Sunday 11 August 2013

Staggering rise in US farmland values

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just released its latest farmland values report and some of the figures are staggering.
While the UK media has always been fascinated by the ongoing strong performance of farmlandover here  relative to other asset classes, what is happening across the Atlantic puts that growth in the shade.
In North Dakota, for example, cropland values rose by 41.5% between 2012 and 2013 to $1,910/acre (£1,248/acre).
While the relatively low value of land in that part of the US could partially help to explain this sudden rise, values in what is known as the Corn Belt also rose incredibly strongly.
Iowa, which has the highest land prices outside New Jersey and California, saw values rise by almost 18% to $8,600/acre (£5,620/acre).
Over the past five years prices have jumped 112%, says the USDA. In England, average price growth over the same period has been 26%, according to the Knight Frank Farmland Index.
A number of commentators are now suggesting that US farmland is a bubble set to burst.
Whether this happens remains to be seen. But US farmland values are certainly more dependent on the support provided by cash rents, which are closely linked to commodity prices, than in the UK where other factors also play a strong role.
With wheat prices well down on the year on the back of bullish predictions for the 2013 global harvest, some of that support could start to weaken.
As an aside, it is interesting that the USDA regards the price change of farmland as sufficiently important to keep track of. In the UK, the government stopped producing its own farmland index some time ago.

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