Menu ▼
  • Blog

THE PEOPLES PERSPECTIVE

« Older posts
Newer posts »

Land Report Editor Eric O’Keefe to Deliver 2015 Land Expo Presentation

Steve Bruere, left, with T. Boone Pickens and Eric O'Keefe at the 2014 Land Expo in West Des Moines.

As editor of The Land Report – The Magazine of the American Landowner – Eric O’Keefe’s opinions and insights on land and landowners have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Investor’s Business Daily.

The Rice University graduate is a licensed Texas broker. He has written for dozens of publications, published numerous books, and has had a screenplay turned into a $15 million feature-length film. Over the course of his career he has interviewed a Who’s Who in America, including T. Boone Pickens, Clint Eastwood, Francis Ford Coppola, Hank Aaron, Jay Leno, Julia Child, Nolan Ryan, Ted Turner, Tom Selleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Willie Nelson.

O’Keefe will appear at a keynote presenter during the 2015 Land Investment Expo presented by Peoples Company in West Des Moines, Iowa. The Land Report’s Fall 2014 “Land to Table” issues is online and available to view at www.LandReport.com. Follow the Land Expo on Twitter, and save the date for January 23, and visit our website to register today.

Posted in Headlines, In The News, Land Expo, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Land Institute Announces Results of September 2014 Trends and Values Survey

September 17, 2014 – The Iowa Chapter of REALTORS® Land Institute is pleased to announce the results of our September 2014 Land Trends and Values Survey. Our REALTORS® Land Institute Chapter is an affiliate of the National Association of REALTORS® and is organized for REALTORS® who specialize in farm and land sales, management, development and appraisal.

Participants in the survey are specialists in farmland, and are asked for their opinions about the current status of the Iowa farmland market. Participants were asked to estimate the average value of farmland as of September 1, 2014. These estimates are for bare, unimproved land with a sale price on a cash basis. Pasture and timberland values were also requested as supplemental information.

The results of these surveys show a statewide average decrease of cropland values of -3.4% for the March 2014 to September 2014 period. Combining this decrease with the -5.4% decrease reported in March 2014 indicates a statewide average decrease of -8.8% for the year from September 1, 2013 to September 1, 2014.

The nine Iowa crop reporting districts showed a mixed response. The districts varied from a 3.1% increase in SE district to a -6.5% decrease in NE district since March 2014. Factors contributing to current farmland values include: lower commodity prices, increasing interest rates. Other factors include: lack of stable alternative investments, cash on hand, and limited amount of land on market.


The Iowa Farm & Land REALTORS® farmland value survey has been conducted in March and September since 1978. This survey plus the RLI Farm and Ranch Multiple Listing Service are activities of REALTORS® specializing in agricultural land brokerage on a daily basis.

SOURCE: THE REALTORS LAND INSTITUTE, IOWA CHAPTER #2

MEDEA CONTACT: Kyle J. Hansen, ALC – 515-382-1500

www.rlifarmandranch.com

 

Posted in Headlines, In The News, Land Appraisal, Land Investing, Land Management, Land Values | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Documented Trip to Explore Farming Practices in Arable Regions of Africa

Well-known ag reporter Ken Root will lead a delegation traveling in October from Iowa to South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique, on a trip underwritten by Peoples Company and intended to explore farming practices in the arable region through the eyes of American analysts.

Red Tractor on African LandRoot and analyst Maurice Clark, who are knowledgeable in farming techniques, mechanization, and assessment of investment risk, will visit farms owned by Susan Payne, Executive Chairman and CEO of EmVest Asset Management. They will document the farming practices, culture, government regulations and overall productivity of the land as shown by Payne and her farm managers.

Root also plans to deliver a comprehensive report of the trip on Agribusiness Radio Network and Agribusiness Report on WHO-TV, both during and immediately following his trip, and will post several of the delegation’s initial observations on the Peoples Company blog website and Facebook page.

Payne, who will return to Iowa to speak for a third time at the Land Investment Expo in January, will share an illustrated overview with presentation slides that include photos or video of what is captured during the October 6-13 tour.

Root, who documented the early development of agriculture in China and Brazil while following their growth over the past four decades, has emceed the Land Expo each year since its inception in 2008. Clark has an extensive financial and government service background.

Be sure to follow Peoples Company for more near-real-time updates on the Africa tour and 2015 Land Expo streaming at www.Twitter.com/PeoplesCompany.

Posted in Headlines, In The News, Land Expo, Land Investing, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Wind Towers Impact Land Values

As the giant wind towers continue to multiply across the Iowa landscape, the question we at Peoples Company are frequently being asked is, “How do the towers impact land values.” Like any investment, different buyers have varying opinions, comfort levels and valuations. In this article we will look at various methods for valuing a wind easement agreement.

Wind TowersBarely 10 years ago the large wind towers being built across Iowa were a tremendous curiosity. We gawked at the turbine blades being transported on our highways and bus tours traveled to see dozens of towers dotted across a few miles of farmland. Today, as the towers multiply across the Iowa landscape and we barely take a second glance at them as we travel, landowners continue to debate the pros and cons of having these wind towers on their land. Obviously, many land owners believe the pros outweigh the cons and towers continue to get built.

The initial decision to enter into a wind tower easement is generally a quick cost-benefit analysis by the landowner – does the annual payment compensate for the loss of productive acres and the “hassle-factor” of farming around the tower and access lane? In addition, a landowner considers how the presence of a tower will impact the value of the farm if or when it is sold. This is the question we are often asked when listing or auctioning a farm, and our appraisers must consider when establishing an appraised value.

Chart 1 is an example of the value impact of adding a wind tower easement to an 80 acre farm. In this example, we have an 80-acre farm with 77 tillable acres. The tillable acres are valued at $9,000 for a total farm value of $693,000, or $8,663 per total acre. The addition of the tower and the access lane reduces the tillable acres from 77 to 75. The value of the tillable acres are reduced $100/acre due to the decrease in farmability. This is totally a judgment call, and different buyers will have differing opinions about this adjustment. Also, there will be a different impact if the access and tower are along the property line or in the middle of the farm.

Chart 1

Wind Tower
 
Without
 
With
Total Acres
80
80
Tillable Acres
77
75
X Price Per Tillable Acre
$9,000
$8,900
= Total Value Farmland
$693,000
$667,500
 
 
 
Wind Tower Income-Yr
-
$5,000
divided by Cap Rate
-
8%
= Wind Tower Value
-
$62,500
 
 
 
 
Total Farm Value 

$693,000
$730,000
Value per Total Acre
$8,663
$9,125
Value Increase Per Acre
-
$463
Value Increase %
-
5.34%

The next step is to place a value on the income stream generated from the wind easement agreement. In Chart 1 the assumption is an annual payment of $5,000 and a cap rate of 8 percent. This results in a wind agreement value of $62,500 and a total value per acre increase from $8,663 to $9,125; $463/total acre or 5.34 percent. I have spoken with an investor buyer that uses a cap rate similar to the rate they use on the cash rent income (approximately 5 percent) if the agreement is with a financially strong developer/utility. So in this example a 5 percent cap rate would increase the wind agreement value to $100,000.

Chart 2 is a matrix using three different valuation methods with three variations of each method. The Cap Rate method is common in determining the value of income-producing real estate. It is calculated taking the annual income divided by chosen cap rate. The Price: Earnings method is a common measure in stock valuations. P:E ratios for publicly traded utilities are commonly in the range of 15 to 20, so take the annual income times the chosen ratio to get the indicated price. The third method is a calculation of the Net Present Value of the entire future income stream discounted at three different discount rates. Chart 2 shows that the value of the example agreement is generally between $50,000 and $100,000. The final value will be determined from the buyers set of assumptions based on their return target and evaluation of risk.

Chart 2

Wind Tower Income-Yr
 
$5,000
 
Total Value
Cap Rate
5%
$100,000
 
8%
$62,500
 
10%
$50,000
Price Earnings Ratio
12
$60,000
 
15
$75,000
 
20
$100,000
Net Present Value
8%
$72,062
(2%-Yr Income Increase)
10%
$58,052
 
12%
$48,106

There are several important contract terms that need to be well understood in order to adequately and appropriately evaluate the risk associated with the agreement. A few of the important terms include:

  • Counter party risk
  • Is the contract with a well established public utility or an unknown start-up?
  • Real estate taxes
  • Are property taxes associated with the wind tower assets addressed in the contract?
  • Reclamation
  • What happens at the end of the contract?
  • Annual adjustments
  • Does the contract provide for annual increases in the easement payments?
  • Crop damage
  • Are potential crop damage adequately addressed?
  • Compaction/topsoil/tile
  • How are the issues of compaction, topsoil and tile addressed?
  • Liability Insurance
  • Is the counter party responsible for liability insurance?

Wind towers are more and more common and are generally accepted as value-added assets. The key to determining the value is an in-depth analysis of the terms of the agreement. Legal advice should be sought from an attorney familiar with these agreements before finalizing a contract.

Ron Beach is part of the Land Investment Programs division at Peoples Company where he works with farmers wanting a source of capital to purchase land they can then lease, and with numerous capital sources wanting to invest in farmland. Ron may be reached at (712) 579-2587 or Ron@PeoplesCompany.com.

Posted in Headlines, In The News, Land Values | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Planning a Future Farm Legacy

Planning the legacy of a family’s agricultural real estate typically raises an array of legal and financial questions by landowners and heirs considering the future use of their land.

The sheer quantity of Midwest farm ground up for some type of transition in ownership in coming decades is Tractor ploughing a fieldstaggering. In Iowa alone – with a farmland market cap of about $260 billion – nearly 50 percent of this is anticipated to change hands during the next 20 years.

Getting a head start on mapping out the future of one’s land often involves a need for creative solutions coupled with the ability to bring together multiple stakeholders, including kin with varying degrees of interest in or expectations for a family’s estate or succession plan.

Peoples Company Land Agent Matt Adams recently sat down with Jared Schmidt of Ankeny, Iowa-based Farm Financial Strategies, Inc. to explore synergies between their respective occupations. The conversation turned to considering viable options for older generations of landowners working with the next to prepare in advance for future life-changing events.

From having enough of and the right type of life insurance – to considering the respective positions of farming children and non-farming heirs as they could relate the transition of land ownership – Schmidt and Adams touched on the role advisors play in facilitating crucial conversations and getting each stakeholder on the same page.

Mediation can be especially important for families that have both farming heirs and non-farming heirs as it puts relationships on equal footing. Schmidt and Adams, who as part of their respective trades each maintain professional relationships with local lenders, accountants, land agents, attorneys and CPAs, say working with the right team also goes along way in terms of helping to navigate potentially difficult and highly emotional terrain.

“How we structure things with decision makers today helps establish clear direction for what happens down the road,” Schmidt says. “There is lot of education involved with a little trial and error to put together what works for each family. Who is going to farm or manage the property? Or make future improvements to the land? If a family has one farming child and three non-farm heirs, how do we avoid less-than-favorable outcomes for one set or the other at some point in the future?”

Adams says laying out all the options and providing information without obligation to help people decide on the right thing to do drives his career as a real estate professional with Peoples Company – a diversified land company offering land investing, land brokerage and land management services in eight states.

“Our whole deal is to take more of asset-management approach with a focus on land brokerage and land management to facilitate creative options and determine how assets will be transferred,” Adams says. “One route may be for the landowner to use investor capital and buy out non-farming heirs – allowing that farming heir to keep those acres in his or her operation – through a sale-lease back deal, or by purchasing shares of stock for a farm that’s held in a corporation. We will talk about what the landowner wants to accomplish, and which vehicles are available to take them there. It could be as simple as retaining a land manager to act as a referee during annual meetings, to tenant negotiations and helping to negotiate an equitable farm lease.”

Schmidt, who has more than 12 years experience in the financial services industry, all under the masthead of “Farm Legacy by Design” with Farm Financial Strategies, says clients have presented him with “plans” written down on napkins before. Yet it’s the actual putting of a plan in place, he says, that helps to ensure all family members are treated fairly throughout the entire process. Schmidt and Adams agree that it is important for landowners and heirs to consider what can be done or undone, too, in terms of ownership. Land in a trust, for example, may be an irrevocable situation and leave no way out.

Walking through a few dry runs also helps each decision-maker understand what the plan actually looks like.

“There are multiple vehicles to there, and you can make a lot of scenarios work,” Schmidt says. “Our goal is to try and meet with family and formulate a plan before a life-changing event occurs. We work it through together and help to put everybody’s eyes on the same problem to make sure there is nothing conflicted; get everyone’s perspective to create a single solution that achieves everyone’s goals.”

“We are all aware that that there will be a lot of transition in ownership over the next 20 to 50 years,” Adams says. “But the biggest issue is that people aren’t preparing in advance of a life-changing event that occurs. Our goal is to foster improved communication among families and the professionals who can help meet those needs.”

Jared may be reached at (855) 302-FARM (3276), or by emailing Schmidt@FarmEstate.com. Contact Matt via email at Matt@PeoplesCompany.com, or dial (515) 423-9235.

Posted in Estate Planning, Headlines, In The News, Land Investing, Land Management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Land Investment Monthly – August 2014

The Land Investment Monthly is 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. Follow Steve Bruere @SBruere on Twitter and find Peoples Company on Facebook for the latest land listings, auction results, upcoming events and real estate news. To subscribe to my monthly updates via email, send a message to Steve@PeoplesCompany.com with “Land Investment Monthly” in the subject line.

Nice and Steady
The past decade’s “roller coaster” of primary agricultural markets won’t be so shaky during the next 10-years of growth, according to a statement in July by U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the OECD. The next decade will bring more stability, Reuters reports, as crop prices decline during a “correction period” and then even out at levels above those experienced in 2008.
Read more.

Summer Farmland Survey
The value of U.S. farmland rose about 8.1 percent in the past year, according to the results of an annual USDA study with 11,000 parcels surveyed during the first two weeks of June. Prices in the Corn Belt remain the highest, and Iowa led the Midwest with an average farmland price at $8,750 an acre, an increase of 9.4 percent since 2013. Reuters reports that the northern Plains saw the biggest jump in overall real estate values.
Read more.

Ripening Investment Class
Two Florida sugar barons, the founder of a multibillion-dollar investment firm and a New York real estate dynasty are among investors who’ve acquired 11,000 tillable acres of agricultural real estate with the help of a former hedge fund manager. Crop yields and cash rents are on the mind of this bunch, according to The New York Times DealBook. Sourcing Preqin, The Times reports that hedge funds now have $14 billion invested in farmland.
Read more.

Diverse Produce
Despite lower expectations for farm incomes in 2014, the Wall Street Journal reports on benefits of investing in income-producing land. A hedge against inflation and an opportunity to diversify with agricultural real estate are now drawing greater interest from individual investors, as new institutional funds crop up around timber.
Read more.

Cash Update
An updated analysis of how average Iowa farmland ranks compared to investing in the S&P 500 Index has been published by retired Iowa State University Economist Mike Duffy. He concludes that from 1950 to 2013, the agricultural real estate asset class would have been a better investment in all of those 63 years with the exception of 1978 to 1984. Another source forDTN/The Progressive Farmer’s article says that the “relative riskiness of farmland looks quite attractive.” Executive Editor Marcia Zarley Taylor notes that “time also has a way of correcting mistakes and this can benefit buy-and-hold farmland owners over day traders.”
Read more.

Tipping Point?
A new report by the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory (FAR) group suggest that U.S. land values have responded to fundamental drivers in the marketplace, and do not currently represent an asset bubble. Falling commodity prices and some softening in demand following a 12-year run up in steep annual value increases, however, may indicate that the long-term growth pattern needs to change to avoid the development of a bubble.
Read more.

Practically Farming
A proactive approach to conservation-minded practices is the topic of Land Agent Megan Hunt’s overview of nutrient-reduction strategies, and a combination of techniques utilized by the Peoples Company Land Management team when considering how to help Iowa achieve both its clean water and farm profitability goals.
Read more.

Posted in Cash Rents, Headlines, In The News, Land Investing, Land Management, Land Values, Natural Lands | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Q2 2014: Des Moines Metro Housing Snapshot

The Des Moines Metro Market Snapshot is a quarterly report featuring inventories of new construction and existing single-family homes in the 18 communities I track for Peoples Company. My reports cover the residential housing data and statistics presented during the Annual Builder & Developer Luncheon, and provide updates on the Des Moines-area market throughout the year.

Kalen Ludwig, REALTORHome sales have remained steady in Greater Des Moines Area over the last 12 months with the strength of both market and consumer confidence growing more resolute than at any time in recent years as interest rates remain low for buyers!

New construction home sales, both pending and sold, were relatively flat on a year-over-year basis. Foreclosures are down to the pre-crisis levels of 2005-2006, and owners are finding renewed equity in their homes as prices have continued to rise through 2013 and 2014. This allows for the option of upgrading with an investment in an existing home or new construction home.

Both locally and nationally, what we’re seeing is the quick soaring of home prices taper off to a slower appreciation. This helps keep the price of homes affordable while staving off the threat of another housing bubble. Though the total number of homes sold in the Des Moines-area was down slightly in the 12 months ending June 30, compared with the prior year, it’s been a promising first half and sellers were excited to see their houses appreciating in 2013 and 2014. Prices aren’t as explosive as we saw last year, but interest rates remain low and this combination promotes a healthy market.

Overall, the stability of the housing market is better than it has been in years.

Current Market Snapshot – Des Moines Metro Area

 
As of July
2014
As of July 
2013
Total Active
2,629
2,743
New Construction Active
427
628
Total Pending
1,682
1,425
New Construction Pending
374
340
Total SOLD
7,138
7,589
New Construction SOLD
1,250
1,206
Total Months Supply
4.4
4.3
New Construction Months Supply
4.1
6.3

*Sold includes single-family homes sold in the last 12 months.

Homebuilding activity remains strong in the Des Moines-area with options available for buyers in the market to find a lot, floor plan, and builder that match their needs and style. Inventories have continued to stay flat through this year, encouraging buyers who’re not finding what they want or what they need in the purchase of an existing home or new construction spec home to consider a built-to-order or custom new construction as a viable option.

Many buyers are finding a lot, floor plan and builder that fit their distinctive needs and unique style, which is my specialty as a Certified New Construction Sales Professional. The 2014 Home Show Expo, presented three weekends in July by the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines, featured projects by 11 great builders who presented their unique styles in the $500,000 to $950,000 price range in the Ridge at Echo Valley in Norwalk.

Two-thousand-and-fourteen was the first year that I represented a builder in the Home Show Expo, and it was an amazing experience to invite more than 12,000 attendees to tour our home. We very much appreciated a chance to meet everyone who stopped by!

Find more information on my listing of the Ground Breaker Homes Prairie Setter II at www.GroundBreakerHomes.com, and by watching a video tour of the home. Or you can start by checking out the many lots and building sites on our website at www.PeoplesCompany.com, or email me directly at Kalen@PeoplesCompany.com for more information.

-Kalen Ludwig

I am a Residential REALTOR® and Certified New Construction Sales Professional who specializes in helping homebuyers locate a suitable lot, secure a qualified builder, and pick a perfect floor plan to match their unique tastes or personal style. The ability to listen and understand the needs of her clients allows me to offer appropriate feedback and credible data that help sellers and buyers make informed decisions regarding real estate transactions. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Posted in Headlines, In The News, New Construction, Residential Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy: An Overview

Many landowners in Iowa are unfamiliar with the purpose behind reducing nutrient loss, and the appropriate actions to combat this serious issue.

Northern Iowa Farm FloodingIowa has been working vigorously to protect and improve water quality in efforts with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The whole picture revolves around reducing nutrient loadings to the Mississippi River and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. This can be achieved simply by using the right tools. Specifically, a combination of conservation measures and application methods.

Every operator knows that nitrogen and phosphorus application is the key to growing a productive crop. It is recommended that extended rotations be used to reduce the application and the loss of both phosphorus-P and nitrate-N. Another option is replacing row crops with energy crops to reduce erosion and run-off. An added benefit of these energy crops is an increase in wildlife habitat, which adds value to any piece of ground.

Cover crops are an excellent way to reduce P and N loss. According to the Iowa Farmer Today, Winter Grain Rye is a popular cover crop plant. When planted late summer through the first of November, it provides a nice cover for the soils. Since it is one of the most winter hardy of the cereal grains, it survives well through the season. If not killed in the early spring, it provides high tonnage forage for chopping or can be harvested for grain in July.

Most importantly, winter rye or wheat can reduce nutrient loss up to 30 percent.

Nutrient Reduction can also be managed by using “edge-of-field” practices. Wetlands and bioreactors show good potential for preventing nitrate and phosphorus run off. Wetlands targeted for water quality improvement are strategically located to remove nitrate from tile-drainage water from cropland areas. Bioreactors are excavated pits filled with woodchips, with tile drainage water flowing through the woodchips. As water from the tile line passes into the bioreactor, denitrifying bacteria converts nitrate contained in the tile water into dinitrogen gas. Bioreactors on a farm scale treat up to 100 acres of tile-drained land.

Even changing the timing of N and P application can make a significant difference. The research summary showed there could be an average 6 percent reduction in nitrate-N concentration in tile drainage water when moving from fall to spring-applied nitrogen fertilizer, considering the same application rate.

Peoples Company’s Land Management team is very proactive when it comes to conservation minded practices. Many clients are concerned with the care of their land, and don’t want to see the farmland becoming overworked. Conservation practices are encouraged when putting together farm proposals for new clients, especially for absentee landowners who cannot witness their tenant’s practices on a local basis. Tillage, nitrogen/phosphorus rotations or tile/terrace building are all things recommended to the client when they discuss options with our farm managers.

So what’s next? This path forward to reducing nutrient impacts will not be easy, but an effort to adopt a combination of these practices will help Iowa achieve their goal of cleaner water and bring profitability to farms.

To learn more about Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, click here and check out this video on YouTube at at www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVdPSLE61fg.

Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy

Posted in Headlines, In The News, Land Management, Natural Lands | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ken Root Plans Fall Travel to Farms in Africa

Guest post by ag broadcaster Ken Root.

At the end of this decade, the continent of Africa will be more populous than China, India and the United States combined! If I were to list places in the world that I don’t understand; Africa would be at the top of that list.

Red Tractor on African LandTo remedy that, in October, I will be traveling to South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique to visit farms owned by EmVest. Susan Payne is president of the land investment company and a popular speaker at Peoples Company’s Land Investment Expo.

I’ll be traveling with Maurice Clark, father of Cannon Clark, from Peoples Company. We plan to tour farms in three countries for a week to see them in operation and to document their crops, workers, mechanization and demand for the products.

Our hope is to give you a chance to follow us on the Internet through the Peoples Company blog and social media sites. We will post our itinerary and send a report back each day, including photos, video and written travelogue.

My reference point is Brazil 1983 when US Ag Secretary John Block toured the state of Mato Groso. No one believed a tropical country, with no interior infrastructure, could become a major crop and livestock producer. Today, Brazil grows as many bushels of soybeans as the United States, and is the world’s largest beef producer. In the ensuing 30 years since my first visit, Brazil has become a very large exporter of agricultural products and can be credited with feeding a growing population, worldwide.

Now that African nations are in a position to have huge population growth over the next two decades, where will their food come from? Is it possible that high-yield, high-tech farming can increase food production enough that the continent can become self-sufficient and grow its middle class like China and India? During this trip, we hope to discover answers to some of these questions.

At the Land Investment Expo in January of 2014, we announced that Peoples Company will be leading a tour to Africa in early 2015. The dates are set and the itinerary includes the farms we will be seeing this fall. Susan Payne will be our on-farm tour leader as we take a good look at the culture and the economic opportunities of southern Africa.

We hope you will watch for our reports from South Africa in October, and consider joining us for a trip to this exciting destination in 2015.

-Ken Root

Posted in Headlines, In The News, Land Expo, Land Investing, Social Media, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maturing with the Land Market

The role of agriculture in the world has drawn mega-attention from business and financial publications reporting over the past decade on the significance of food, fuel and fiber as they relate to land values, commodity prices and global populations.

Steve Bruere May 2014 ProfileMy perspective as a land professional started taking shape the year I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2003, the same year the United States invaded Iraq and mad cow disease was first discovered in North America. Two-thousand-and-three was also the year I joined Peoples Company, a real estate and farm management business with a proud 30-year history in Iowa.

In the past 10 years, agriculture has witnessed the birth of the ethanol and wind energy industries, rise of genetically modified crops and global positioning systems, historically low interest rates, $8-a-bushell corn, significant changes to the US tax code, and media’s fascination with record-setting land sales exceeding $20,000 an acre for some of the most productive farmland in the world.

In my conversations with landowners, farm producers and investors, perhaps few of us could have anticipated the far-reaching impact of wealth generated by massive farm profits between 2006 and 2012.
Agriculture and farming have become big business, and in some ways the market itself has become corporate and institutionalized as big money vies for a piece of agriculture.

The wealth creation and wealth transfer that is about to happen in agriculture is astounding, and unlike any other time in history. The farmland market cap in Iowa has grown during my career to roughly $260 billion – compared with just under $70 billion in 2003 – and we anticipate that approximately 50 percent of that $260 billion will transfer in some form or fashion over the next 20 years. Beyond Iowa, we’re seeing similar demographics and trends across the Midwest.

Though agriculture is big business, we also see increased scrutiny on commercial agricultural production, as well as clients with a major emphasis on organic products and land conservation practices. So, while the industry as a whole is getting larger, there is plenty of room for small producers to participate and niche markets for organic, green, conservation minded farmers and landowners.

Similar to changes realized over the past 10 years by those in agriculture, so has the real estate business that serves the industry. In anticipation of these changes, Peoples Company has evolved from a local real estate brokerage serving multiple counties to a firm with real estate licenses in eight states, including our most recent addition of South Dakota. We have committed to four key areas of business, and completed our transformation into a full service land Land Market brokerage/auction company with land management, land appraisals and land investment services now offered throughout the Midwest.

The addition of The Dirt Dealer Jeffrey T. Obrecht has been among the most significant events here in recent months, and the veteran real estate broker associate and auctioneer joins a talented, enthusiastic team that’s defining the culture of our company and bringing a whole new level of professionalism to the industry. Our “everything starts with land” mentality was also reinforced last fall with the hire of Mollie Aronowitz, a Peoples Company Land Manager with a diverse background in plant pathology who serves clients by offering her unique perspective on land stewardship – and sincere appreciation for the heritage of family farms – while helping owners build transparent and equitable relationships with farm operators.

With the introduction of the Peoples Company Appraisal Division, our land company is also now equipped to provide clients with accurate property valuations related to the sale or transfer of real estate, as well as conducting research, analyzing costs, and providing consultations for a variety of reasons.

The anticipated transfer of wealth in Iowa over the next two decades creates extraordinary opportunities for farmers, owners and investors, and we’ve worked hard to identify or partner with those on the forefront of the transformation happening in agriculture. That’s one reason why Peoples Company created its Land Investment Programs, including the Separate Account Land Management program, which under the direction of Ron Beach assists in identifying investment grade acquisitions for investors and sources of capital for farmers who are looking investors to purchase land they can lease. Peoples Company established relationships with major institutional investors in the land investment space, maintaining more than 50 key relationships in this area with access to hedge funds, pension plans, family offices and private land funds with combined assets under management of over $8 billion.

What we’re seeing now is significant momentum within our maturing land company with a strong infrastructure and clear sense of direction driving us forward. In May, Peoples Company had 13,000 acres encompassing $110 million worth of land listed, and just this summer we were named among “America’s Best Brokerages” by the editors of The Land Report in their annual survey of leading real estate firms specializing in land. Peoples Company is a 50-person team, including brokers, auctioneers, appraisers, graphic designers, accounting staff and land managers who are here to be a resource to farmers, landowners and investors, as well the advisors who serve these individuals.

We’ve invested heavily in our culture, our technology and our staff, and we are excited about participating in the agricultural marketplace as it continues to evolve.

Posted in Headlines, In The News, Land Investing, Land Management, Land Values, Natural Lands, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment