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Why commodity prices mainly drive farmland values

Land Values: Strong grain prices are main factor behind high selling prices of Iowa farmland.

Doug Hensley

January 30, 2024

3 Min Read
sunset over cornfield
STRONG DEMAND: Good commodity prices have fueled competitive farmland prices across Iowa in recent sales. Gil Gullickson

I speak to many groups about farmland. Each time, I am asked about what drives the land market. Many underlying factors can impact land values between areas, including special uses and development factors.

In rural areas, I tend to focus on five primary drivers:

  1. commodity prices

  2. interest rates

  3. input prices

  4. land sale volume

  5. local historical wealth

In each instance, both the current level and any recent direction of movement for the factor can matter. For the next several months in this column, I will comment more directly on each of these factors.

Commodity prices are the biggest factor influencing the land market. Strong grain prices lead to on-farm profits and demand for more land. Weak prices lead to soft (or no) profits and a shaky land market.

Because farmers buy 7 of 10 farms sold, any weakness in commodity prices will eventually be reflected in underlying land prices. It can often take the land market several months to adjust to lower grain prices, although it can happen more quickly in weak production areas. Based on the sales below, there has been enough profit created, with current strong liquidity, to power competitive land purchases statewide.

Land values map

Buena Vista County. North of Alta, ±116 acres recently sold at public auction for $13,550 per acre. The farm consisted of ±107 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 90, and equaled $163 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Mitchell County. Located near Orchard, ±232 acres recently sold at public auction for $15,200 per acre. The total farm consisted of ±226 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 88.6, and equaled $176 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Delaware County. Located west of Hopkinton, ±80 acres recently sold at public auction for $16,000 per acre. The farm consisted of ±75 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 86.6, and equaled $197 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Woodbury County. Located southwest of Cushing, ±133 acres recently sold at public auction for $11,200 per acre. The farm consisted of ±130 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 64.6, and equaled $177 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Story County. Located southeast of Roland, ±77 acres recently sold at public auction for $13,400 per acre. The farm consisted of ±77 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 81.9, and equaled $163 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Clinton County. Located north of Lost Nation, ±40 acres recently sold for $18,200 per acre. The farm consisted of 39 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 86.8, and equaled $215 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Adams County. Located northeast of Lenox, ±40 acres recently sold at public auction for $15,500 per acre. The farm consisted of ±37 tillable acres, with a CSR2 of 82.8, and equaled $202 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Warren County. Located east of New Virginia, ±86 acres recently sold at public auction for $9,900 per acre. The farm consisted of ±78 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 58.6, and equaled $186 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres.

Mahaska County. Located east of New Sharon, ±140 acres recently sold at public auction for $7,000 per acre. The farm consisted of ±104 tillable acres with a CSR2 of 62.8, and equaled $150 per CSR2 point on the tillable acres. The balance of the farm was timber and wooded draws.

Read more about:

Land Sales

About the Author(s)

Doug Hensley

Hertz Real Estate Services

Hensley is president of Hertz Real Estate Services. The Hertz Farm Management Co. was started in 1946, and now provides a full spectrum of services that includes professional farm management, real estate sales, auctions, acquisitions and farm appraisals.

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