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Serving: IA
close-up of immature corn plants Rod Swoboda
DEMAND FOR LAND: Sales of farmland in recent weeks have held steady for this time of year, even with various limitations created by COVID-19.

Land prices to survive COVID-19

Land Values: The pandemic creates greater uncertainty, but economic stability will eventually return.

Unbelievable! It’s the only word I know to adequately describe the past six weeks. No one saw the immense global impact of the virus, in advance. While prognosticators now offer their predictions for coming months, no one really knows how long or how deep the impact will be felt, both across the health care system and throughout the domestic and global economy.

Beyond health concerns, the biggest impact to our way of life may be rooted in the word “confidence.” Is it now safe to go to the store for groceries and supplies? Can kids and staff safely return to schools? When will worship at local churches return to some semblance of normal? Is now the time to buy into the stock market? Should I buy a farm? It all runs on confidence!

Amid this COVID-19 confusion, spring actually arrived in the Midwest. Lots of fieldwork has been occurring. With ugly memories of last year’s growing season struggles still fresh in our minds, planters are now racing to get it all done in a timely manner. And we thought 2019 was a tough year. Relating to land values, there’s a lot of motion in the marketplace right now. So, let’s dial in and review the fundamentals.

Fundamentals still supportive

Interest rates have fallen again and are at incredibly low levels. This reality supports farmland values. Going into spring, farmland sales volume was slowing with the normal change in marketplace focus that occurs every year during planting season. When you couple the seasonal slowdown with the added uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 crisis, I expect sales volume to dip bit more. This potential volume drop should be supportive to farmland values.

Recent demand destruction for corn and soybeans is real, hurting commodity prices. Less-valuable on-farm production is not supportive for farmland values. However, I’m a little surprised at the resiliency of commodity prices in the wake of both the tariff situation and the more recent drop in demand caused by weak oil and ethanol.

Finally, the desire by investors to own farmland remains real. Coming out of this time of mostly negative volatility in alternative investments (stocks, bonds, REITs, etc.), there is potential to see a bump in investor desire to own farmland. Stable, annual rental income streams coupled with a history of long-term appreciation is attractive compared to the wheels that are coming off other vehicles. Even if values fluctuate, the asset is real and won’t just vanish.

All told, we have lots of opposing factors in play, simultaneously. There is much we don’t yet know about the virus situation or the current 2020 growing season. But I see the fundamentals of the Midwestern farmland market as being stable and generally favorable. As you see in a sampling of sales from the past four to six weeks, the Iowa farmland market has essentially continued to operate smoothly, even with various limitations created by COVID-19.

NORTHWEST

Pocahontas County. Northeast of Fonda, 70 acres sold at public auction for $8,300 per acre. The farm has 68 tillable acres with an 87.4 CSR2, which equals $98 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

NORTH CENTRAL

Franklin County. Near Latimer, 152 acres sold at public auction for $7,925 per acre. The farm has 149 tillable acres with an 85.6 CSR2, which equals $94 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

NORTHEAST

Black Hawk County. West of Hudson, 80 acres sold for $9,881 per acre. The farm has 77 tillable acres with an 88.7 CSR2, which equals $116 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

WEST CENTRAL

Woodbury County. Southwest of Anthon, 160 acres sold at public auction for $7,300 per acre. The farm has 152 tillable acres with a 55.0 CSR2, which equals $140 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

CENTRAL

Dallas County. Northeast of Panora, 75 acres sold at public auction for $9,100 per acre.  With 75 tillable acres and 87.9 CSR2, the sale equals $104 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

EAST CENTRAL

Iowa County. Southwest of Walford, 124 acres sold for $6,492 per acre. The farm has 108 tillable acres with a 71.6 CSR2, which equals $104 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

SOUTHWEST

Montgomery County. South of Wales, 77 acres sold at public auction for $5,200 per acre. The farm has 62 tillable acres with a 77.7 CSR2, which equals $83 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

SOUTH CENTRAL

Monroe County. Southwest of Lovilia, 375 acres sold for $2,900 per acre. It has 231 acres currently used as improved pasture, with the balance of the property in ponds, wooded draws and timber.

SOUTHEAST

Des Moines County. North of Burlington, 106 acres sold at public auction for $8,100 per acre. The farm has 105 tillable acres with a 74.7 CSR2, which equals $110 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Hensley is president of Hertz Real Estate Services, which compiled this list but did not handle all sales. Visit hertz.ag.

TAGS: COVID-19
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