Ag land prices don’t appear to be rising or falling significantly. “They’re mostly moving sideways,” said Steve Link, a broker with Pifer’s Auction and Realty, Moorhead, Minn. He spoke at the recent Northern Ag Expo in Fargo, N.D.
Good-quality cropland can still bring prices that are near the highs set when corn was worth as much as $7 per bushel. For example, some excellent farmland at a recent auction in New Ulm, Minn., sold for $9,000 per acre, he said.
But the day before the New Ulm auction, a quarter section of lower-quality cropland in northeast North Dakota near Starkweather sold for just $900 per acre. The property is in an area with many potholes and wetlands.
Many farmers won’t buy lower quality land that can’t produce high yields, Link said. Most lenders aren’t anxious to extend credit for lower quality range or cropland, either. Hunters used to be interested in lower quality ag land for wildlife habitat, but that market has slipped, perhaps because of uncertainty about the economy, Link said.
Many investors have lost interest in land, too. Most look for at least a 5% return on land. It is hard get that now. Other types of investments have become more competitive with land, Link said.
But there isn’t any sign that a 1980s-like land value crash is coming. During the 1980’s farm crisis, farmland prices in the Midwest fell 40% to 60%. It took 26 years for prices to climb back to pre-crisis levels.
“This isn’t the 1980s farm crisis,” Link said.
Interest rates are about 4% instead of 18% to 21%. Crop insurance and farm programs provide a better safety net than in the 1980s.
What happens to farmland values in 2020 will depend largely on farm income, Link said