Home prices may be falling everywhere, but farm land is still precious. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the price for farmland nationally is up 9 percent from last year. In Iowa, it’s up 18 percent and in South Dakota, 21 percent. In Illinois, farmland values have nearly doubled since 2004.
This is good for farm land owners, of course, but tough on people who want to put the land to work. “There are a whole lot of young people wanting to farm ““ both children of farm families and young people from cities and suburban towns who want to farm,” says Teresa Opheim, executive director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, a farm group whose members range from corn-and-soybean farmers to small vegetable growers. “The price of land is making it very, very difficult for them to get started, even to come up with a business plan that’s viable.”
Land prices are being driven by higher prices paid for crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates farmers will earn a record $95.7 billion, 10.3 percent more than last year. These good prices have farmers among the bidders for land. “Everybody wants to buy more ground,” says Clint Veren, a loan officer who also farms near Marshalltown, Iowa. “The only way to be more profitable is to get additional land.”