No Soft Land Prices Here

My Generation

Class A sells for upwards of $8,000 an acre, to local farmer.

Published on: March 30, 2010

The press releases from farm management groups and land sales gurus continue to assert that land prices are "holding steady" - which is typically code for "please don't let them slip further."

They sure don't seem to be slipping around here. If anything, the land market's creeping up in western Illinois. This morning, 80 acres on the west side of Bushnell sold for $8,025 an acre. This was excellent, Class A farmland that was reasonably problem free (http://lowderman.com/sales/03.30.10duntley/index.html). The buyer? No out-of-town investor; it was a local farmer.

Clearly, if a farmer's doing the buying, he's either got deep pockets or a good investor. Either is a good thing, as it's always better for local farmers if a piece of ground remains locally owned. Farm managers will tout the need for off-farm investors in the land market, and they're right to a certain degree. But very locally speaking, those off-farm investors are more likely to raise cash rents, thus upping the ante for the entire area.

And speaking of investors, just last week, several hundred acres sold in Warren County (land and buildings were part of Mark Ray's investor holdings, sold to settle mountains of litigation). Two roughly 80-acre parcels of Class A went for $8,200 an acre - which is particularly impressive considering 1,500 acres were up for auction at once. The next tract, 67 acres, sold for $7,750. Much of the balance was mid- and low-tier ground - pasture, in some cases - but it held steady, with those tracts bringing anywhere from $1,300 for 99 acres of primarily timber, up to $5,750 for 113 acres of rolling tillable ground.

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