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Peoples Company and Land Donations to Support Iowa FFA

At Peoples Company, we understand that a plot of land is often only as fruitful as the person who farms it. And in the business of agriculture, it takes someone truly passionate, dedicated and strong willed to take on the task of providing the goods that sustain our country.

Future Farmers of America, more commonly known as FFA, is an organization that cultivates the skills and values of farming in the minds of over 14,500 students throughout Iowa today.

From a students perspective
By participating in FFA, students learn valuable leadership and career skills through agricultural education and hands-on challenges. Josh Remington, Executive Director of the Iowa FFA Foundation,Iowa FFA Foundation explains what students gain from taking part in FFA:

“As a student, have you ever asked yourself while sitting in class, ‘How is this applicable to what I want to do?’” said Remington. “In FFA, students are introduced to concepts from subjects such as math and geometry, but connected to real-life agricultural situations. For example, while calculating the diameter of a shape, they apply it to the topic of designing a plant nursery.”

Classroom education is merely one component of FFA.

The organization continues its agricultural education beyond pencil and paper – developing its own projects known as Supervised Agricultural Experience programs. FFA also provides the platform for students to demonstrate the mastery of both classroom and hands-on knowledge through competitive Career Development Events.

Students compete against other FFA chapters to articulate their craft and skills at a high level, and for a chance to advance to the national championships. FFA is not just for individuals wanting to follow the traditional career path of farming, Remington explains.

“There is becoming a desire among students to understand where our food comes from,” he said. “Students are interested in learning more about the different avenues food and resource production takes, and how they can help support the growing global population.”

What Remington identified as one of the first “S.T.E.M” curriculums, members of FFA have found themselves in more than 300 different occupations – from farmers to senators.

Why donate?
The Iowa FFA Foundation was founded in 1986. The foundation recognized that there was a growing need for funds and support to local Iowa FFA chapters, and there was also a strong willingness within the Iowa community to support agricultural education.

Today, the foundation continues its efforts to support FFA through gifts of land and monetary donations. The organization raised $1.2 million dollars last year, and is hoping for an increase of donations in 2015.

“It is a misconception that FFA is a dying organization,” Remington said. “FFA membership is at an all time high, but with record membership brings record need.”

Donating to the Iowa FFA Foundation is mutually beneficial, helping FFA students while receiving a tax benefit! The foundation accepts land, money and other items such as cars, tractors and grain. The foundation can also be part of an individual’s estate planning and gifting.

If you are a beneficiary of land, the donation of a few acres could save you from the heavy tax burden of the inheritance.

“In some cases, by donating 10 to 20 acres of land you’ve inherited, you can relieve the tax difference of the whole farm,” said Remington. “With inherited money, one could also donate it as endowment for FFA scholarships. Through a scholarship you can further the legacy of your loved one while fostering the future of FFA.”

Supporting FFA with the resources it needs to provide students with the best possible experience is a donation for the future of food and resource production in America. Current and future FFA members will use the skills they learn to provide resources to our donors and the country as a whole.

How to donate?
That’s where we come in.

Peoples Company can help facilitate the gifting of land to the FFA. We can advise on the donation of land to a landowners’ accountant, attorney, tax advisor or estate planning personnel. Whether you are interested in writing the donation into your will, or you presently have a couple acres you would like to render to the cause, Peoples Company can assure you that your land will be used to the support of agricultural education.

Although Peoples Company is not an attorney, trust officer, or financial advisor; we work closely with charitable organizations and foundations with the sale and property management for gifts of land that they would receive. Another way we serve the FFA Foundation is as a resource in directing potential donors to the professional that can help in facilitating gifts to the foundation. We’re also able to explain to someone how a gift would affect their tax liability.

Peoples Company has supported the Iowa FFA Foundation this year through contributions to its annual gala, and promoting the gifting of agricultural real estate during the 2015 Land Investment Expo. If you are interested in supporting FFA via the donation of land, contact Matt Adams at

Posted in Agribusiness, Estate Planning, Headlines, In The News, Land Expo | Leave a comment

White Paper on Socially Responsible Farmland Investing Shows Benefits of New Practices

CLIVE, Iowa – Changing demographics is driving a trend by next-generation landowners to manage for appreciation and create sustainability through socially responsible farming practices, a new white paper published by agricultural real estate brokerage and land auction firm Peoples Company asserts.

Land investors, innovative farmers, as well as anyone interested in a better understanding of this trending topic can access the free white paper, “Socially Responsible Farmland Investing,” through the Peoples Company website.

Socially Responsible Farmland Investment“Socially Responsible Farmland Investing” describes the “complex interdependencies” that play into the idea of a practical use of farmland as an asset class, and its relation to the fabric and norms of society. World population scenarios for 9 billion people by 2050 carry with them a set of incomplete, contradictory and changing problems to solve: How will we feed all these people? How can we do it with the least environmental impact? How would this affect local producers and landowners? How will we produce enough food at a price everyone can afford?

“The era of socially responsible land investing has dawned due to societal issues facing agriculture,” writes Peoples Company President Steve Bruere, who co-authored the report with Michael Duffy, Ph.D., the Iowa State University Professor Emeritus of Economics known for his annual Iowa Land Value Survey. The 24-page document also includes an interview with Stine Seed President and Founder Harry Stine on high population corn, plus articles on multi-hybrid planters from Kinze Manufacturing, beginning farmer programs from the Iowa Agricultural Development Division, new technology conservation practices from the Iowa Soybean Association, and more.

Amid changes in farming practices tied to weather patterns and water availability, current events show mounting issues ag must face: the Des Moines Water Works nitrate lawsuit against three upstream counties, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy for soil conservation and water quality, the Clean Water Act definition of “Waters of the United States,” immigration reform for farm workers, California’s egg law for chicken welfare, and ongoing debate on the Renewable Fuel Standard’s corn ethanol mandate.

“Our reasoning behind presenting a case for making socially responsible farmland investing decisions is to promote food for thought regarding these challenges,” Bruere states.

Although farmers sometimes feel society is unfair or doesn’t understand their challenges, the white paper argues to embrace rather than resist the movement for socially responsible farmland investing. In practice, it forces landowners and farmers to come together to find and implement the answers to societal issues facing agriculture. “While this topic can be the subject of debate and create awkward conversations, I’m convinced society, farmers and landowners are more in alignment than one might expect,” Bruere quips.

For his part, economist Duffy outlines how farmers and investors alike can potentially benefit from this considered approach to farmland investment. A surge of interest by investors in farmland during the recent run-up in land values and low returns elsewhere in the economy is combining with demographic and production changes to alter who owns the land and how it will be farmed over the coming years. A spike in non-farmer landowners has added weight to concerns that support the notion of socially responsible investment in farmland, as well.

“We’re seeing a distinct trend among owners and investors toward the comprehensive strategies, best practices and innovative tools that constitute socially responsible management,” Duffy notes. “Altogether, these multiple objectives can work hand in hand to improve yield, reduce operating costs and increase a farm’s relative value.”

Shifting forces in the land industry also have caused a transformational shift in real estate firm Peoples Company, which offers agricultural land brokerage, land management, land appraisal and land investment services, according to Bruere.

The company has become signatory to the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI), an investor initiative in partnership with the U.N. Environment Programme Finance Initiative and the U.N. Global Compact, which acts according to six principles of socially responsible investing. Peoples Company is believed to be the only service provider in the network that provides land management and land investment services in the United States.

Peoples Company also has shifted the approach of its Land Management division toward managing farmland for annual income and appreciation in the role of a “fiduciary of farmland fertility.”

“Trust officers and farm managers recognize they have a fiduciary duty to conserve a farm’s soil and to protect the fertility and long-term productivity of the asset,” Bruere said. “But trust and management documents don’t contain many provisions addressing conservation or sustainability, and there aren’t many standards or legal precedents to guide a trustee’s management decisions.”

To aid in this discretion, the Land Management team at Peoples Company can articulate and document fertility and yield histories to help clients negotiate a lease or sell a farm. It also can partner with trust departments for management agreements, and to implement systems that will enhance annual income and asset appreciation.

Peoples Company produced the “Socially Responsible Farmland Investing” white paper, committed to the PRI Initiative, and adopted the sustainable Land Management focus in response to this complex array of demographics and economics, social initiatives and new technology that increasingly impacts the land business, Bruere said.

“The farmland asset class is maturing, and the next generation of landowners will have high expectations for their investment, including sustainability, annual income and appreciation. Our goal is to provide knowledge to help make informed decisions and fuel meaningful discussion regarding farmland investment, and especially farmland investment in a framework of social responsibility.”

Click here to access the Peoples Company white paper, “Socially Responsible Farmland Investing.” For more information, visit or phone 855-800-LAND (5263).

Posted in Agribusiness, Headlines, In The News, Land Appraisal, Land Appraisals, Land Expo, Land Investing, Land Management, Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Land Investment Monthly – April 2015

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 with “Land Investment Monthly” in the subject line.

Farm Fuel
Biofuels Digest considers the relationship among wealth, spending, crop prices, productivity and the GDP in light of the Iowa farm sector’s impact on the U.S. economy over the past 15 years. A “key to prosperity” associated with rising land values is a central theme of the article drawing attention to the 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol and 227 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the state last year. “So there you have it,” writes Jim Lane. “A success story in the agricultural sector.”
Read more.


Super Sale
A beef producer in Australia is listing for sale the largest farm in the world. The Anna Creek ranch covers nearly 24,000 square kilometers; more ground then the state of New Jersey. The largest U.S. farm – Wagoner Ranch in Texas – consists of 535,000 contiguous acres equivalent to 2,165 square kilometers. S. Kidman & Co. owns 155,000 head of branded cattle and is responsible for 1.3 percent of all boxed-beef exports coming out of Australia. reports. In related news, Stock & Land reports that changing demographics in Australia will lead to large numbers of agricultural properties hitting the market over the next 10 years.
​Read more.​

Fair Exchange?
Dave Brown digs into the potential negative effects​ of House and Senate proposals aimed at eliminating Section 1031 of the U.S. tax code. 1031, or “like-kind,” exchanges, allow domestic businesses to efficiently expand and prosper while stimulating economic growth. Farmers and ranchers can also defer tax​, ​while at the same time promoting environmental conservation​, ​by selling easements on environmentally sensitive parcels to conservation organizations, and then reinvesting in more productive, less sensitive farmland. Brown’s article in The Land Report goes into the history of like-kind exchanges, followed by a call to preserve 1031s for companies that support and facilitate the ownership of real property.
Read more.​

​Ag Rep
Iowa Rep. Peter Cownie shares with Des Moines Register readers some fast facts on Iowa’s agricultural sector. He highlights the state’s diverse economy, alongside the importance of ag education in legislative realms. Cownie, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, points to data reflective of Iowa’s leading role in the production of corn, soybeans, eggs, cattle, pork, and turkey.
Read more.

Land Values
Results of the spring Land Trends and Values Survey produced by the Iowa Chapter of the REALTORS Land Institute are in with a 7.6 percent statewide average decrease being reported for the September 2014 to March 2015 period. Each of the state’s nine crop reporting districts showed decreases in land values since September 2011, varying from a 4.6 percent decline in the Southwest district to a 11.0 percent decrease in the northeastern portion of the state. Lower commodity prices, a limited amount of land on hand, and a lack of stable alternative investments have each contributed to current conditions.
Read more.

Seed Money
The Wall Street Journal covers soaring investments in agriculture and food production as wireless technologies, new tools for collecting and monitoring crops, and demand for alternative eats give rise to a new breed of agricultural-minded entrepreneurs. Venture-capital investment in the sector increased 54 percent to $486 million last year. The report on Silicon Prairie’s fascination with dirt dishes up ideas on everything from precision agriculture to ​food safety, robots and indoor farming.
Read more.

Water Woes
An Iowa farmer quoted in the New York Times says progress is being made in regards to the state’s voluntary nutrient reduction program efforts, even as the top official of the Water Works Park utility in Des Moines continues singling out agriculture in rural portions of the state. The issue over nitrates resulted in Water Works Park’s decision to sue three Iowa counties. Meanwhile, farmers eager to employ conservation practices are discussing next steps, including strategies that involve the use of cover crops or taking the most sensitive areas of farmland out of production altogether.
Read more.​

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

Join Me at This Year’s Monopoly Fundraiser in West Des Moines

This year’s Monopoly Game Tournament is scheduled for April 30, and you’re invited to play in support of a good cause at the Embassy Club West Des Moines.

The 2015 tournament – sponsored by Peoples Company, UNI Business and NAI Optimum – will be flush with opportunities to network with UNI Real Estate and Finance students, alumni and other employers.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit the UNI Center for Real Estate Education, including program operating expenses, student development activities and continuation of the school’s state-of-the art curriculum.

The tournament runs from 4:30 to 8 p.m., with a preliminary round and a final round each lasting one hour, as five dealmakers per table try to accumulate more property, wealth and Monopoly cash than their fellow players.

You can register to play for $75. Table sponsorships are available for $500. Sponsorship includes recognition at the table being sponsored. In addition to the appetizers, each participant and sponsor will be provided with two drink tickets redeemable at the cash bar.

My challenge for you is to monopolize on an opportunity to support real estate education in Iowa, have fun testing your skills, and enjoy some friendly competition in this ever-popular American board game.

Contact Becky Rozenboom at (515) 222-1347 with any questions – or to register today. We look forward to sitting down with you on Thursday, April 30, at the Embassy Club in West Des Moines.

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

March 2015: Iowa RLI Land Trends, Land Values Survey

IOWA, March 31, 2015 – The Iowa Chapter of REALTORS® Land Institute is pleased to announce the results of our March 2015 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 March 1, 2015. 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 -7.6% for the September 2014 to March 2015 period. Combining this decrease with the -3.4% decrease reported in September 2014 indicates a statewide average decrease of -11.0% for the year from March 1, 2014 to March 1, 2015.

The nine Iowa crop reporting districts all showed a decrease in value. The districts varied from a -4.6% in SW district to an 11.0% decrease in NE district since September 2014.

Factors contributing to current farmland values include: lower commodity prices, limited amount of land on market. Other factors include: lack of stable alternative investments, cash on hand, and increasing interest rates.

The Iowa REALTORS® Land Institute 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.

Posted in Land Expo | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Land Investment Monthly – March 2015

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 with “Land Investment Monthly” in the subject line.

Best Choice
CNBC reported in March that farmland is the best choice for a long-term real estate investment. The $1.5 million Black Sea Agriculture fund, which could grow to $10 million within two years, purchases prime ag land and earns an income by leasing it back to local farmers. CNBC explores the population growth and increased food consumption that is driving demands for produce high-quality protein in developing nations. The publication looks at how owners of quality farmland are expected to benefit from these trends, alongside increasing interest demonstrated by institutional investors. “More people need to get into farming,” said commodity investor and international Quantum Fund co-founder Jim Rogers. Otherwise, we won’t have any food.”
Read more.

On the Pulse
Tracking the pulse of the land market requires a definition of what that means in terms of both the quality and location of a particular farm. Peoples Company Land Agent Matt Adams runs down a scenario involving two land auctions, and a case study that requires no crystal ball to see the disparity. His article sums up the non-quantifiable characteristics of farmland that can make a difference in terms of performance – a great, average, or poor sale of a parcel of land.
Read more.

Wealth Effect
The use of technology to track assets in real time while considering the social impact of diverse investment decisions was the topic of interest in a new Barron’s article about the preferences of the world’s richest people. “What’s the impact of my investment, not just the return?” That’s how Jeff Kauffman, head of Chicago-based Northern Trust Global Family Office, puts it. The worth of his average customer stands at nearly $800 million.
Read more.

Pay Dirt
Direct investing in U.S. farmland has averaged annual returns of close to 17 percent over the past decade. So what’s the story behind this consistently high rate of return for those putting their money in dirt? The United Nations has estimated that world food production will have to increase by 60 percent just to keep up with the demand. Arable land suitable for farming comprises only 10 percent of the world’s ag real estate. The Chinese population alone consumes around 200 million tons of food per year. Business Insider, repurposing LandFund Partner’s comprehensive article on the fundamentals of supply and demand, reported on the consistently high investment returns that will likely continue for purveyors of U.S. farm ground.
Read more.

Memory Lane
John Hutchcroft has ridden out the highs and the lows of the farmland and commodities markets back to 1980s. A new blog posts reflects on how the Peoples Company Land Agent’s family adjusted their business-thought process to survive the downturn, and live through the 80s stall. From right-financing business debt to the use of off-farm income to weather a storm, Hutchcroft summarizes both his personal experience and lessons learned.
Read more.

Bone Dry
Bone-dry conditions in California have led Crain Communications to publish a report encouraging farmland investors to establish a strategy for managing the risk and potential harm of historic droughts. Crain reports that investors both with an ownership stake and without an ownership stake in farmland are expected to keep a close eye on the nation’s drought-related headlines while considering how the supply of water could affect their portfolios.
Read more.

Viet Farms
Vietnam’s richest tycoons are expanding with an investment in the agriculture sector as private investors in the Southeast Asia nation channel hundreds of millions of dollars into cattle breeding, as well as growing corn and sugarcane. Despite barriers to entry that include finding large enough swaths of contiguous land on which to produce, farming is less capital intensive, poses fewer risks, and consistently brings profits compared to alternative real estate properties. Thanh Nien News reports on current market conditions in Vietnam, where the primary exports are coffee, pepper and woodwork items.
Read more.

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

Iowa Farmland – Tracking the ‘Pulse’

If one were to try and take the actual “pulse” of the land market right now, an accurate count would be dependent on first defining what that means in light of both the quality of available farms, as well as their location.

Iowa FarmlandIt seems those working to take this “pulse” may want to invest in a crystal ball instead of a heart rate monitor as that’s what would likely be required to see where land prices are and be able to consistently estimate a sales price for a parcel of land currently on the market or an upcoming auction.

There are several variables affecting the farmland market right now. Some are bearish; some bullish. At the same time, considering a “teeter-totter” effect, there are strong arguments that the bearish factors would outweigh the bullish right now.

The quantifiable characteristics of farmland include its CSR, proven yield data, drainage, and soil types. The understanding of these characteristics, and how they relate to both short and long-term goals for or use of land, allow for greater consistency in comparing for shopping for a farm.

The non-quantifiable characteristics of farmland are location, available 1031 exchange money, gauging of investor interest and, of course, overall desirability by the local landowners. These can make a difference in terms of performance in either a great, average, or poor sale of a parcel of land.

One example highlighting the difference between these characteristics was the recent sale of a highly productive 70-acre tract of Iowa farmland near the Boone-Story county line. The land, with a Corn Suitability Rating (CSR) of 82.3, sold at a Peoples Company Land Auction.

“We hope the Fire Marshall doesn’t drive by,” someone joked for fear that the auction may be shut down as more than 100 investors, farmers, bankers, real estate professionals and onlookers had managed to squeeze their way into the community center.

Land Agent Matt Adams said no fire broke out, and the risk of being reprimanded by the Fire Marshall was avoided. The auction concluded with a satisfactory sold price of $10,900 per acre. “I always get a tad anxious before our auctions because of the uncertainty of how the bidding will go,” Adams said. “We were convinced and had consulted with the seller of the farm to expect a possible sales price between $8,750 and $9,500 per acre.”

Another recent auction in Story County near Zearing, Iowa, featured a total of 360 acres for sale and with a respectable CSR in the low 70s. In this example, the auction rang up as a “no sale.” Though these farms are each located in the same county and both have productive soil types, the farm near Slater would be classified as an “A-quality” farm, while the farm near Zearing would be considered a “B-quality” farm.  The differences between one being an “A” quality farm and the other being a “B” quality farm could be determined by looking at a farm’s soil types, drainage, and the location; particularly whether it is an area that attracts farmer and investor interest.

The point is that the value of an “A-quality” farm in an “A-quality” area is expected to remain strong with only a slight discount – if any – from the prices they had commanded in the past few years. On the other hand, the value of a “B-quality” farm in an “A-quality” area will suffer and will have less interest from buyers. There are several examples of land sales that show the deviation between farms that may look similar on paper, yet result in very different outcomes.

Many conversations taking place right now in agricultural real estate tend to gravitate toward what land values are doing, where they are going, and the factors that affect them. A spreadsheet isn’t required to conclude that farm profitability will be less in the short term than what it has been during the past several years.

Even with a restorative extension of Section 179 bonus depreciation back to December 31, 2014 – potentially benefiting those who had made capital investments last year – there are fewer dollars flowing into today’s purchases of new equipment, machine shops and buildings, and grain bins.

Unfortunately, the drop in grain farming and forecasted markets has the potential to make a few examples out of farming operations that didn’t have as strong of a balance sheet as others.

It’s hard to believe that – approximately one year ago – debt-to-asset ratios were at or close to an all-time low. Now, with commodity prices dropping, it would be expected that some of that equity gained would be given back.

The ability to purchase the lion’s share of the farms still belongs by and large to the farmers. Though many feel that will continue – especially given that nearly 80 percent of the land in Iowa is owned free and clear without a mortgage – there are also institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals who will continue to play a larger role in the acquisition of farmland.

These buyers have always had an appetite for farmland, but have been more-often-than-not been outbid by the farmer the last few years. The benefit of more investors entering the market is that they can serve as a “checks-and-balance” with the majority requiring a consistent rate of return. The investor-buyer is also more apt to purchase more with their heads and less with their hearts.

That means the investor will rely on the farm or the farm tenant to provide a certain rate of return.

This variation and uncertainty in land values is one of the more difficult tasks – and also one of the greater opportunities – for land brokerage professionals to differentiate themselves. Being able to capitalize on those “A-quality” areas and execute on alternative options to get results in “B-quality” areas a reason why landowners should seek the highest-quality real estate agent.

“When a client is asking you to provide them with a value and marketing plan for their property, they are going to use the information we give them to make large financial decisions, and it adds a level of sincerity,” Adams said. “The Peoples Company team has always felt as though we can deliver maximum results in any given market, but even more so in a less-aggressive land market.

“In the past few years, it appeared as if anybody with a pulse could have taken advantage of a hot land market to sell farmland. Today, a much more aggressive marketing style and creative approaches, such as sale-leasebacks and IRA purchases, are required to get things sold.”

If you are considering the acquisition, liquidation, or management of your farm or land; contact Matt Adams with Peoples Company for a confidential consultation. Learn more about the aforementioned aggressive marketing strategy and creative approaches to helping you accomplish your farm and land ownership goals.

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

1980s Agriculture – Lessons Learned, Remembered, Shared

Agriculture marks a significant milestone in 2015. Farmers and investors have ridden the train together to new plateaus in both the grain and livestock industries. Interest rates have remained at historical lows. For the first time in years, the general consensus points toward lower grain prices, hence lower land prices.

John Hutchcroft

My family and I went through a downturn 35 years ago. I am a product of the 1980s’ Farm Crisis. I went in on the farm operation in 1976, right out of high school, then on to Iowa State University during the winters of 1976 and 1977.

Ultimately, I went back to the farm for good.

Even at the time, getting bigger was the key to getting more efficient. In fact, it still is. We increased the dairy herd, rented seven more farms, back-grounded feeder cattle, and had a sizable custom farming business. Farming seemed like the place to be. What could go wrong?

Inputs were inline, but inflation kicked in, interest rates rose to 18 percent, and farm commodities tanked. Luckily I had a business mentor who shared the advice to help me survive during that time, and his advice has stayed and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Our family had to readjust our business thought process; how we spent and how we lived during the 80s stall.

That experience and advice has helped to shape me, and to shape future business decisions.

How I view what could happen with cash flow and land values in the upcoming three years.
Recommended Ag Business Strategies:

1. Make sure your long-term debts are financed right for your business. Lock in your interest rates! Three-to-five-year balloon payments can take you out in a sideways market.

2. Make sure your operation isn’t overpowered on machinery. Trade down to cheaper horsepower, or lease or hire a custom farm operator to perform aspects of production for you. Try to bring down that metal-payment in case you have a short crop and / or disappointing prices. Don’t base these decisions on what you think your neighbors think. The grass isn’t always greener in their yard. They probably are having the same problems that you are. Make solid decisions that will help your family long term.

3. Don’t be afraid to pay some income tax. Buying a depreciating item to stay ahead of the IRS can backfire by adding to your short-term and intermediate-term debt load. However, I am a proponent of purchasing real estate when purchased right.

4. Be conservative and question your motives on capital expenditures. Ask yourself “Can I operate next year without this?”

5. Look ahead three, five, or 10 years on your business plan.

6. Off-farm income helps you weather the storm.

7. Don’t be afraid to make changes in your operation that will benefit your family long-term. Look beyond the mainstream of how your operation can handle the downturns. I tell my sons “Never get married to anything that doesn’t have a pulse.”

The next three years may be a learning curve for this generation of farmers. You may have to sell off something that you think you are attached to, but is replaceable. I wonder what will be written in the agricultural history books 10 years from now? We have more cash in the market than in the 80s. We do handle more money today on inputs and rolling stock, but will the low interest rates stay in place?

Long term, I would still rather own land and look for opportunities in a sideways market. Even if land values corrects themselves by 25 percent, you can still see it and drive on it unlike going to the mailbox and seeing the value of paper investments going away.

Good luck!

John Hutchcroft has been with People’s Company for 10 years, and has been a licensed real estate agent in Iowa since 1992. John farmed actively with his family for 34 years with dairy, beef, hogs, and grain west of Indianola, Iowa. He has rented out the land the last five years to pursue his real estate career full time.

Posted in Agribusiness, Land Investing, Land Management | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farm CPA Neiffer on Iowa ARC-Co Payments

Paul Neiffer, CPA, takes a close look at Warren and Dallas counties in light of yield histories and the recent “coffee talk” surrounding ARC-Co payments. He covers off on why your neighbor may have received one and you may have not. Neiffer, a partner with CliftonLarsonAllen in Yakima, Washington, is a regular speaker at national conferences and contributor at He was raised on a farm in central Washington, and has been heavily involved with the agriculture industry his entire life. Check out the excerpt below and click here to visit for the rest of the story.

Paul Nieffer, Farm CPA

South Central Iowa has the lowest yields compared to any other section of Iowa in most years. However, this year, they had record yields and thus, they are likely not to get any ARC-CO payment since their increased yield offset the reduction in corn prices.

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

Land Investment Monthly – February 2015

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 with “Land Investment Monthly” in the subject line.

All Business
Des Moines Register Business Reporter Donnelle Eller presents a report covering diverse views shared from the main stage of the 2015 Land Investment Expo with Dennis Gartman’s outlook on oil, Jim Knuth’s take on ag real estate values, and Donald Trump’s thoughts on investing in Iowa farmland.
Read more.

Land Expo Q&A
A play-by-play of Land Investment Expo moderator Ken Root’s sit-down Q&A with Donald Trump at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel in January 2015. Jeannine Otto, AgriNews Field Editor, reports on the billionaire real estate investor, developer and builder, author and celebrity.
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Dealing Dirt
Jeffrey Obrecht, Peoples Company’s “Dirt Dealer,” poses a question and challenges land professionals to consider the power of practicality along with honest, no-obligation consultations in modern times. Land auction or private treaty? “For some of us, it means getting the rust out and trying to remember how we used to sell farms,” he said.
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Raw Deal
The Real Estate Radio Guys, Robert Helm and Russell Gray, engage me and 2015 Land Expo speaker Dennis Gartman for a “Dirt to Dollars” article and interview that presents a view of agricultural real estate as a long-term investment that cash flows. Scroll to the bottom of the article and press play to “Listen Now.”
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Common Ground
Institutional Investor reports on a growing hunger for real assets and income-producing agricultural properties, such as farmland and commodities, among concerns over inflation. The article covers the recent activities of three land funds – Equilibrium Capital, ACM Permanent Crop Fund and Washington State Investment Board – with 60 percent of respondents to a BlackRock survey reportedly planning to allocate at least one type of real asset over the next 18 months.
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Ag Credit reports on an increase in borrowing, primarily for farm operating expenses, following a slowdown in capital expenditures and amid a decline in grain prices. Multimedia Editor Jeff Caldwell’s article suggests that the ag lending industry is on solid ground. Survey respondents in all Federal Reserve Districts, including Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Kansas City, had indicated the majority of producers were keeping up on their bills, and only a slight uptick in collateral requirements was reported. The Kansas City Fed’s Nathan Kauffman said profit margins in the farm sector could play a major role in determining whether “agricultural credit conditions improve or worsen in the coming year.”
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Socially Responsible Land Investing

Sustainable Momentum
Yield-boosting genetics and production technologies will be required to keep up with global demands for corn and soybeans as more farmland is annexed into urban areas. The EPA estimates that 29 million acres of U.S. farmland were lost between 2000 and 2012. The Motley Fools covers Monsanto, which is developing new platforms that will allow for fewer inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, at the same time increasing efficiency and helping to encouraging higher yields in more sustainable environments. “Sure enough, it also ensures that individual investors will continue to see market-beating returns,” reports Maxx Chatsko. “It’s a win-win-win.”
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Self-Directed IRAs
The tangible feel of hard assets are driving buyers to consider the benefit of using IRAs for real estateinvestments. Self-directed IRAs, allowing for an investment in real estate such as farmland, is permissible by law given that a custodian is in place to hold the assets for the IRA owner. Click below to read more in article published by U.S. News and World Report. Click here to view a Peoples Company YouTube webinar presentation of “Land Investment Opportunities in Your Self-Directed IRA.”
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Almond Water
The production of almonds in the California’s western Fresno County has doubled since 2005, and statewide the market value of almond reached $4.8 billion in 2012. Matt Black’s first-person account of this “white-hot” global commodity reflects his astonishment with the nut – which requires greater quantities of water to produce than corn or soybeans – through the lens of California’s worst drought in decades.
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Friendly Skies
New and ag friendly rules proposed for the commercial use of drone technology could lead to greater adoption and increases in productivity for farm producers, land appraisers and real estate professionals. The Des Moines Register, with attribution to Peoples Company drone operator Alan McNeil, takes a fresh look at FAA’s proposal and opportunities to drive greater efficiency and innovation in Iowa’s ag, real estate and tech fields.
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Interesting Land
Gene Lucht of Iowa Farmer Today digs in with his coverage of the 2015 Land Expo, including the comments of Lafayette College economist Edmund Siefried, who said those interested in land may want to consider a purchase now as interest rates could rise in the next year or two. Questions surrounding oil, land values and appreciation are each explored in this comprehensive report.
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