To get started, we need to show the variances in agricultural land. Several types of land fall within the bounds of “ag land” and we need to simply define these as follows:
- Farm – used for growing crops on an annual basis, ie: corn, soybeans, cotton, and wheat.
- Ranch – used for grazing of animals for meat production or hay production.
- Vineyard – Production of grapes for wine, raisins, or juice.
- Orchard – Multiple types, ie: oranges, peaches, lemons, and apples. Also, whole fruit or nut production, ie: pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.
- Timber – Production of timber for uses like lumber and paper.
Agricultural land is used for its ability to produce products that are used in our everyday lives. Timber is cut to produce lumber to build homes as soybeans are grown to produce feed for animals to eat. Without our agricultural production, human life would cease to exist. Keeping our investment, the land, producing at its highest ability, we must manage the variables that we can. Several factors affect production:
- Government Regulation and Deregulation
- Fertility/Weed suppression
- Fallow (idle, neglected)
With all the factors we have to manage, weather is the largest factor, in my opinion, affecting the production of any type of ag land. Snow, droughts, floods, winds, hail, hurricanes, etc. all wreak havoc on properties across the United States. Managing weather is tough, but knowing the limitations of your program and planning for these types of events are crucial in effectively managing land. Feeding cattle before a large snow event or using no-till farming in highly erodible areas are some types of preventive measures growers can take to prepare for adverse weather.
Land also is affected by other natural elements like insects and disease. Insects affect production globally every year from bowl weevils in cotton to pine borers in timber plantations. All insect infestations can be detrimental if not taken care of in a timely matter. Many application methods exist from aerial to ground, but someone with professional experience and licensure should always be involved. Never apply chemicals without looking into the regulations that are in your area. Diseases are common in many ways from rust fungus on wheat to stomach worms in cattle. Also, keep in mind that a professional will be needed when looking into treatments for diseases accompanying ag production.
Urbanization is becoming an increasing concern for ag land that is situated around large cities. Many vineyards are currently dealing with large cities growing and their increased need for water resources. Some are also experiencing travel problems with large equipment as well as growing land prices because of land transitioning from ag use to commercial use. These are pertinent problems that have to be managed because of the direct financial impact they can cause to your bottom line. Managing this factor is tough and can sometimes cause relocation, or can result in change of crops with associated equipment. In the cattle business, it can cause problems with transportation, feeding, fly control, and keeping animals in pastures out of neighborhood yards. A land manager needs to carefully plan years in advance for this is something that we, as growers, can’t stop.
Government de/regulation is always something to consider because of our ever-changing legislation. Some areas see the banning of chemicals that are crucial in controlling insects and weeds. A constant look at current issues, as well as reading and staying close to your legislator, will be the best way to stay ahead of the curve on these issues.
Fertility and weed suppression are another problem that we see in our ag land properties. Poor management of crucial micro/macro nutrients in farmland are detrimental to a farm in continuing production. Another example is weed and grass control in an orchard. Tall grass and weeds use water and without proper control can cause production loss. Management of fertility and weeds is always a factor that can contribute to production loss. However, with the proper professional oversight this can be avoided.
Fallow is a factor that affects ag land in two main areas. One, continued growth and unmanaged land can cause grounds for breeding of insects and also fuel fire conditions. Insect infestations like we have seen in the south with the aphid epidemic were less in areas where fallow ground was least. Insects need cover to nest and hatch, and large growth can house and help multiply insects for several different crops. When we see the large fires in the west almost all the time, these are well fueled underbrush from mismanaged timber areas. Controlled burning, shredding and plowing can reduce the kindling needed for large scale fires which with proper care your property can be protected from wildfires. Another thing to remember is there is an equal balance that the manager needs to follow. Work closely with conservation and extension agencies in your local area to figure out where your equilibrium exists.
Find a qualified professional, do not go at this alone. You do not use a dentist to do your open-heart surgery, so why would you use advice from an unexperienced land professional, or worse an agent with no experience in land. The Realtors® Land Institute has a search tool to help you find professionals in your area to help you make these kinds of decisions as well as manage and implement ideas for your specific property. Accredited Land Consultants are just that, they consult based upon years of experience and training from working in the land business. I have numerous clients I help on a weekly basis with finding the right tenant for their farm to helping them find a dirt contractor to build the next bass lake on the ranch. On the ground experience and superior training make the Accredited Land Consultant the perfect professional to rely on.
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.
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 Texas and 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.