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Land values up whopping 31%

Nebraska’s agricultural real estate values jumped 31% in the last year, the largest increase in the 34-year history of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s annual survey.

Land values up whopping 31%

Nebraska’s agricultural real estate values jumped 31% in the last year, the largest increase in the 34-year history of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s annual survey.

The 2012 UNL Nebraska Farm Real Estate Survey “confirms what most people close to agriculture already knew — agricultural land values across the state have shot upward in recent months,” says Bruce Johnson, the UNL agricultural economist who conducts the survey.

Preliminary survey results show the state’s all-land average value as of Feb. 1 to be at $2,410 per acre, 3% above the year-earlier level. The annual gain is a record in both dollar amount and percentage.

Cropland, especially, showed significant value gains in every region of the state, with increases of 35% or more noted in several areas.

At a glance

The land-value rise is the largest in 34 years of UNL surveys.

The amount of land for sale in any given market is minimal.

Cash rental rates climbed in the 10% to 20% range.

“Clearly, a booming cash-grain economy in 2011 translated into spirited bidding for cropland,” Johnson says. “And, at the same time that demand was robust, the amount of land for sale in any given local area was generally minimal.”

According to Johnson, survey reporters said the land-transfer market has been so thin that it’s difficult to get a good reading on it.

Grazing land

Grazing land classes showed more modest value gains for the year, but overall for the state, the survey still showed a 19% increase for non-tillable grazing land. The tillable grazing land class, which is land considered to have the potential to be converted to cropland, recorded significantly higher values and larger percentage value gains in those areas of the state where no moratoriums preclude further irrigation expansion.

Reflecting the great resource diversity across the state, the per-acre values of land vary significantly. For example, the average value of center-pivot irrigated land (value of the pivot system excluded) ranges from about $2,600 per acre in the Northwest District to nearly $8,000 per acre in the East District, with the highest-quality irrigated land exceeding $10,000 per acre. Dryland cropland values show an even greater spread of more than seven-fold from west to east.

Rental rates

The UNL survey also reported higher cash-rental rates for 2012 for all the land classes. But the percentage advances of cash rents over the previous year were considerably below the land-value advances. For cropland, the cash-rent advances usually fell in the 10% to 20% range.

Johnson says it’s reasonable to ask whether the gains of last year are sustainable.

“If one assumes that farm incomes will remain at 2011 earnings levels or higher, then one may answer with a guarded yes,” he says. “However, more likely is an immediate future that is economically volatile for production agriculture, triggered by weather patterns, the strength of the dollar, interest rates, international financial fallouts, and political unrest both here and abroad.

“That said, there is no question that some retreat of these value advances could easily happen in the next few years,” Johnson adds, calling that a “reality reset. And it may be just what is needed as market participants are able to more accurately assess the underlying market fundamentals.”

Final numbers from this year’s report will be available later this spring. For more information, see the Department of Agricultural Economics newsletter at the departmental website,

Contact information for Bruce Johnson is 402-472-1794 or

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Farms are fewer, but larger

Nebraska’s number of farms and ranches declined less than 1% during 2011, according to the Nebraska field office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The number of farms and ranches in the state — 46,800 — was down 400 farms from 2010.

The number of farms and ranches in Nebraska with less than $100,000 in agricultural sales declined by 800 farms, while operations with more than $100,000 were up 400 farms. The prime reason for the big jump in the latter was due to those farms moving into higher sales categories.

Land in farms and ranches in Nebraska totaled 45.5 million acres, a decline of 100,000 acres from the previous year. The average size of an operation, at 972 acres, increased by 6 acres from 2010.

Find agricultural statistics for the nation, Nebraska or your county at


UP, UP AND AWAY: The map shows the five-year average value of all Nebraska farmland and ranchland by district. Percentages are increases as of Feb. 1, 2012, compared with a year earlier.


This article published in the April, 2012 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.

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