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Crop Insurance Guarantees Bring Uncertainty in 2014

A major difference between the 2013 and 2014 crop years is the sharp drop in commodity prices from one to the next.

Midwest Road Side FarmPrice guarantees for US crop insurance are expected to be set at $4.62 for corn and $11.36 for soybeans. This is a major drop for both with corn being guaranteed at $5.65 in 2013, and soybeans at $12.87. The price is figured by taking the average settlement for Chicago Board of Trade for December corn futures and November soybean futures during the month of February.

The county T-Yield is an estimated county yield on a certain crop. This is used if the insured person who doesn’t have four years of production history in that county. If the insured person does have four years of production history, he or she would use Actual Production History (APH). See the example below for a farm planted to corn in Marshall County, Iowa, comparing the revenue protection per acre for a landowner in 2014, compared with the year prior.

Example 2014:
Marshall County T-Yield (180 bu.) x Level of Protection (80%) = Guarantee bu. /Acre (144 bu.)
Guarantee/Acre (144 bu.) x Price ($4.62) = Guaranteed Coverage/Acre ($665.28)

Example 2013:
Marshall County T-Yield (180 bu.) x Level of Protection (80%) = Guarantee bu. /Acre (144 bu.)
Guarantee/Acre (144 bu.) x Price ($5.65) = Guaranteed Coverage/Acre ($813.60)

That is just an example, yet shows a major decrease of $148.32 per acre in revenue protection from 2013 to 2014. A cap rate of 4 percent potentially lowers the value of the farm by up to $3,700.

Another major change that is happening is the cutting of direct payments in 2014. That was roughly $20-$25 per acre. So the $148.32 per acre in lost revenue protection plus $25 per acre of lost direct payments equals approximately $175 per acre that the farmer no longer is guaranteed for 2014. Farmers will be taking on far more risk than the previous year.

Though the last five years in farming have been profitable, 2014 could tell a different story. Many operations in past years have been raking in record profits. If the downward trend in commodity prices continues, however, lack of liquidity and inability to get financially underwritten could be major problems moving forward.

I don’t have a crystal ball as far as the future of the commodity market goes. Who knows what geopolitical or weather-related incidents will move the market throughout the 2014 crop year. Recent political unrest in the Ukraine, no second crop corn in Brazil, and heat and drought in South America has helped raise the commodity prices in the short term, yet profit margins for farmers look to be tight with high cash rents and input costs in 2014.

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The Case for Midwest Farmland Investing


Land agent Ron Beach makes a case for Midwest farmland as part of a long-term investment strategy.

Productive Midwest farmland is an alternative investment providing a proven long-term hedge against inflation, stable sustainable annual cash income and an opportunity to participate in the global demand for food, fuel and fiber.

Midwest FarmlandDue to being inflation-hedging, value-appreciating and income-producing, farmland has been referred to as “gold with a dividend.” The crucial difference between these two assets is that productive farmland has demand for its tangible real production while gold relies on intrinsic value for its demand. I’d rather have tangible demand for food, fiber and fuel – along with the annual income.

The case for farmland investing is many fold: real asset investing, inflation-hedge, income production, diversification, demographics of present land owners, low interest rates, world population growth, changing diets – especially China and India. In addition to the financial rewards being driven by these factors, there are social rewards that come from contributing to the preservation, stewardship and conservation of this vital natural resource.

A farmland investment serves as a source of outside capital being sought by American farmers to bridge the capital gap they are experiencing and acquire land they can then lease. Let’s take a look at a few of these factors a bit more closely.

Diversification – Farmland preserves value very well against inflation while having a low correlation to other more traditional investments ranging from bonds and money markets to equities. Farmland occupies a relatively unique space on the investment continuum with high total returns (income and appreciation) and moderately low volatility. These features are being recognized more widely and are making farmland an attractive diversification tool for both institutions and individuals as it increases return while lowering risk of an investment portfolio.

World Population and Diets – The United Nations forecasts that world population will increase from 6 billion to 9 billion over the next 40 years. That equates to an additional 205,000 additional mouths to feed daily. And thanks to a growing world-wide middle class, especially in the two most populous nations of India and China, the demand for higher level meat proteins multiplies the demand impact on grain-producing farmland.

Farmland ownership demographics – The average age of the American farmer is 57 years and rising. That’s 17 years older than the average American worker. The only age group of farmers with significantly increasing numbers are those 70 years and older. On the other hand the number of farmers 25 years and younger continues to decline. In the state of Iowa, 30 percent of the farmland is owned by people 75 years and older and another 26 percent by people 65-74 years old. That means in the next 20 years nearly 56 percent of Iowa’s farmland, or $150 billion, will generationally change hands.

In the past 20 years the turnover was 43 percent. This acceleration of turnover and declining number of farmers result in a set of disruptive demographics within the farmland marketplace that creates favorable circumstances for investors.

Capital source – Our farmer clients continually express a desire for us to assist in securing investor capital to buy farms they can then lease. The disruptive demographics of fewer young farmers and more older farmers and landowners results in the younger farmer having more land acquisition opportunities than they can capitalize on. Also, as net farm income cycles downward after several very profitable years, farmers are exhibiting caution relating to major capital investment while still desiring a business model that accommodates growth and expansion.

In these cases investor capital is a solution to their business needs.

Of course, as with any investment, there are risks. For farmland, two major risks include potential for negative impacts from rising interest rates and any combination of corn and soybean supply-demand factors that would increase supply, decrease demand and lead to a sustained decrease in net farm income.

Another risk that experienced farmland investors understand is that the farmland marketplace is an inefficient and imperfect marketplace of information. Unlike the financial or commodity markets with their massive amounts of real-time information available to everyone farmland market information is very localized and closely held. Only by having a source of real time on-the-ground information can an investor be assured they are making a sound investment decision. The overall return on an investment in farmland is highly correlated to ability to purchase right in any phase of a market cycle.

Natural resources don’t get any more basic than farmland. Combined with water and sunlight this investment literally feeds and clothes the world. So while there are various methods for investing in the increasing worldwide demand for food, productive farmland is arguably the most fundamental, tangible real asset in this class.

Ron Beach works in the Land Investment Programs division of Peoples Company based in Des Moines, Iowa, where he sources and manages farmland transactions between investors wanting to buy farmland and farmers wanting to add leased land to their base of acres. Beach may be reached at (712) 579-2587 or

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Land Investment Monthly – February 2014


Welcome to the Land Investment Monthly, a round-up of articles and headlines published by the farm press, business media and financial publications with insights into buying, selling or investing in farmland, recreational ground or development ground.

This month’s issue includes an assortment of articles and videos with the perspectives of Seventh Annual Land Investment Expo keynote speaker T. Boone Pickens and other expert presenters leading up to, during and following the 2014 event presented by Peoples Company in West Des Moines.

Email me with “Land Investment Monthly” in the subject line to subscribe to my monthly updates via email. Or check back each month for more headlines and stories as reported on by journalists and bloggers dedicated to covering agriculture and farm real estate in the Midwest and around the world.

T. Boone Pickens appears on the Jan. 24 edition of Iowa Press to discuss energy issues, sports and politics prior to his appearance at the Seventh Annual Land Investment Expo presented by Peoples Company in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Here Comes Boone Pickens
Business editor Lynn Hicks with the Des Moines Register picks up story that T. Boone Pickens will headline Seventh Land Investment Expo, presenting details of event and list of 2014 Land Expo keynote speakers. See more.

Midwest Perspective
Midwest Real Estate News points to T. Boone Pickens as one of the world’s richest men, highlighting the oil-and energy-entrepreneur’s founding of both Mesa Petroleum and BP Capital, as well launching the Pickens Plan to reduce U.S. dependence on OPEC oil. See more.

Better Roads
Editor Tina Grady Barbaccia with Better Roads magazine publishes photo of a CNG-powered Dodge Ram near an Iowa cornfield. Use of the decaled vehicle was made possible by a 2014 Land Expo sponsor and helped drive Better Roads’ coverage of alternative fuels with a video of T. Boone Pickens discussing his “Natural Gas Highway.” See more.

Record High Iowa reports that Iowa land values had reached an average record high price. Iowa State University Extension map shows county-by-county estimates of average values of Iowa farmland as of Nov. 1, 2013. Comments on gross farm income and the correlation between the price of land and the price of commodities. See more.

T. Boone on Wind Energy
Des Moines Register shares an editorial by T. Boone Pickens who says natural gas is an inexpensive source of energy to fuel heavy-duty trucks in the United States, and talks about the potential for Iowa in the production of energy from wind. See more.

Eisenberg Double Take
Reporter Kent Darr with the Business Record reports on local appearances of economist Dr. Elliot Eisenberg with remarks on the ‘break-even point’ for corn and his take on the condition of Iowa’s overall economy. See more.

John Roach on Market to Market

Farmland Shift
The Des Moines Register’s Donnelle Eller writes a story about the impending shift in farmland ownership over the next 20 years. Sourcing a Land Expo presentation by Ron Beach, the Register reported that 50 to 60 percent of those inheriting land are likely to sell. See more.

Brownfield Ag Audio
Audio segments captured and published by Brownfield Ag News feature Ron Beach and Bruce Rastetter at the Land Expo sharing their respective takes on farmland as a solid long-term investment with less volatility than the S&P and a hedge against inflation. See more.

On Corn Ethanol
Daniel Looker with reports on Bruce Rastetter’s Land Expo presentation with remarks about the role of ethanol in driving the “golden age of agriculture.” The article explores competition between corn ethanol and sugarcane ethanol. See more.

Wind Business
Expertise in wind energy is the topic of a Business Record piece covering T. Boone Pickens’ view on becoming an expert in wind energy. The article highlights Pickens’ support of wind energy assets as part of The Pickens Plan, as well as any form of alternative energy that replaces oil imported from the Middle East. See more.

Manufacturing Energy
Low energy costs will help pull manufacturing that has shifted offshore back into the United States. That’s the lead of a story the Des Moines Register published about T. Boone Pickens’ presentation during the Land Expo with comments on oil, ethanol and propane. See more.

Boone Wedding Buzz
The January 28 edition of the Des Moines Register’s Biz Buzz mentions T. Boone Pickens’ Land Expo stop and news that that the billionaire oil-and-energy magnate is engaged to an native of Davenport, Iowa. Pickens was born and raised in Oklahoma. See More.

Ag Land
Oil and natural gas production, in addition to a healthy farm sector, is benefiting major ag states, according to a report by Multimedia Editor Jeff Caldwell with a post including on-camera interviews with T. Boone Pickens at the West Des Moines Sheraton Hotel. See more.

Energy Today
Business legend T. Boone Pickens made a fortune in the energy field and Iowa Farmer Today reports on his outlook for fracking or horizontal drilling, oil reserves and natural-gas supplies, wind and even solar power. Published by Gene Lucht with photo from the Land Expo. See more.

Builder Luncheon
Vince Malanga with LaSalle Economics Inc. will headline the 2014 Builder & Developer Luncheon, Feb. 28, at the West Des Moines Sheraton Hotel. Jay Byers with the Greater Des Moines Partnership will emcee the event with updates by Kalen Ludwig and Scott Kelly on lot development and new construction activity in the 18 communities tracked by Peoples Company. Lunch is provided. See more.

Farm Stock
A 400-acre farm in Nebraska and a piece of New York real estate are the two investments billionaire Warren Buffett called attention to in an annual letter regarding the future productivity of assets. See more.

Find links to more Land Expo media coverage and mark your calendars for 2015 with additional details at Follow Steve Bruere @SBruere on Twitter and find Peoples Company on Facebook for the latest information on our land listings, auction results, upcoming events and real estate news.

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Buffett: Putting Stock in Farm Real Estate


A 400-acre farm in Nebraska and a piece of New York real estate are the two investments billionaire Warren Buffett called attention to in an annual letter encouraging equity investors to ponder the future productivity of their assets.

Fortune published an excerpt of Buffett’s shareholder letter on with a focus on non-stock investments clearly at the top of the American business magnate’s mind.

Buffett noted that it’s not only experts who achieve satisfactory returns on an investment, sharing his thoughts on hard assets that don’t require constant handwringing over valuations or stock price.

Annual distributions for the commercial retail property Buffett bought into near New York University in 1993 now exceeds 35% of percent of his group’s initial equity investment. He purchased the farm ground in 1986.

“Now, 28 years later, the farm has tripled its earnings and is worth five times or more what I paid,” he wrote.

Click here to read more of Buffett’s letter, which dives into talk of speculating, earnings, Detroit, diamonds, IRAs and retirement.

“If ‘investors’ frenetically bought and sold farmland to one another, neither the yields nor the prices of their crops would be increased,” Buffett wrote. “The only consequence of such behavior would be decreases in the overall earnings realized by the farm-owning population because of the substantial costs it would incur as it sought advice and switched properties.

Nevertheless, both individuals and institutions will constantly be urged to be active by those who profit from giving advice or effecting transactions. The resulting frictional costs can be huge and, for investors in aggregate, devoid of benefit. So ignore the chatter, keep your costs minimal, and invest in stocks as you would in a farm.”

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Builder Luncheon Speakers Ready to Deliver Housing Data

Dr. Vince Malanga, Kalen Ludwig and Scott Kelly are on tap to deliver housing data during the Annual Builder & Developer luncheon in West Des Moines, Iowa. Jay Byers of the Greater Des Moines Partnership will emcee the Feb. 28 event.

The 2014 Builder & Developer Luncheon is two weeks away with presenters in line to update attendees on lot inventories, new construction and single-family homes in Greater Des Moines.

Vince Malanga at the 2012 Land Investment Expo

Dr. Vince Malanga, right, will speak at the 2014 Builder & Developer Luncheon in West Des Moines.

Dr. Vince Malanga has been invited to speak on the housing market from a national perspective and in light of the broader economy. His consulting firm, LaSalle Economics Inc., specializes in market analysis and economic forecasting for industrial organizations and financial institutions.

Peoples Company REALTOR Kalen Ludwig will provide a local market update, reporting on residential housing data and new construction in 18 communities tracked by Peoples Company. REALTOR Scott Kelly will walk attendees through new plats and new lot development, as well as building permits pulled last year in the metropolitan area.

Dr. Malanga is widely quoted in the financial press and news media, and over the years has been a principal at several money management firms where he focused on fixed income, as well as the agricultural and energy markets. Find one of his latest economic commentaries by clicking here.

The Seventh Annual Builder & Developer Luncheon is presented by Peoples Company, Diligent Development and Acquire Magazine. Jay Byers of the Greater Des Moines Partnership will emcee the event with lunch provided starting at 11:30 a.m., February 28, at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel.

To RSVP, email or call 855-800-LAND (5263).

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New Malanga Post Covers Fed Chair, Housing Price Momentum, Farmland Values

Guest Post: February 16 Economic Commentary by 2014 Builder & Developer Luncheon keynote speaker by Dr. Vince Malanga.

Recent economic commentaries sketched reasons why we thought December’s weak jobs report
was more than just a weather related aberration, and why it could be followed by a similarly weak
report for January.

In fact, the January report did show weak payroll growth along with minimal revisions for December such that for the past two months payroll growth was about half the rate deemed to be desirable by Federal Reserve officials.

Not only were employment gains anemic, but wages relapsed to below a 2 percent yearly rise while
the workweek stagnated. Nevertheless, a separate report showed that the jobless rate actually
fell to 6.6 percent in January or only a tad higher than the threshold rate that the Fed had in the past
earmarked as a prerequisite for a potential policy response.

In light of the Fed’s decision to begin scaling back asset purchases we had feared that financial
markets might react negatively to consecutive weak jobs reports. But a downward correct in
equity prices and in bond rates halted and reversed in advance of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s planned
Congressional testimony on the economic and monetary policy outlook.

The new Fed Chair pledged continuity in monetary policy; relative unconcern over recent
economic dislocations in selected emerging markets; and skepticism over the apparent weakness in
recent economic data reports. In doing so she confirmed that there is a high bar for deviating from
the Fed’s implicit schedule of steadily winding down asset purchases.

We think the new Fed head may be too sanguine as we are convinced that recent weak data
reports reflect more than just adverse weather effects. Interestingly virtually every data report of
late has shown downward revisions for October and November implying a significant downward
revision to the estimated 3.2 percent GDP growth rate for last year’s final quarter.

Further, business activity in the current quarter appears to be tracking at less than a 2 percent annual rate.

Beyond this, housing price momentum is fading; farmland values are weakening; vehicle
manufacturers are introducing aggressive discounts to unload excess inventory; and recent
commodity price strength is beginning to unwind. These suggest that inflation could track even
lower in coming months and that combined with weakening business activity the implication is
that the Fed’s official forecast of 3 percent growth and 2 percent inflation is appearing aggressive to put it

In her testimony Fed Chair Yellen shied from restating targets for unemployment, growth,
and inflation. Instead she alluded to the need to follow a wide range of indicators in formulating
policy. We agree, and in our view the wide range of indicators is suggesting that the Fed should
continue to pursue a very aggressive expansionary policy.

We think the new Fed Chair will reach the same conclusion if the economy fails to respond to a return to more normal weather. Very  tentatively we also think the new Fed Chair may not be as transparent as her predecessor, which if true would be a good thing in our view.

-Vince Malanga
LaSalle Economics, Inc.

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Transitioning to CSR2


If you are involved in agriculture in Iowa, there is a good chance you have used the Corn Suitability Rating (CSR) system. The original CSR program was first introduced in 1971 by Dr. Corn Plants in IowaTom Fenton, an Iowa State University agronomy professor. Whether it was to help negotiate cash rents, put a value on a parcel of land, find comparable sales, or figure property taxes, ag professionals have long relied on the tool in day-to-day activities.

In late 2012, the buzz word for assessors, farmers, land brokers and appraisers was CSR2. CSR2 was the new soil rating system that was going to be unrolled in the state of Iowa to replace the original CSR. There was much confusion on how the roll out of CSR2 was going to be implemented, and eventually all the confusion led to the stopping of the roll out until a later date.

The time has come and the roll out of CSR2 is upon us. ISU Extension under the lead of Dr. Lee Buras, an agronomy professor at Iowa State University, released the CSR2 rating system in the fall of 2013 to the USDA and NRCS offices. The NRCS updated their databases and CSR2 was officially rolled out in January of 2014.

The new CSR program (CSR2) is a rating system with some similarities to CSR, but also some very distinct differences. The main goals of CSR2 are to be able to calculate CSR with more simplicity, consistency, and clarity. The long term goal is to be able to move this soil productivity index across borders.

The original CSR program rated soils on a scale of 5-100. Iowa State agronomists looked at each soil and gave it a basic rating for its feasible row crop productivity. They determined this by assigning a value to a certain subgroup of soils. They then would discount that number due to factors such as slope, weather patterns, soil erosion and water infiltration. Though this program was very successful, it was fairly complicated to calculate.

The new formula is as follows: CSR2=S-M-F-W-D-C +/- EJ

S-taxonomic subgroup class of soil series
M-family particle size
F-field conditions
W-water holding capacity
D-soil depth and tolerable rate of erosion
EJ-expert judgment

In Regards to CSR2 being used by Iowa’s county assessors for tax assessments, that transition will take a little longer with the earliest date being 2015, according to ISU Extension. They want to properly assess the value of a property based on its soils types and productivity ability. This is one of the main functions of CSR and why it came about in the first place in the 1970s.

The question many of you are probably asking is what does this change do to the value of my farm? The answer is unknown. A change in the weighted average value of CSR to CSR2 will be different for every farm. Some farms have jumped significantly in value while others have went down a few points. ISU Extension said that the eastern side of the state will see little change in most areas. In certain parts of northern and western Iowa, there will be an increase in CSR2 due to climate and weather no longer discounting soils in these areas.

Transition is never easy and this one will be no different. The mapping software that we use at Peoples Company is called Surety. With this software we are able to pull both the CSR and CSR2 values. On all of our auctions and listings we will be advertising both soils ratings. It is important to realize what soil rating you are using when comparing properties. The full impact that the changes in CSR will have on farmland values remains to be seen.

Being educated on the topic and collecting the pertinent information will help make the transition easier. If you have any questions about the transition from CSR to CSR2, or the impact it may have on your farm, please feel free to contact Peoples Company for more information.

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Wave of Media Follow T. Boone Pickens and 2014 Land Investment Expo

An Iowa appearance by T. Boone Pickens sparked a wave of media attention in the past few days as the working press captured the Land Investment Expo speaker’s commentary on agriculture, energy and land-related topics.

T. Boone Pickens Land Expo media interviews

Des Moines Register business reporter Donnelle Eller’s coverage of T. Boone Pickens produced an article with the 85-year-old oil-and-energy entrepreneur’s remarks on oil, ethanol, propane and energy costs, as well as advice for farmers following a question by Land Expo moderator Ken Root.

Eller also reported on an educational Land Expo breakout session led by Peoples Company’s Ron Beach, who said the 60 percent of Iowa’s farmland that changes hands over the next 20 years represents nearly $150 billion in value.

Conference speaker John Roach appeared about 16 minutes into an Iowa Public Television Market to Market segment talking cotton, China, wheat, corn, South America, soybeans, livestock and energy prices. Regarding commodities, Roach shared during his Land Expo talk that it’s likely more land will have to go into production to satisfy world demand in coming years.

Appearing on Iowa Press, Pickens sat down to discuss energy issues, politics and sports with Dean Borg, Kay Henderson with Radio Iowa, and James Lynch with The Gazette. Radio Iowa, following that program on January 24, reported on a conversation with Pickens about the best way to pick a president.

Daniel Looker, reporting for, wrote an article about Bruce Rastetter’s Land Expo presentation with a focus on corn ethanol production in Argentina and, in the future, Brazil. “The reality is that when we have $100-a-barrel oil, it just makes sense to blend ethanol,” Rastetter said. The piece also drew attention to the Summit Group CEO’s take on creating cost-effective opportunities in the renewable fuels market.’s Jeff Caldwell shared the remarks of the Cato Institute’s Dr. Patrick Michaels, whose thoughts on climate change during the Land Expo made their into an article about how so-called global warming is or isn’t affecting Iowa’s agriculture.

The Des Moines Register also ran an editorial written by Pickens, who centered on using natural gas and wind production in states such as Iowa to fuel the nation. The Business Record chimed in on Pickens, too, with a story titled “Pickens: How to become an ‘expert’ in wind energy.”

On behalf of Steve Bruere, Peoples Company and other organizers of the 2014 Land Investment Expo, thanks for attending the annual conference and sharing the stories of our speakers for audiences in the epicenter of agriculture, here in the Midwest and around the world.

Peoples Company President Steve Bruere, T. Boone Pickens and Eric O’Keefe with The Land Report.

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Land Expo Reception Tonight at Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel

Peoples Company will host a reception with beverages and hors d’oeuvres for Land Expo guests and attendees from 4 to 6 p.m. tonight at the West Des Moines Sheraton hotel.

Sheraton West Des Moines HotelThe event will take place in the atrium area of hotel and presents another chance to meet and network with Land Investment Expo organizers, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees.

Join us for an afternoon of drinks, networking and conversations staring and let’s talk about what’s happening in Iowa and in other land and real estate investing markets around the world.

On behalf of Peoples Company and our sponsors, we look forward to welcoming Land Expo attendees during this special reception prior to the kick-off of our seventh annual land conference.

If you plan to attend the pre-Land Expo reception, please RSVP by emailing Becky Van Leeuwen at

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Sponsor Profile: Get Results at Land Expo with McClure Engineering

“Get results” is a fitting subheading for Land Expo sponsor McClure Engineering Company.

McClure Engineering Co. LogoMcClure Engineering Co. offers a wide array of professional engineering services to municipal, county, state and private clients. The nearly 60-year-old company provides professional services in the fields of aviation, biofuels, land development, transportation, water environments and more.

The company is also well known for its portfolio of water and wastewater technology projects with expertise in the areas of municipal treatment technologies, pumping facilities, storage facilities, cost of services studies, rate modeling analysis and raw water supply.

With fives offices you can find the McClure Engineering Co.’s qualified teams unearthing results for their clients out of Fort Dodge, Cedar Rapids, North Liberty and Lake Ozark, Missouri.

McClure Engineering’s Clive, Iowa, location is only a few miles from the site of the Seventh Annual Land Investment Expo. Join McClure Engineering Co. President Terry Lutz and his associates for the all-day event on Friday at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel.

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