Editor's note: In our July issue, we asked some of the top young farmers in Illinois what they see coming in the next 10 years in agriculture, and what they're doing today to prepare for it. For a look at those stories, check out your July Prairie Farmer, or see links to the story at the end. Read on for a look at what Scott Halpin, an award-winning young farmer from Gardner, has to say about the future of his operation.
Some days, it's just hard to look down the road. To see past the prices, the heat and the drought.
And when Scott Halpin looks ahead, he sees further consolidation.
"You hate to see it. But farms are going to keep consolidating, because of the price of equipment and stuff in general," says Halpin, who farms with his dad, Frank, and brother, Chris, near Gardner, and serves on the Illinois Agricultural Association board of directors. The Halpins raise grain, dairy and beef cows, and Chris operates a trucking business.
"I think farms will get a little bigger," he adds.
Asked whether that includes the Halpin farm, Scott laughs quietly. "Well, trying. The price of land prohibits things.
"We obviously would like the opportunity to grow but the agreements have to make sense. You can't just be chasing the ground."
Halpin says although they're located near Joliet, much of the 1031 development money coming from the collar counties over the past decade has leapfrogged over them, and gone further into central Illinois. Their local land prices have climbed – like everywhere else – but have held steady recently at highs of $10,000 to $11,000 an acre. A farm with waste ground sold last spring for $8,000.
Farmland is also more traditionally held there. Land doesn't change hands often, large tracts don't come up for sale, and the folks who own the land are farming it. "What does come up for sale, typically another local farmer buys it," Halpin describes.
He expects to see farmers retire, if only because it's inevitable and the statistics are obvious. But he's not worried about who will replace them. "Most of the people our age, in the 35-40 age, are working off farm jobs. I think they're waiting for the opportunity to come back and farm.
"There's always somebody waiting to take your place."
For the Halpins, preparing for the future is more about taking care of what they have already: fixing tile, putting in new tile, building bins.
"I'd hope there would be an opportunity in the far-off future to grow," Halpin concludes. "But not at the price of farmland we're seeing right now."
|Young Farmers Look Ahead
Click on each page below to be taken to a large-size version to read more about what young farmers and Master Farmers see for the decade ahead.