling cost of fertilizer batted away profits.

Median profits for 2,417 farms included in the survey fell 15 percent in 2008 to $90,039, but that broad measure masks steeper losses for some sectors of the farm economy, particularly livestock operations that paid record prices for feed. The median beef farm profit was a loss of $6,810; the median hog farm profit was $4,876, down from $65,720 a year earlier.

Some other highlights:

• The median income of the top 20 percent of farms was $350,470. Median income for the lowest 20 percent was a loss of nearly $5,000.

• Crop farms posted a median net income of $130,252, down slightly from 2007; the average price paid to farmers for corn was $4.17 a bushel, up from $3.01 in 2007; for soybeans it was $10.30 a bushel, up from $7.14.

• Dairy farms' profit fell 38 percent to a median of $58,081, down from $93,462 a year earlier.

• Corn farmers paid more in 2008 to farm than a year earlier: 20 percent more for corn seed, 42 percent more for fertilizer, 33 percent more for fuel and 16 percent more for land rents.

For the full survey, go to http://www.finbin.umn.edu.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329