Despite Negative Factors, Land's Value is Stable

By Emma Hopkins-O'Brien

02 /15 /19


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In a presentation hosted by Ag Club – an organization of agriculturally-minded professionals who meet biannually, hosted by HighQuest Group of Danvers, Mass. – an Indiana farm real estate expert provided an overview of farmland values and rental trends in the Midwest.

Howard Halderman, president of Halderman Real Estate and Farm Management based in Wabash, and executive chair of U.S. Agriculture’s Board of Managers, provided a report and analysis of farmland values to an audience of about 20 people in Indianapolis Jan. 30. He explained that despite some factors of the ag economy causing concern, the Industry’s resilience is showing.

“It would be easy to worry if you read a lot of negative media surrounding tariff wars, interest rates going up and all these other problems out there – but ag is pretty resilient,” Halderman said. “And it continues to be pretty solidly underpinned with a lot of good support financially.”

One such support he mentioned is the continued high demand for farmland at reasonable prices.

“The land market continues to remain stable, and we’ve been in a stable pattern for the last couple of years,” he pointed out. “And there’s still really good interest in buying land at reasonable numbers, and the rental market has remained fairly stable as well.”

In terms of land marketability, Halderman said quality of land, even beyond soil condition, is something buyers are looking for. “Farmability” is, for instance, becoming more important to farmland assets and their value.

“If you’ve got 80 acres you can pull into, and you’re done harvesting in about three hours, that’s a great time, versus 80 acres with five fields and a couple ditches and woods – that’s a hassle for farmers,” he explained. “And there’s a material difference in price, even with the same soils and the same drainage, because of the way our equipment is set up.”

Halderman believes despite challenges such as lower commodity prices and tariffs, the ag economy is holding out well. That said, he knows tariff issues and trade wars need to be resolved sooner rather than later. If yields return to average – instead of high, as they have been the past three years – then a decline in income is likely.

“I think when you start to take a big, really resilient soybean crop, if we continue to have a resilient year here, you’ll be looking at pretty low soybean prices without some kind of trade settlement with China, and that will have a halo effect on corn prices,” he said.

“I think farmers would really like this to be settled. Like weather, it’s something they can’t control. They would like to have a free market at least in terms of their pricing without a free global market. I know that’s what President Trump is trying to accomplish – a freer marketplace – but I wouldn’t want to wait two years out.”

If a production hiccup were to occur, such as drought, Halderman said corn prices could rise quite a bit. With corn or soybeans, the United States has some 90 million acres involved, which is a significant amount of acres globally. If a production problem occurred, both crops would see an increase in price.

“Globally there’s still a lot of demand for these crops; low prices do build demand,” he noted. “So with those prices out there, if we have a production hiccup, like we saw last year just in Argentina – that supported soybeans into April and May. We got $10.50 soybeans in spite of a pretty big carryout. So (if) you get a problem in the U.S., it’s going to be magnified.”