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flooded field

Thoughts on Flood Recovery for Farmers

With record floods receding all along the Missouri river valley, producers are facing a daunting clean up. With sand up to five feet deep deposited over thousands of acres of land, when it comes to flood recovery, how do you clean it all up?

Before we discuss how to clean it up, you may be asking “Why do I need to worry?” After the 1993 floods, many producers attempted to just plant in their field as they always had. Some areas didn’t produce, and most that did dropped from 75 bushels per acre to about 15 bushels. No one was happy about that and we started looking for ways to get our fertility back.

Federal disaster grants are available to help with cost, but they are capped at 75% of the fair market value of the land before the flood.

flood recover farmland

First, you must remember that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prohibits dumping it back into the river channel. They consider it contaminated, preventing its introduction back into the river. For areas with less than a foot of sand deposits, deep disking is usually the most cost-effective way of dealing with it. This will turn up some organic material for our soil.

Now. to address areas with sand from one to ten feet we turn to a track hoe. With a 180-degree swing, and bucket widths up to 5 feet wide, you can reach down and get the good black dirt. Once you start, a large machine can turn over nearly an acre per day.

This works out to about $2,500 per acre for the rehab cost but, at 70 bushel beans vs 15 bushels per acre, it seems like the only approach that works. If the land is now only worth $2,000 per acre, but you bought it for $5,000 per acre years back, it must be productive enough to cover the loan. So, we continue to rehab section by section to restore the value to this once fertile delta.

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.

Benefits and Drawbacks Of Different Types Of Land Investing

In articles about investing, “land investments” are often all lumped together, as if investing in a commercial property is the exact same as investing in a vineyard. There are many different types of land, and not every land type is right for every investor. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of investing in some of the different types of land.

Disclaimer: There are more benefits and drawbacks to investing in a single land type than we could ever fit in a single article, so we are going to focus on some of the most important pros and cons of each land type.

Timberland

Pro: Less Risky Than Stocks

Historically, timberland has had much less risk and volatility than stocks, but timberland returns were similar to those of stocks.

“Over the last twenty years, according to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, returns from timberland have been almost equal to returns from equity investments as measured by the S&P 500.” Said Bob King, ALC in his article The Basics of Timberland Investing.

Pro: Moves Against the Stock Market

Not only does timber have less volatility than stocks, timber historically moves countercyclical to other asset classes. That means even during bad markets where many other investments types take a dip, your portfolio will have a safety net.

Con: Timber Is Delicate

The elements can impact all types of land, but timber is especially susceptible to the elements. Pests, natural disasters, wildfires, and other forces of nature can have long-lasting impacts on the value of your land.

Con: A Pricy Down Payment

When timberland is priced as the “highest and best use”, often by sellers marketing their land towards people looking to build their second home, the price can skyrocket. The exact same property can double or triple if it is reclassified. The best thing you can do, is work with a land expert in your area to make sure you are paying the right price for your investment.

Vineyard

Pro: Quick Returns

If you invest in a vineyard that is already producing grapes, you will likely see a return on your investment quickly. In fact, vineyards are one of the land investment types to see the fastest return on investment (ROI).

Pro: Tax Advantages

From the immediate expensing of replacing diseased vines to tax breaks based off the depreciation of a trellis to cash-only accounting, vineyards are ripe with tax advantages.

Con: The Down Payment Might Be More Than You Think

Depending on where you buy, investing in vineyards might cost a pretty penny. In the past decade, wealthy buyers have started investing in vineyards, so the prices have skyrocketed up to over $400,000 an acre in some high demand areas.

Con: High Operating Costs

Vineyards can be very expensive to run, making it harder to turn a profit on smaller vineyards. If you are buying a vineyard that hasn’t started producing yet, it won’t produce a profit for at least the first two years, so that can add extra financial burden to an investor.

Farmland

Pro: Tax Breaks Based Off Of Depreciation

Similar to vineyards, farmland can also offer tax advantages to investors, as pointed out in the article How And Why To Invest In Farmland by Clayton Pilgrim, ALC.

“Many farms contain improvements that depreciate such as grain storage, irrigation pivots, shops, barns, etc.,” says Pilgrim. “An owner can depreciate some of these assets each year to offset yearly taxes.”

Pro: The Ability to Lease Out Farmland

Sharecropping or leasing your land can help bring in some extra income. It’s minimal effort on your end, and it brings in some extra cash.

Con: High Risk

There are many risk factors to take into consideration with farmland. The market is unpredictable and can change on a dime. And it’s not just the market – the weather, natural disasters, pests, and dozens of other factors out of your control can take a serious toll on your investment.

Vacant Land

Pro: The Freedom

The possibilities of what to do with vacant land are endless. You can transition the property to its highest and best use, hold the property until the value goes up, add solar panels or wind turbines, and more. The choice is yours!

Pro: More Affordable Than Developed Land

Since it often doesn’t come with structures, vacant land often has a lower price tag than other land types meaning the financial barrier to entry is usually a lot lower than other land types.

Con: Less Tax Advantages

Unlike some of the other land types on this list, vacant land doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to tax advantages.

Orchards

Pro: More Money Per Acre

Trees don’t need much space, so you can squeeze lots of trees onto your property to maxamize your returns.

Con: Time To Grow

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant an orchard was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now”. The meaning behind it is if you want a successful future, but in the hard work now, but it can be taken literally. Trees are a slow grower, and can take three-to-six years to start producing money. If you are looking for quicker returns, consider investing in an orchard that is already producing.

Con: Fruit Rot

Fruit that falls from the trees needs to be picked up quickly or else you run the risk of fruit rot. Rotting fruit can impact the health of your trees and the land.

Recreational Land

Pro: Sentimental Value

It’s not as easy to have fun on timberland! Recreational land is an investment that you can enjoy with your family and friends.

Pro: Can Handle More Wear And Tear

Unlike other land types (we’re looking at you, orchards!), recreational land is hearty. It’s meant to handle foot traffic. If you don’t want to spend time fretting over the impact of people or weather, this might be the right investment for you.

Con: Animals (And People) Can Be Tricky

If your recreational land is used primarily for hunting, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the habits and health of the animals on your property. Attracting and keeping game on your property can take a lot of time and money.

It’s not just animals you need to worry about – poachers and trespassers can steal animals, destroy the animals’ habitats, and scare animals off your land. Be sure to have clearly marked signs and limit access points to reduce the risk of trespassers.

There are lots of benefits to land investing, regardless of land type. Tax advantages, diversifying your portfolio, and saving for retirement are all great reasons. No matter what land type you invest in, investing for your future is always a good idea.

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.