The average value of an acre of farmland in Iowa increased 15.9 percent in 2010, according to an annual survey conducted by Iowa State University Extension. Mike Duffy, ISU Extension economist who conducts the survey, said the statewide average land value as of Nov. 1 this year was $5,064 an acre, up $693 per acre from 2009.
The 2010 survey shows a substantial increase in land values following a drop in 2009. "We need to watch the land values and be prudent, but I don't think we need to be overly pessimistic there will be a crash in values anytime soon," said Duffy. "The rate of increase in 2010 appears high, but it is half the yearly increases in 1973, 1974 and 1975."
Duffy said it is important to remember the time span when evaluating survey results. "This has been especially true the past few years when corn and soybean prices have varied considerably. Monthly prices for corn averaged 37 percent higher July to November this year compared to average monthly prices from January through June. Soybean prices are 21 percent higher over the same time span," Duffy said.
Cherokee realtor Filmore Gustafson of Gustafson Real Estate in Cherokee said he was well aware of the steadily increasing land values in Iowa and was not surprised by the report out of Ames.
"There's too much demand and too much money out there, so I don't see it (land values) going downward any time soon. It's will either level off or keep inching upward," said the longtime Cherokee realtor who has many years experience selling farmland.
Gustafson said he recently sold some land just across the Cherokee County line in Buena Vista County for $8,250 per acre. It's not now uncommon to see most ag land in Northwest Iowa selling in the $8,000 per acre range.
"There's not that much land available so when some does come up for sale, the farmers jump on it," noted Gustafson. "About the only land for sale now comes up in estate sales."
Gustafson said the buyers are usually other farmers and attributes this to the demand and high prices and increasing yields of corn and beans. Livestock prices also have greatly improved, according to Gustafson.
The survey conducted by Duffy is sponsored annually by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station at Iowa State University. Only the state average and the district averages are based directly on the ISU survey data. The county estimates are derived using a procedure that combines the Iowa State survey results with data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture.
Of the nine crop reporting districts in the state, the Iowa State survey found the highest land values were reported for Northwest Iowa at $6,356 per acre; the lowest land values were reported for South Central Iowa at $2,690 per acre.
The highest county average in the state was O'Brien County at $7,148 per acre, up 16.2 percent from 2009. Decatur County had the lowest average at $2,085 per acre and the lowest dollar increase at $128 per acre. The greatest dollar increase was $1,152 in Wright County; the highest percentage increase was in Kossuth County at 21.9 percent.
Duffy said land values should remain strong at least for the next several months. Beyond that there is a fair degree of uncertainty with respect to whether land values can maintain their current levels.
The volatility in corn and soybean prices and production costs lead to tremendous uncertainty and volatility in the land market, as historically reflected in the Iowa State survey. Land values were up 22 percent in 2007, down 2.2 percent in 2009 and up 15.9 percent in 2010. Since 2004, Iowa land values are up 93 percent.
"In addition to the volatility in prices and costs, there has been a substantial shift in the fundamental supply and demand situation for farmland," said Duffy. "Over 60 percent of the 2009 respondents indicated there were fewer sales in 2009 compared to 2008. This was the largest drop in sales reported in the Iowa State survey. In 2010, almost three-fourths of the respondents said sales were either the same or less than 2009. This shows the slump in sales is either continuing, or in some cases worsening, throughout the state."
Data on farmland values have been collected by Iowa State University annually since 1941. About 1,100 copies of the survey are mailed each year to licensed real estate brokers, ag lenders and others knowledgeable of Iowa land values. Respondents are asked to report values as of Nov. 1. This year 479 usable surveys provided 627 individual county estimates.
Additional information on the 2010 survey and an archived version of Duffy's news conference announcing the results are available online at www.extension.iastate.edu/landvalue/