Who Will Farm the Land?

Husker Home Place

In the next 10 to 15 years, a tremendous transfer of farm wealth will take place.

Published on: December 9, 2010

In the next 10 to 15 years, a tremendous transfer of farm wealth will take place.  

I attended a landowner/tenant workshop recently, and had a difficult time finding a place to sit. The room was packed beyond capacity. The Extension educator facilitating the meeting told the group that he had hosted meetings like that over the past three or four years, but only two or three people would show up.

What a difference a year makes? Rising land prices, skyrocketing commodity prices, higher property taxes and more complexity in the crop input packages and highly competitive land rental markets have contributed to the increase in interest from farmers and landowners about their farmland.

With the average age of Nebraska farmers somewhere between 58 and 59 years, and a little older in some parts of the state, the supply of land for sale or rent is very tight right now, but it may loosen as these “average-aged” farmers look to transfer land to a new generation over the next two decades or so.

I wonder what that new generation will look like. Will the land be handed down to another generation of farmers in the family? Will the land be sold to the highest bidder, maybe an out-of-state investor with no local interest? Will it be left to family heirs who all live elsewhere, who do not have interest in the land or the community, and who only want the money the land will bring on auction? Will the land go to a neighboring large operator looking to expand? Will it go to local non-farming heirs who care deeply about the old home place? Or will it be sold to a young or relatively young family farm or multi-family farm living nearby?

These are questions landowners must ask themselves. How do they want their estate settled when they pass on? The time to think of these scenarios is now, not when the landowner is older and ailing, or perhaps on their deathbed.

If the landowner doesn’t decide what to do with his or her property, someone else will when they are gone. If a person cares about the future of the land, estate planning and developing a transfer plan for the land is paramount, even if it means some tough discussions with family members.

I’ve heard a few experienced farmers complain in the past that there are no young families in farming anymore, but many landowners are not willing to work with their own family members or another local young family or group of families who would like to get into farming or expand their operations.

This is all food for thought as we ponder the future of our farms and our rural communities a generation or two down the road.

Who do you think will be farming the land in the next decade or two in your part of the world?