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COVID-19 Impacts on Agricultural Tillable Farmland

A panel of Accredited Land Consultants of the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) shed light on the impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on land values and land market trends across the country in a recent Virtual Round Table session. The panel, which consisted of expert land agents from across the country, mostly pointed towards a positive outlook for the land market despite volatility in other areas. One key market they covered was farmland real estate.

RLI 2020 National President Kyle Hansen, ALC, with Hertz Real Estate Services in Nevada, IA, shared his expertise on what’s happening for agricultural tillable farmland, especially as for the Midwest. Kyle’s company holds a lot of in-person auctions and due to the stay at home orders and CDC recommendations they’ve been postponing a lot of those. However, he noted some are choosing to move to online auctions. “There’s been a little bit of activity, though some sellers are withdrawing their properties.” He went on to say that “We haven’t seen much of a drop-off in the number of sales that we’ve seen happening. It is still a little too early to tell how much this is going to affect the market, but I can definitely tell you that there’s been a lot of activity; a lot of phone calls asking what’s available on the market.” He told listeners that most are looking for good deals and mixed-use agricultural/recreational properties.

On a positive note, he said “It seems like there’s money to be spent. I’ve even had a few properties that have been on the market for ten months to almost a year that I received three offers on in two-days and that hadn’t had almost any offers on over the past ten months. So there is definitely activity and some increased interest from buyers.” He believes that, especially for high-quality productive agricultural properties, they will continue not to see a drop off in buyers which is good news for sellers and the market as a whole.

agricultural land

The biggest change he’s seen since the shutdown? “We’ve been doing a lot of remote teleconferences… a face-to-face meeting isn’t necessarily warranted.” He went on to touch on other technologies that have enabled transactions to continue taking place remotely, saying “We’ve been using drones and are able to see a lot more with drone footage than ever before in the past… so it’s a tool that’s come out in the past few years that [agents] are really taking advantage of now.”

When asked by sellers if now is the right time to list, Kyle tells them “It’s the right time when you and your family decide to sell a farm.” As he pointed out, “no one can know for sure what is going to happen to the market six months from now,” so he believes “as long as [sellers] are realistic and understand the market conditions right now, I tell them that we’ve got buyers asking.” Predicting some pent-up demand after all this gets figured out and the market goes back up, he says “You have to be positioning now to get your property on the market.”

Kyle also pointed out that for those looking to do a 1031 Exchange or who are getting close to the deadline of finalizing one, they have extended the deadline to July 15. This 1031 deadline extension was fought for by the REALTORS® Land Institute which signed on to a letter from the National Association of REALTORS® petitioning congress for an extension. NAR and RLI have advocated heavily for these extensions since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the best things buyers and sellers can do right now is “to try to understand the market and visit with your land professional each and every day.”

For more insights on the impacts of the outbreak and shutdown on the ranch land market for ranchers from Clayton as well as insights on how other land markets are being impacted, make sure to watch the full Impacts of COVID-19 on The Land Market Virtual Round Table presented by the RLI 2020 Future Leaders Committee  or check out the related posts below:

If you are interested in buying, selling or investing in land real estate, make sure to Find A Land Consultant, like an ALC, in your area with the expertise needed to best assist with your transaction.

Kyle Hansen, ALCAbout: Kyle Hansen, ALC, has been a member of RLI since 2008, receiving his ALC Designation in 2011. In 2015 and 2016, he served as Chair of RLI National’s Future Leaders Committee. He is an active member of the RLI Iowa Chapter, serving as their President from 2012-2013. The chapter also awarded him the RLI Iowa Chapter Land Broker of the Year Award in 2013. Then in 2014, he received the RLI National Rising Star Leadership Award which recognizes a member approaching a mid-level in their career who is on their way to making significant contributions to the land profession and to RLI. Kyle later went on to receive a 2017 RLI Top Twenty Producer APEX Award and was among those recognized in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 APEX Producers Club as part of the RLI APEX Awards Program. Kyle received his Broker’s license in 2016 for Iowa and Missouri.

Farmland

The Basics of Farmland Investing

Despite concerns in other areas of the economy surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, now is still a good time to invest in farmland because the market is neither too saturated or thin. In fact, many investors are moving to investing in farmland as a safe haven. Plus, farmland has consistently yielded returns greater than 10% over the last five decades – so it is a proven good long-term investment.

If you’re interested in investing in farmland, you will need to learn the basics first though so you can make smart choices.

Top Reasons to Invest in Farmland

Investors point to a lot of different reasons when they explain why they choose to put money in farmland real estate. Some of the most popular reasons include:

  • The option to hold onto land until it becomes profitable to sell.
  • Transitioning the land to suit an emerging, high-profit market like organic produce or hemp.
  • Making money by leasing it to farmers.
  • Adding diversity to investment portfolios.
  • Scarcity. They aren’t making any more of it.

With the right approaches, farmland investing can give you an exceptional, one-time profit or provide a long-term source of income. Either way, it’s a relatively stable option that fits well into most portfolios.

What to Consider Before Investing Farmland Real Estate

Like any investment, buying farmland real estate comes with some risk. That means you should do some research and hire an expert land agent in your area before you invest in farmland. Learn about the following factors to make sure you choose land that’s likely to increase in value.

The Land’s Previous Uses

A piece of land’s previous uses can play a crucial role in your investment. If a former owner used chemical fertilizers, you might find it challenging to qualify for organic farming. If the land has sat unused for a decade, you may need to add a lot of nutrients to the farmland soil before you can grow crops.

The Soil’s Acidity and Nutrients

Crops only thrive when they’re grown in the soil with the right acidity and nutrients. Before you invest in farmland, get a soil test that measures the acidity and amounts of nutrients like:

  • Aluminum
  • Calcium
  • Lead
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sulfur

Without the right levels, you will either need to grow different crops or amend the soil before planting.

farmland soil

The Farmland’s Soil Drainage

Most crops grow best in soil that drains quickly. For most plants, you don’t want standing water that contributes to rot, blight, and mold.

You can test soil’s drainage by digging a shallow hole, filling it with water, and returning the next day. If the hole still has water in it, then you probably don’t want to invest in the land.

Surface and Mineral Rights

Buying farmland always gives you rights to the land’s surface. You may not, however, have mineral rights. If a previous owner sold the land’s mineral rights, then the mineral rights are not included in your investment.

Owning mineral rights doesn’t matter for some land. If the company that owns the mineral rights decides to extract oil, natural gas, coal, or other commodities from the property, though, the excavation process will disrupt farming and can even limit the amount of land available to farm.

Determine How Your Investment Will Affect Your Taxes

Investing in farmland could increase your tax burden. In most cases, you will need to pay property taxes. You may also need to pay state and federal taxes on income that you earn from the land.

farmland investing

Ways to Get Started in Farmland Investing

If you have a large amount of money, then you can start investing in farmland almost immediately. You just need a qualified land agent to help you find farmland real estate that will earn money.

Most people, however, don’t have thousands of dollars to buy acres of land. That doesn’t mean you cannot benefit from investing in farmland real estate, but you may need to take some additional steps.

Know How Much You Can Spend

You need to determine how much money you can afford to spend on farmland. Even if you need to borrow money, a sizable down payment should increase your profit potential.

Find a Funding Source

Traditional lenders often charge high interest rates that make it difficult for farmland to earn profits. If you get a low interest rate, then a conventional loan might work well for you. Keep in mind that you have alternatives, though.

Crowdfunding gives you a low-cost way to access the funds you need to purchase farmland real estate.

You could also co-invest in land with friends, family members, or business partners.

Use a Qualified Land Agent Before You Invest in Farmland

Make sure you use a qualified land agent when investing in farmland. Land transactions require specialized expertise. One mistake could make it difficult or impossible for you to get a healthy return on your investment.

Find a land consultant in your area and make sure the agent has experience in farmland transactions. Accredited Land Consultants, agents who have earned the ALC Designation, are know in the industry as the most experienced and educated agent in the industry for assisting with land transactions.

There are plenty of good reasons to invest in farmland, but you may need help from a land agent, lawyer, and CPA to make sure you choose a piece of land that will give you a strong return for your money.

farmland

Has Wall Street Abandoned Farm Producers?

The Chairman of the Federal reserve told a group of senators that in spite of the deterioration of the farm economy, banks are in good shape to make ag loans. This is in stark contrast to the top 30 banks showing a nearly four billion dollar decline in agriculture loans held in there collective portfolios. For example, back in 2008, JP Morgan began growing its ag holdings which reached nearly 75% by 2015. Now, with incomes being reduced and Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings on the rise, they seem to be pulling back from the farm economy despite what the Federal Reserve Chairman says.

Many rural banks are now in a hard spot having to turn away longtime customers because they cant accept any more risk on there balance sheets. However, this may well force some of these producers into the Chapter 12 that the lenders fear. This is reflected in FDIC reports that 1.5% of farm loans were 90+ days late or lenders had stopped charging interest because they were nonperforming and not likely to be paid as agreed.

If you have a local bank that is still lending, shake their hand because they are having a hard time as well!

About the Author: Tim Hadley, ALC, is an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Gladstone, MO. He joined the REALTORS® Land Institute in 2017, serving on the 2019 Future Leaders Committee.

 

 

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Five Things You Need to Know Before Investing In Agriculture

Many people are hesitant to invest in agriculture, especially those that don’t have much experience in the land industry. A common assumption is that only farmers know enough about agriculture to confidently invest in it. However, agriculture can be a great investment for people of all walks of life. Before you take out your checkbook, here are six things you need to know about investing in agriculture.

1: More Than One Way to Invest

There are many ways to profit off agricultural land and you can do many of them simultaneously. Investors can make money off of the returns of the annual crops. Additionally, good quality land historically increases in value over time, so just holding the land can provide returns as it increases in value. If you want to see your investment grow faster, you can:

2: Agriculture Is A Hedge Against Inflation

Food historically increases in price over time, which allows agriculture to be a hedge against inflation. A hedge against inflation is an investment that is protected against the detrimental cost of inflation to an investment.

Future population growth is also a benefit to investing in agriculture. As the world’s population is expected to grow to 9.8 billion by 2050, there will be an ever-increasing demand for food. Global food production will need to increase dramatically to feed the growing population. This increase in demand could cause an increase in the value of crops and the land they grow on as supply decreases, providing insurance that there will be room for your investment to grow.

3: Long Term Investment

When the economy is good, like it is now at the time of this publication, people often put all their money in high-risk, high-reward stocks that offer quick and large returns. Crops need time to grow and flourish. Some crops, such as pecan trees, take three to four years to produce and often don’t reach full production potential until the tenth year. However, there will always be a steady demand for food, so this investment can add slow, steady growth to your savings. It can be easy to gravitate towards the get-rich-quick stocks, but investing in safe, slow-return stocks is important for the overall health of your investment portfolio.

4: Crop Insurance Protects Investors

With talks of trade wars and bad weather impacting the 2019 planting season, you might be hesitant to invest in agriculture. However, crop insurance was created to protect investors as well as farmers. If crops are destroyed due to natural causes or the price of the crops decline, the farmer still receives funds from the insurance so that investors can still collect their annual returns.

 

5: Diversify your portfolio

Investing in agriculture is a great way to diversify your portfolio. Much like timberland, agriculture doesn’t mimic the patterns of the stock market, giving your portfolio some much-needed protection against recessions. If you invested all your money in stocks and a recession hit, you could lose most of your investment. Agriculture is typically considered a safe, low-risk stock that can provide reliable returns and can be an excellent safety net for your financial future.

Agriculture shouldn’t be viewed as an investment only for industry insiders. Agriculture has been one of the biggest industries in America for millennia and has so much to offer investors. Investing in agriculture can be a great investment for your future.

Looking to buy agricultural land to invest in? Be sure to work with an experienced and qualified land expert in your area to find the perfect plot to invest in. If you click on the Advanced Search button, you can check the Agricultural/Farm Land option under Property Specialties to find an agent with experience in agricultural land.

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.

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.

Agricultural Land Marketing Basics

We as agricultural professionals know how hard we work to find buyers and sellers of land. We spend years of hard work to build our clientele and our reputation. Marketing a property correctly and in a timely manner is paramount to selling the property. Getting the listing is just the first step in the process of selling the property. There is still much work to do. I am sure that most of us are already marketing our properties in an informative, professional manner, but we can all improve our marketing efforts.

Most medium to large brokerage firms have an in-house marketing department which handles flyers, mailers, websites, etc. Other smaller firms may use an outside marketing company. The first step as the listing agent is to get all the pertinent information to the marketing team in a timely manner. This information should include: The full address of the property, GPS coordinates, acreage, photos, aerials, the property description, property highlights, improvements, soils and topo maps, production records / yields, well information, location maps, zoning, permitting, future land use, and demographics. Multiple location maps should be used, as many buyers may live out of state or out of the country and need detailed information to understand the property location.

The completed flyer or brochure and any other pertinent information should then be posted on the company website. After this, the flyer is emailed to recipients in the company database. The recipients should be filtered based on his or her property interests. For example, if the subject property is a citrus grove, the email blast should be sent only to people interested in citrus groves. People tend to trash these emails or even block a sender who constantly sends information that is not relevant to his or her wants and needs.

The next step is to post the flyer and all pertinent information on the various real estate marketing websites. These may include MLS, LoopNet, Land Flip, Total Commercial, and Lands of America, just to name a few. You should make sure to have any additional pertinent information posted on these websites. There is plenty of room to add additional information such as detailed soils map, location maps, demographics, etc. The greater the amount of information, the better. In many cases, we are dealing with very sophisticated buyers. They need all the information they can get to make an informed decision. It is very frustrating when the only information provided is a plat map and a brief description of the property. We are professionals and should market our properties in a professional manner.

Sometimes, you have to get creative with property marketing. There are a few other methods which could prove effective or even critical. Some people, believe it or not, don’t have an email address. In this case, direct mail might be called upon to reach the buyer, whether through personal letters or postcards. There are various trade magazines and newspapers in which to advertise as well. Lastly, let’s not forget the old phone, whether a cell phone or land line. We must keep in touch with our buyers and alert them when we have new listings that might interest them.

I hope this article was helpful and informative. Good luck marketing your properties!

Fortenberry, ChipChip Fortenberry, ALC, MBA

When A Crop Kicks You in the Gut

I went to work on August 12th with a lengthy to-do list. I knew it was going to be a busy day and an especially interesting lunch hour. Like most of us involved in farm management and agricultural real estate, I was eager to hear the USDA Crop Report. In today’s fast-moving world, that report can affect the market strongly and swiftly.

All bets are off with USDA reports; I have been around long enough to know that. That said, I was trending towards the camp that was expecting bullish news. I am not sure where you sit while reading this, but in Central Illinois, I don’t see an enormous crop. I see a crop that struggled with record rainfall in June and in some instances, never even got off the ground. With that in mind, I had gone through every farm management account the previous day and gotten figures and delivery dates all lined up for some additional crop sales. I was ready! I just needed the report to be released. Then, the report came out…
The USDA raised the corn yield 2 bushels per acre and beans 1.5 bushels per acre. Immediately, corn was down 20 and beans down 60. In an instant, it sent producers and managers scrambling for answers and looking for “next steps”. It should be said that the USDA doesn’t necessarily do a thorough inspection of the crop, and in their defense that is probably an impossible task. Regardless, they put large projections–and in some cases, historic projections–on the states in the Western Corn Belt that have supposedly had more favorable weather. Whether ag experts think the USDA projection is off-base or not, the fact remains that the market trades off of these numbers and until there is new data or an unforeseen outside influence, this is what we have to work with.
cornfield
It is uncertain whether anything can spark substantial movement until farmers hit the fields. Only when grain crosses the scales will we know what crop we have. Until then, estimates are just educated and calculated “guesses”. Some theorized that FSA preventive planting numbers released on August 17th could’ve provided a bounce. Although there were over 2 million acres prevented from being planted in Missouri and Illinois, the 17th came and went without much movement. Extenuating circumstances abroad could move the pre-harvest market, but that is often harder to project than the crop itself. China’s currency devaluation was the buzz during the week of August 10th. Oil hitting a six-year low on Monday, August 17th is the chatter right now. What remains to be seen is whether any of these outside factors can substantially alter commodities in the interim. If we had gotten a hot dry-spell in August, that could’ve swung the pendulum…but that was a big if.
Perhaps the Pro Farmer crop tour will enlighten traders on what to expect. This annual tour encompasses teams from Pro Farmer scouring the entire Corn Belt with in-depth analysis. The USDA fails to get up close and personal. This crop tour has legitimate boots on the ground with plant population numbers, ear size measurements and ultimately provides yield checks on a multi-state level.
At the end of the day, the report came out and kicked the “Bulls” and optimists in the gut. We very well could be in line for some choppy trading during the next month. Perhaps an outside event or development could form, but I personally wouldn’t bet on it. Treading water until harvest is well-underway is our most likely immediate future. Harvest season is always exciting and often provides a few surprises. Until then, we can wish together that we pulled the trigger on sales the days leading up to August 12th.
Luke Worrell, ALCContributor Luke Worrell, ALC, Worrell Land Services
Luke Worrell is a Broker, Accredited Land Consultant and Accredited Farm Manager in Jacksonville, IL.  He specializes in agricultural real estate and land management in west central IL.  Luke enjoys all things sports and traveling.  He resides in Springfield, IL with his wife Allison and son Kale.