Opportunity knocks when land changes hands, but maybe not in the way you first think. USDA says 93 million acres of farmland will change hands between 2015 and 2019. That might sound like a lot, but it’s only about 10% of the nation’s total farmland of more than 911 million acres.
Most of that will stay close to the existing owners, changing hands through wills, gifts, trusts and relative-to-relative sales. Still, “this translates into opportunity for farmers,” says Moe Russell, an Iowa-based farm consultant and Farm Journal columnist, whether they’re out to buy or rent additional land.
Operator landowners acquired more than 50% of their owned land through a purchase from a nonrelative, while non-operating landlords acquired more than 50% of their owned land through an inheritance or gift.
As land changes hands, many landlord-farmer relationships will change, too, says Mike Walsten, editor of Farm Journal Media’s LandOwner newsletter. “Anyone who wants to expand needs to be constantly thinking, ‘What would I do if the next-door 60 came up for rent,’” Walsten says. Most leases are renewed annually.
Be on the lookout for, or actively seek, new owners who might be open to change. Some farmers will also enjoy outstanding buying opportunities for the land that does hit the open market, Russell points out. “With strong working capital and equity greater than 60%, they’ll have opportunities,” he says. Use the data on these pages to look for yours. —Susan Skiles Luke