New Farm Bill Legalizes Hemp in Land Real Estate Industry

By now, most people know that hemp became legal in America after the 2018 Farm Bill was signed on December 20th, 2018. However, there’s a lot more to the new law and legal hemp itself than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at hemp, its benefits, and the details of its current legal status under the 2018 Farm Bill.

What Is Hemp?

For those of you that are green (no pun intended!), hemp is the non-psychoactive variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp gets confused frequently with marijuana. The biggest difference is that hemp has a very low THC (0.3% or less) while marijuana contains concentrations between 15%-40%, a much more potent dose that lets users have that “high” feeling.

What Makes Hemp Stand Out?

Hemp is used for fuel, fabrics, oil, plastics, animals feed, building materials, paper, and more. You can even eat it, although the taste is unpleasant. In fact, there are over 25,000 known uses for hemp!

Hemp is a fast growing, low maintenance crop. The plant requires less water, fertilizer, and herbicides than many common crops, making it a great option for farmers looking to save a little money or reduce their carbon footprint.

Hemp is green in more than one way. Hemp takes in more CO2 as it grows and naturally rids the soil of toxins, making it an excellent crop for bioremediation. After the harvest, the remains break down into rich nutrients for the soil.

What is the current ruling?

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 (whose provisions were included in the 2018 Farm Bill) let hemp farmers apply for federal agricultural grants, own crop insurance for the plant, and have access to the national banking system (an issue for marijuana in states even where it is legal). The 2018 Farm Bill removed a lot of hoops that hemp growers used to need to jump through. Removing the gray areas surrounding the plant and allowing hemp farmers access to the same tools as other farmers will make it easier and more profitable for people to grow hemp. 

Just because hemp is legal doesn’t mean everything is cut and dried surrounding the plant. While the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and products made from hemp from the Schedule 1 Drug List, the FDA still has regulatory authority over all CDB in food and drugs. Testing protocols surrounding how much THC and CBD is in each plant is still up for debate, as different testing methods can sometimes produce different results.

A recent report from the Brightfield Group expects that the United States CBD market will be worth $22 billion by 2022. If you’re considering branching out into new crops, hemp might be a great option for you.

Be sure to tune in to the Industrial Hemp- Impacts to Real Estate non-LANDU course being held by the RLI Oklahoma Chapter on May 9th with facilitator Kirk Goble, ALC.

About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.

Five Helpful Tips for Owning and Managing Timberland

I admit, I am a little partial as a registered forester and land broker but I do truly believe timberland ownership can be one of the best and most rewarding investment options.  Below are five helpful tips that can apply to any owner of timberland.

1. Seek Professional Assistance

Timberland is optimized with the assistance of a professional manager.  For many landowners, the best source of professional assistance is a consulting forester. The consulting forester is a trained professional that works on behalf of the landowner making sure the landowner’s objectives are met and their best interests are represented. They can assist with the preparation of forest management plans, timber marketing and sales, reforestation, silvicultural treatments, wildlife management, and hunt lease management to name a few.

This assistance is especially critical at the time of timber sales.  For most landowners, timber sales are not frequent events, the landowner may not have an accurate expectation for the value of their timber in the current market. A consulting forester can inventory and appraise the timber to provide an accurate estimate of the value to be expected and then recommend the best method to market the timber on a competitive basis to make sure the return is maximized. They assist in execution of a harvest agreement or timber deed between the landowner and buyer, written to protect the landowner’s interest.  Finally, they will make regular site inspections during the harvest to make sure the work is occurring as agreed and the land is not damaged.

The service of a professional should more than pay for itself for most owners.

2. Determine your ownership objectives

It is important to know why a landowner has invested in timberland real estate and communicate that clearly to his/her advisers. Ownership objectives vary widely among landowners and most folks land own for a combination of reasons. There are usually one or two primary objectives for owning. Examples may be income from the sale of timber, recreational use like hunting, fishing, or riding ATVs, conservation of wildlife and habitat, family legacy, or investment for future higher and better use. Each of these objectives will require unique management activities to increase the probability the objectives are realized for the owner.

3. Create a forest management plan

It is hard for anyone to hit a target if they do not have something to shoot at.  A forest management plan is a critical document for any owner of forestland. Typically prepared by a professional forester after consultation with the landowner, the plan serves as a guide for the management of the land, typically a 10-year horizon.  Components of the plan may include property description, forest stand type map, forest stand descriptions, and management prescriptions for each timber stand over the planning horizon, a timeline or schedule of activities the landowner should expect, and a log section where the landowner can keep notes on their activities.  Having a plan and following it will increase the chances the owner’s goals are met.

 

4. Manage Risks

The ownership of timberland comes with liability and risk like any investment.  It is important for the owner to understand those risk and mitigate them as best as possible.  Major risk to the loss of timber include fire, wind damage, insect, and disease.  Each of these risks can be reduced using good forest management techniques with professional assistance.

Landowners can have liability exposure from trespassers and recreational users depending on the laws in their state.  It is wise to understand those liability issues and protect against them.  Liability insurance policies are available to protect landowners from accidents that may occur on their property.  It can also reduce liability if property boundaries are clearly marked and posted to deter trespassing.

5. Incentive Programs and Tax Benefits

There are many incentive programs available for the owners of timberland.  Owners should consult with their consulting forester, state forestry representatives, their local extension agent, or their local USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office to determine what programs are available and how they may be able to benefit.   These funds may offset the cost of reforestation, property improvements, wildlife management practices like prescribe burning, plantings, or other activities.

Most states have reduced property tax programs for owners of timberland.  The programs tax the property based on its current use rather than market value.  In areas where timberland is near urban areas, this can be a substantial annual saving for landowners.

It is also equally wise to have a tax professional and/or an attorney that is well versed in timberland to advise on annual income tax return and estate tax issues.  A great resource for landowners is www.timbertax.org.  This website has information on a wide range of tax topics relevant to forest landowners.

This post is part of the 2019 Future Leaders Committee content generation initiative. The initiative is directed at further establishing RLI as “The Voice of Land” in the land real estate industry for land professionals and landowners. For more posts like this, click here

Chris Miller, ALCAbout the Author: Chris Miller, ALC, is a land broker and consulting forester for American Forest Management, Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

What Does the Future of Agriculture Look Like?

What will the farms of 2100 look like? Will they be completely unrecognizable from the farms of today? Will they be autonomous? Will the type of crops farmers grow be similar to those we grow in 2019 or can we expect brand-new grains and vegetables to feed the ever-growing population? There’s no way to know for certain, but in this article, we take a look at current trends in farming and technology to hazard a guess about the future of agriculture.

Wired in

Technology already plays a huge part in agriculture and its role on the farm will only continue to grow. Drones, telematics, crop sensors, and precision agriculture technologies all help farmers increase productivity on their land while cutting back on physical labor. Although it seems like these land technologies are already a staple on many farms, the technology is still relatively new. Much like the computer or telephone, we can expect to see better, faster, and more affordable versions of these technologies in the future.

Precision agriculture technology has been extremely popular in the past few years. This technology can do everything from monitoring, giving each plant in a crop individualized care, and efficiently dispensing water and fertilizer. Precision agriculture technology is key to reducing food waste, which may be why the industry is expected to grow to $2.42 billion by 2020. You can expect precision agriculture technologies to play a huge part in the farms of tomorrow.

Another technology we can expect in the farms of the future is swarms of tiny robots. The University of Applied Sciences in Germany is already exploring a concept called MARS, which stands for Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms. Groups of anywhere from five to one hundred bots would plant and tend each seed’s need. This specialized care can cut down on food waste and create healthier crops.

More Mouths to Feed

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world population is expected to boom to 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. This means that food production is going to need to increase dramatically. With demand high, we might see an increase in people joining agriculture or large investments in farm technology to help make enough food to feed the masses.

The Changing Consumer

The American diet is evolving. Compared to the 1970s, people in modern day eat much more grains, oils, and sugars, and have cut back on dairy products, vegetables, and eggs. Just as the farmers of today had to adjust their crops for the changing times, the farmers of tomorrow will do the same.

graph pulled from the Pew Research Center

We can predict what the consumers of tomorrow will want based off the consumers of today. The demand for organic food has steadily risen for the past decade, as well as the demand for farm to table. The consumers of today are more health-conscious than ever before and the farms of tomorrow will have to accommodate for that.

Better Fake Meat

A few years ago, fake meat looked like limp tofu “hot-dogs” that no one touched at the barbeque. Nowadays, fake meat like the Impossible Burger are similar to meat in texture and taste. As more companies compete to create a more realistic plant-based burger, we can expect more and better-tasting fake meat products.

This could create a huge shift not only in raising real meat, but also in corn and soybean production (much of which is used to feed crops).

Don’t panic, beef farmers – the number of vegetarians and vegans actually hasn’t increased much over the past few decades. This means that at least in the near future, there is still a market for real meat. The current legal battle surrounding what can and cannot be called meat could help preserve a consumer base that demands real meat.

A New Kind of Farm

Vertical farms, a type of farm where crops are grown on vertically stacked structures, may be a staple for the future of agriculture. With the population expected to boom, the ability for vertical farms to take up less room than a traditional farm could make them more popular.

They also used a tiny amount of water compared to the great outdoors.

There is no surefire way to predict the future of agriculture. We have no idea what laws, natural disasters, cultural shifts, and new technology are waiting just around the corner. However, there are plenty of clues in the farms of today that can help us predict the future of agriculture.

No matter what decade you are in, land education is key for knowing the ins and outs of the land industry. Check out RLI’s upcoming courses to stay educated and ahead of the curve when it comes to future land trends you need to know.

About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.

How and Why To Invest in Farmland

OVERVIEW: INVEST IN FARMLAND

From the beginning of time, farmers have been an integral part of feeding the public. Many technological changes have impacted the farming industry, from the invention of the plow to more modern advances, such as GPS technology, irrigation, and drought-tolerant seed varieties. Many facets have changed but one has not, the dirt. Investing in land is a “simple” process of purchasing property and creating value through: revenue, appreciation, or tax benefits. Although it sounds that many “simple” investors don’t understand the difficulty in selecting properties that make sense for their investment goals when they invest in farmland, for example investing in farmland for retirement.  Listed below are a few short items to look at before investing in farmland.

FIND A PROFESSIONAL

 

Many investors both large and small make the mistake of not employing a professional that has the knowledge of the industry/market and can care for their money. Many times, throughout my real estate career, investment experience and as a farmer myself, I have seen investors not use the correct professional with knowledge of the land. When looking to diversify with farmland, seek a real estate professional with historical and proven confidence in the area.

Accredited Land Consultant land transaction expert farmland

Typically, land professionals are part of organizations like The Realtors® Land Institute where land is the single most asset class, they deal in. To go further, Accredited Land Consultants are trained and accomplished in the industry, of which only a few hundred agents have acquired the designation worldwide.  I use the quote, “I will not go to a heart doctor to get my hip replaced.” A Realtor® who sells homes in an urban area would not have the specific expertise to know the farm and ranch industry and understand the investment quality of a property. A farm and ranch real estate agent would not know about condominium prices in downtown. Use the Find A Land Consultant tool and look for an ALC Designated agent (see why) to make sure you are using a qualified land professional.

BENEFITS

One of the best benefits known to investors is the ability to have land as a tangible asset when you invest in farmland. This is especially important when a portfolio is heavily invested in the stock market.  Another benefit we see in farmland is the tax deduction in relation to depreciation.  Many farms contain improvements that depreciate such as grain storage, irrigation pivots, shops, barns and etc.  An owner can depreciate some of these assets each year to offset yearly taxes.  Always ask your favorite CPA for more information.

invest in farmland

“The United States has some of the best potential farmland for investment…”

Another great benefit to owning farmland is the ability to lease, farm, or share crop your property, to make money.  The value of farmland has increased over the last several years due to an increase in demand for food and fiber globally.  The United States has some of the best potential farmland for investment because of our democratic government and the infrastructure it possesses; ie, railroads, rivers and highways. Other countries have very fertile soil but have no roads to deliver products to a port, and it makes for a hard harvest.  Also, some foreign countries have great land to grow crops but have a corrupt government and/or the state owns all the ports of exchange.  Not all international investments are bad, they just can be more volatile than the U.S.

SELECTION

When selecting a farm to purchase an investor needs to keep three simple points in their process.  Do I have the capital to make the investment? Do I feel comfortable in a long-term project? Can I leave emotions aside when purchasing/selling?

  1. Knowing your buying potential, aka how much can you spend, is key when purchasing farmland. Some investors move capital into property with no debt and many move some capital and acquire debt through lenders.  Lenders are everywhere and, in my opinion, choose a lender that understands farmland and its characteristics.  There are options for government loans through the USDA and other government entities as well.  Consult your land professional to direct you to lenders that can help.
  2. Farmland investing for the most part is a long-term project. Many investors buy land and hold it for extended periods of time to get the most return.  Many large investors may hold land for as long as 10+ years to see the returns.  The farm economy goes in cycles much like the economy, which as a whole goes up and down.  To see real potential in farmland, one must be ready to hold on through at least 5+ years.
  3. Emotion is always on the table when it comes to tracts of land. Throughout my career I have fallen victim to getting emotional towards a piece of property.  This is a definite thing to remember when it comes to you and your family’s financial future.  Leave emotions at the door.  The phrase, “time is money”, can go both ways. Waiting two years to purchase because it makes more sense financially or selling now because you have a willing buyer, may factor into your decision. Remember, “A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush”.

“To see real potential in farmland, one must be ready to hold on through at least 5+ years.”

DIVESTING

After the asset has reached potential or maybe you are ready to buy a new investment, it is time to liquidate. When you invest in farmland, selling the property is as important as the day you purchase. I cannot express the importance using a qualified professional. Visit the Realtors® Land Institute to find a qualified agent when it comes time to sell your investment. The right professional can elevate your sales price, alleviate hassle, and supply you with confidence to the day of closing. When selling farmland, a land professional must qualify buyers and must advertise to the masses. This requires a tailored marketing program and someone with whom has the skill set to vet buyers and make sure qualified candidates can meet or exceed the requirements to get to the closing table.

CONCLUSION

Investing in farmland is very rewarding, if done correctly. The key to remember is to surround yourself with qualified people to help you make decisions. This is your money and your future, happy hunting!

About The Author: Clayton Pilgrim, ALC, is a licensed real estate agent with Century 21 Harvey Properties in Paris, Texas.  Throughout his career he has been in production agriculture from on the ground operations to large scale management.  Pilgrim is involved in private investing in farms, ranches, and recreational tracts throughout East Texas and Southern Oklahoma.  He is a member of the Realtors® Land Institute, an Accredited Land Consultant and on the board of the Future Leaders Committee.  He resides in Paris, Texas, with his wife, Kristy, and daughter, Caroline.

protect property

How to Protect Your Property from Trespassers

Courtesy of National Land Realty

When you invest in a property, you don’t want to be worried about trespassing or theft.  It doesn’t happen too often, but if it does, you want to make sure you’re prepared and have done everything you can to prevent it from happening again. Coming up with a plan to protect your property and prevent trespassing even when you’re not always present on your property will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Here are some things you can do to protect your property from trespassers:

  1. Put Up New Signs

This may seem like a common-sense thing to do, but it’s the easiest and cheapest task to add to your plan. Putting up new “no-trespassing” signs will show people that you are alert and frequent your property often. Rules for putting up signs on your property vary from state to state. So, make sure to check with your local land authorities on how to set them up correctly.

protect property

  1. Get to Know Your Neighbors

This one’s important. If you’re the new owner of your property, you’ll want to meet the owners of the land next to yours. Even if you’ve owned your property for several years already, it’s still wise to introduce yourself to the neighbors. Friendly neighbors are sure to keep an eye out and let you know if they see something suspicious.

  1. Conduct Regular Inspections

Be sure to set up a regular schedule of times throughout the year to walk your land. Go through your property each time, tracing boundary lines and make notes of any significant changes or anything specific you want to remember. Later, you can look back on your notes if you ever see something that looks a bit off. This can help you determine if someone has possibly been trespassing on your property.

search property

  1. Limit Access Points

Having a “one road in and one road out” system will limit the amount of access points for trespassers to make their way in. Having a gate with a lock at the entrance also helps with this.

These are just a few simple and quick things you can do that will help protect your property from trespassers. By doing these four steps, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll never have any trespassing problems, but it does mean that you’re prepared, and potential trespassers will certainly see that!

About the Author: National Land Realty is a full-service real estate brokerage company specializing in farm, ranch, plantation, timber and recreational land across the country. NLR currently represents land buyers and sellers in 20 states.

2018 Land Markets Survey

Top Four Takeaways from The 2018 Land Market Survey

The highly-anticipated Land Market Survey is out! Every year, REALTORS® Land Institute and the National Association of REALTORS® Research Group conduct this survey for land professionals across America to use as an informational resource. The land industry faced many challenges (such as natural disasters and uncertainty on the long-term effects of the current trade war) and many victories (such as the WOTUS ruling and an overall strong economy). Let’s take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 Land Market Survey.

1. Land Prices Are On The Rise, But Slowly

Average land prices across America rose, but at a slower rate than previous years. Land prices rose 2% in 2018, compared to 3% in 2017. This slower gain could be a result of rising interest rates and depressed commodity prices.

2. The Price of Land Bought and Sold Went Down

Across all land types, the median price per acre decreased to $4,500. The amount of land being bought and sold also decreased to a median of 53 acres. However, some land types actually saw higher sizes and prices in 2018. Agricultural irrigated land, timber, recreational, and ranch land all increased in price per acre over the year, while agricultural non-irrigated, timber, residential, and ranch land increased in property size.

3. Financing Was The Number One Issue Facing The Land Industry

49% of respondents said that financing was an issue affecting the land industry. Local zoning, federal zoning, state regulations, and tariffs were also mentioned as top issues.

4. Land Is Being Sold Faster.

While some land types struggled in 2018, the median number of days a property would sit on the market decreased from 95 in 2017 to 90 in 2018.

As with any year, 2018 was a year of many ups and downs for the land industry. It’s impossible to predict what will happen next, especially in this industry. However, the data from the Land Market Survey can help us plan for whatever 2019 has in store for us and help make it the best year yet.

Want to learn more about the current state of the land market? On January 23, Scholastica (Gay) Cororaton, a research economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, hosted a survey going into the nuts and bolts of the Land Market Survey. The live webinar quickly sold out, but don’t panic! You can still watch the recording for free on our webinar archive page. The recording will be posted the week of January 28th.

We wanted to give a big thank you to everyone that participated in this year’s survey. We had the highest participation rate ever!

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

What does RLI Have In Store For 2019?

The start of a new year is a time for fresh ideas, getting motivated, and setting new goals. If your New Year’s Resolutions include growing your career, networking with other land professionals, and learning more about land, check out what the REALTORS® Land Institute has in store for 2019.

2019 National Land Conference

The biggest networking event in the land industry is right around the corner! Join hundreds of other land professionals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 3-6, for four days of networking, amazing speakers, Break Out Sessions, and more!

This year’s opening keynote speaker will be Dr. Mark G. Dotzour, a real estate economist who worked as the Chief Economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. His research has been used in The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, USA Today, and more. He will be informing attendees about how current economic conditions are impacting the land industry. You’ll also hear from expert industry speakers like Steve Apfelbaum, Amber Hurdle, John Newton, and Russell Riggs on topics such as the ecological value of your land, personal branding, the New Farm Bill, and the latest on land laws.

In addition to gaining expertise from these amazing speakers, you’ll be able to:

You can reserve your spot for NLC19 here. We hope to see you there!

Updated Classes

Our classes have been upgraded to include the most up-to-date information and the latest industry best practices. In addition, our new VILT (Virtual Instructor Led Training) courses foster engagement with and hands-on participation in the course content as well as networking with fellow participants. We are still rolling out these new classes, so if you don’t see a class you’d like to take, check back later in the year on our  , and we’ll most likely have it scheduled.

LANDU Education Week

LANDU Education Week is an amazing opportunity to finish all six required courses for the Education Requirement towards earning the Accredited Land Consultant Designation in one week.  This year’s LANDU Education Week will take place in Denver, CO, from June 2-11. We sold out quickly last year, so be sure to register early! We’re still polishing the final details, but will be opening registration in early April.

Great New Webinars

Want to dive deeper into the Land Market Survey? We have two free webinars coming up that go into the nuts and bolts of the survey’s results. Scholastica (Gay) Cororaton, a research economist at the National Association of REALTORS®, will lead the Digging Into the Land Survey: Top Market Trends webinar on January 23. Then, Jay Wittistock will take a closer look at land surveys in general with The Dirt on Land Surveys on April 10.

Didn’t get to watch a webinar live? No problem! You can watch recordings of them here.

With all these great events, classes, and webinars coming up, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the REALTORS® Land Institute. We hope it is for you, too!

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

Should You Start A Christmas Tree Farm?

One of the surefire signs that Christmas is around the corner is seeing those beautiful green pine trees popping up in every household. If you are thinking about growing some trees of your own, ask yourself these five questions to see if a Christmas tree farm is right for your property.

1.Do You Have The (Right) Land?

With the average Christmas tree farm squeezing in 1,500 Christmas trees per acre, these trees can take up a fair amount of land. If the property you own doesn’t have enough room, you can always sublet land from a neighbor. Since Christmas trees take a long time to grow, make sure to work with a land expert in your area to make sure you get the best deal for this long-term commitment.

Soil type is another factor to take into consideration. While different trees do best in different soil types, well-drained, loamy soils are a good bet for almost every type of Christmas tree. Soil that holds onto water will drown the trees.

2. Do You Have The Time?

Christmas trees are low-maintenance, not no-maintenance. Not much has to be done in the first four years of growth, but after that, the trees do require upkeep. Once the trees start to mature, you’ll want to shape the trees to help them maintain that gorgeous conical shape everyone loves.

3. What Trees Will You Grow?

There are dozens of types of Christmas trees. Which ones will you grow? Here are some of the most popular according to the Farmers’ Almanac.

  • Balsam Fir. This tree is incredibly fragrant and will fill your house with that classic Christmas tree smell.
  • Douglas Fir. The way this tree grows gives it a natural fullness and conical shape.
  • Fraser Fir. People love these trees for the unique silver color underneath the needles.
  • Scotch Pine. Tired of sweeping up needles every day? Scotch pines are famous for not shedding and retaining water after it is cut, making it a great low-maintenance tree.
  • Colorado Blue Spruce. The ice-blue color of these trees makes it popular with people looking to do a little something different this Christmas.

4. Are You Looking For A Crop That Will Turn A Fast Profit?

Certain crops reach maturity quickly and have a high regrowth rate, making them great if you need cash in a pinch. Christmas trees are not one of those crops. From seed to fully-grown tree, the average Christmas tree takes anywhere from eight to ten years to reach maturity. And that’s only if everything goes right. Make sure you can afford to not make money off this specific crop while it matures.

5. Think Beyond the Tree

You can also sell greens, garlands, and wreaths alongside your trees. Holly, poinsettias, and pine cones are also extremely popular with decorators and crafty people. This text is from our 2019 updated Timberland course:

The land can be used for specialty products such as Christmas trees, boughs for holiday wreaths, mushrooms, honey, or maple syrup. Additionally, the land can be used for other wood products, such as saw, firewood, wood chips, decorative wood, greenery, cones, and seeds.

Christmas trees are a staple of the holiday season. We hope this article helped you decide whether or not your land is right to start your own Christmas tree farm or an agritourism business.

Whether you are looking for land to grow Christmas trees or any other kind of crop, be sure to always work with a qualified land real estate professional, like one that can be found on the Find A Land Consultant search tool, to get the best deal for your hard earned money.

Want to learn about growing trees for profit? Be sure to check out our Timberland course, which will be available to take in 2019!

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

RLI Members Benefit From Increased Exposure

With so many business buzzwords flying around, it can be hard to pin down what associations are doing day-to-day to best serve you – the members. Here at RLI National, we want to give an inside look into what we’re doing to promote our ALCs and RLI Members.

If you had a peek at the RLI 2017-2020 Strategic Plan Update, you probably noticed most of the points revolve around increasing awareness of our members and adding value to membership. At first glance, “awareness” and “adding value” can seem like two more buzzwords, but each priority is broken down into a series of steps that are currently in motion.

One of the ways we added value to membership was by creating the RLI APEX Awards Program. Sponsored by The Land Report, this awards program was designed to recognize the industry’s top national producers – truly the crème of the crop. The APEX Awards Program caught the attention of the media, getting coverage everywhere from the Business Insider to the Chicago Tribune and Market Watch. All the media attention got free publicity for all our applicants and their companies. Applicants that attended the APEX Awards Ceremony at our 2018 National Land Conference were even featured on a billboard in Times Square!

Another way we are creating awareness of RLI, is by having ads in every major industry publication and digital ads on all their websites, including:

These ads help us stay top of mind for people in every sector of the land industry. The RLI Brand is omnipresent in print and in person. in 2018, so far we‘ve had booths promoting RLI at the CCIM Conference, NAR REALTORS® Conference & Expo, and NAFB (National Association of Farm Broadcasting) Conference to help us maintain a strong voice in the land industry and spread awareness of our organization and designation. We are also working closely with NAR State and Local associations to help create awareness about RLI.

Our promotions resulted in an incredible 814% (yes, you read that right!) increase in people using the Find a Land Consultant search tool! We’ve heavily promoted this tool in prominent industry publications and on various industry blogs where landowners can find us. This jump in Find a Land Consultant use means that land buyers and sellers are turning to REALTORS® Land Institute to find a land expert for their transaction – to find you, the RLI Member! In addition, with the help of Facebook ads, bringing on top-notch industry keynote speakers, and growing the number of partners in the exhibit hall by 60%, we’ve seen a 44% increase in attendees to 2018’s National Land Conference!

With more industry partners, we’re able to invest more into promoting our members and can offer more discounts to help members grow their businesses and close more deals.  For example, we also have formed partnerships to get our members great discounts and services as part of our Member Advantage Program (MAP).

 

RLI also works with a freelance writer to assist with content generation, in addition to assisting members, to increase the quantity of posts we are able to put out. This has allowed us to now create valuable content for both land real estate agents like our members as well as content valuable to landowners. And even the content for landowners benefits you, the member, because you are able to share these pieces from our YOUR Land Blog to position yourself as the expert in your market by providing relevant, valuable content to your clients and potential clients. Our blog posts (like the one you are reading right now) keep our members in the know and to cement our role as The Voice of Land by showcasing timely, relevant content that is valuable to both land agents and landowners.

We’ve already had incredible results! RLI had a record number of partners for NLC, a 60% increase in industry partners that offer services to land professionals, and, for the first time in recent RLI history, sold out LANDU Education Week with record attendance.

We only listed a fraction of the steps that we’re taking to better serve our members (we’d need a lot more room to cover all that! You can read our full 2017-2020 Strategic Plan here). We always want to keep members updated on what we are doing so that we can work together to be The Voice of Land.

About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

Is Pine Timberland Still a Good Investment? Thoughts on the WSJ Timberland Article

The Wall Street Journal published an article last week that has caught the attention of many landowners or those who are considering making a timberland investment. This week I have been tagged by friends and followers in posts and comments on Facebook to ask my thoughts about it. The article is entitled “Thousands of Southerners Planted Trees for Retirement. It Didn’t Work.”

Ryan Dezember, the author of the article, makes some very insightful observations and reports on broad trends in the Southeastern pine timberland markets. I tend to agree with many of his statements in a broad sense, and am glad to know he has ties to Alabama when he was previously a writer for the Mobile Press Register. You should read his article in full before going any farther in this post. Also from the outset let me disclose that I am not a forester, economist, accountant, or attorney.  Everything below is solely my opinion based on years of observation as a broker of Alabama timberland, and is not legal, forestry, accounting, or other professional advice.

Mr. Dezember makes three points that are virtually indisputable on a large scale across the Southeast.

  • In many places in the Southeast the supply of standing pine timber far exceeds the demand or capacity of the local mills.
  • This “glut of timber” has caused the price for timber to go down in many parts of the Southeast.
  • Some institutional investors and individual landowners have lost money, significant money, in their timberland investments in recent years.

That all sounds like bad news. However, what if someone told you “Go invest your money in the stock market.” That is a broad and daunting task for the novice investor. Are there still any stocks that are winners in a declining market? Sure there are. You just have to know what to look for. The same is true for investing in timberland. Here are some elementary things you can do to increase your chances of making a good pine timberland investment.

  • Find land with quality soils. The better the soils, the better and faster that you will generally be able to grow timber. Look for soils with a high site index for loblolly pines. Soils that will grow genetically superior loblolly to 90′ to 100′ in 25 years are highly desirable.
  • Locate close to several mills. Loggers generally tell me that you cannot haul timber more than 75 miles and the landowner or loggers make any money. Locating land close to one or more mills, along good roads, increases your potential to make a good investment. The closer you are to the mill, the less money the loggers spend on hauling, and the more money goes into the landowners pocket. The money paid to the landowner for their cut timber is called“stumpage”. Locating close to more than one mill means that you have several mills competing for your wood, and you are likely to be able to get a higher price when it is time to sell your land
  • Find sites that can be logged in wet weather. Locating an upland property that can be logged during the winter months is a great way to increase your chances of making a good timber investment. Timber harvesting equipment is heavy and will bog down in the mud during the wet season. Having well-drained soils that can be navigated during rainy weather is a real plus. Mills tend to pay the most during the wet season because that is when they have the most difficult time getting wood to their yards. Look for tracts that are loggable (suitable for logging) during winter and have access to good dirt roads or paved roads.
  • Invest for the Long Haul. Pine trees have been genetically enhanced to grow to maturity faster than ever before. You can now reach a full growing cycle in 25-30 years. But trees still take a long time to reach maturity compared to a stock or mutual fund. Allowing yourself some flexibility on the length of the investment can pay big dividends if you can time the harvest of your timber sale to correspond with higher market prices. Some institutional investors have a fixed window of time in which they must generate a given rate of return. If your fund length is 10-12 years, but your timber needs 15 years to reach maturity, then your fund is likely to suffer. Give yourself plenty of time to take full advantage of the biological growth of the trees and the corresponding higher prices in the timber markets. Giving a tree another year or two of growth may allow the tree to move up into another age class, meaning it can be sold at a higher price because it can be used for a product that requires a larger tree.

The good news for small to medium-sized investors is that you can avoid some of the problems that have plagued institutional buyers. Timberland Investment Management Organizations (TIMO’s) are given the difficult task of going and Finding a large package of timberland to Purchase on behalf of their client, Manage the fund for 10-15 years, and then Sell with guaranteed returns. Often these packages are 10,000 acres up to 100,000 acres. It is difficult to pick the very best pieces of land when you take that approach. To some degree you have to take what is available on the market at the time. Smaller landowners can be much more surgical in their selection of prime pine timberland.

In my opinion, pine timberland can still be a good investment. Like every other investment, you need to educate yourself on the topic, research the options, and enlist the help of a team to help with your purchase. Southeastern Land Group has a Timber Sales Division with registered foresters that can assist you in making a sound timberland investment. Our team of brokers and agents helps people buy and sell thousands of acres of timberland around the Southeast every year. We will be happy to assist you in your search for a good timberland investment. Please let us know how we can be helpful to you with your land investment needs.

This article was originally posted on the Southeastern Land Group website.

Jonathan Goode is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and a partner with Southeastern Land Group. He is a licensed broker in Alabama and Mississippi, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program and podcast “The Land Show.”