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Investment dollars return to farmland

After spending months on the sidelines, investors are starting to return to the nation's agriculture land as a home for their investment dollars.

Investors have long played a role in the land-buying market, but toward the end of 2008 those once active investors retreated, according to Lee Vermeer, AFM, vice president of real estate operations at Farmers National Company.

"Investors stepped aside around November, but they have gotten back in the game," said Vermeer. "Everyone was trying to figure out the stock market and whether the economy had bottomed out. Some believe it has. Now that the uncertainty has subsided, buyers are looking for investments they can feel good about."

During the past six months, owner/operators around the country took advantage of the decline in investor attention and purchased available land to expand their operations. It was that activity that kept land values steady despite the turbulent economy.

"A good indication of the strength of the land market was that even with all the uncertainty and the stress on the market the past six months – land values held," said Vermeer. "I think that speaks to the quality of the land, but also shows the confidence today's buyers have in the land market as an investment opportunity."

Vermeer said the land market did slow somewhat last fall and there were some weak spots around the country the first part of 2009. He attributed the slow down to the drop in commodity prices. In the past 30-45 days, however, Vermeer said the market is gaining ground.

Farmers National Company is seeing strong buyer interest. In fact some land sales have been at the same price levels recorded in the middle of 2008. There have been very few forced sales, according to Vermeer, resulting in land being in very stable hands.

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