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Winning Team: A Look Back and What’s Ahead for Peoples Company’s Recruiting, Acquisitions in 2015

As we closed out the books for 2014, I found myself reflecting on Peoples Company’s successes, challenges and our sales professionals throughout the past 12 months. It was a great year in which we assisted greater numbers of landowners in the buying and selling of land than ever before. Peoples Company launched its appraisal business and expanded our land management team. Finally, we recruited some of the best-and-brightest sales professionals in the industry to join our team – either individually or through acquisition. All of this has led to unprecedented growth and opportunity for our professionals and the landowners we serve.

Peoples Company team photo

In April, The Dirt Dealer, Jeffrey T. Obrecht, joined the team. He has consistently been the leading land auctioneer and sales professional in Iowa and across the Midwest. Jeff’s primary observation since starting at Peoples Company has been how engaged our agents are, and how in all of his 30-plus years in the industry he’s never witnessed the level of collaboration that he’s experienced here in only a few months. Mollie Aronowitz joined her father, Randy Luze, on the Peoples Company Land Management team.  Together, they have modernized our management systems, increased collaboration with our sales professionals, and streamlined relationships with landowners, farm operators, and vendors.

Late in the year, Peoples Company acquired Total Realty Co. headquartered in DeWitt, Iowa. With this acquisition, Doug Yegge and his team of professionals joined our ranks. Another of the Midwest’s leading land professionals, Doug has been responsible for putting together some of the largest land transactions from Mississippi to Minnesota. Chuck Greene, Dave Heunke, and Jim Keadly are the other members of Doug’s team who add great deal of expertise and experience to the Peoples Company roster.

Each of the land professionals that Peoples Company welcomed throughout the year came to us with valuable experience in the ag industry that helps to bolster our collective knowledge and allows us to better serve our clientele. Bradley Hayes is relatively new to the industry, yet brings solid appraisal experience to our team. Rick Shafer, who recently retired from NRCS, is now a full-time farm and land appraiser helping to lead our new Appraisal division.

Jared Chambers is a skilled auctioneer from Corydon, and adds new depth to Peoples Company’s Land Auction services. Jared, who has won several national auctioneering awards, bolsters our presence southeastern Iowa. Kyle Walker joined the company early in the year and brought his experience of helping lead one of the state’s largest cattle ranching operations. Finally, Travis Smock spent most of 2014 as a Peoples Company New Associate trainee, helping support two of our more experienced agents. He learned the mechanics of the business from land agents such as Daran Becker and Matt Adams, and has proven his acuity for farm brokerage. Travis completed his commitment as a New Associate in November 2014, and began building his brokerage business with a focus of his efforts on Northeastern Iowa.

We are only a few weeks into the New Year and already Peoples Company has added experienced sales professionals to our rolls. Dennis Peterson, who has built a solid real estate career in the Cedar Rapids area, has helped us to establish the company’s newest branch office, and will be working closely with landowners in Eastern Iowa. Archie Kuntz has worn many hats throughout his career, and is now Peoples Company’s newest professional focusing on land sales near Brooklyn, Iowa. Merrill Ahrens recently retired from a successful career in the banking industry. He will be working closely with Jeffrey Obrecht in the north-central part of the state later this spring.

Looking forward to the rest of 2015, we continue to search for experienced professionals interested in joining our team of leading land specialists. The idea of a “team” is probably overused in the workplace today.  While we talk freely about “teamwork” and “team effort,” the truth is that Peoples Company is more like a family. And when looking at bringing a new professional into the company, nothing is more important than how they will fit into the existing culture and dynamic of the organization.

In the real estate industry, sales professionals are generally independent contractors. As such, they tend to be an independent bunch and not prone to sharing business knowledge or asking others for advice. However, we ask our associates to collaborate and work cohesively for the benefit of both our clients and the company. While it sounds simple, this is unique in the industry today. Not often will you find a group of real estate professionals that act as resources and advocates for others within the company.

At Peoples Company, our associates will assist one another to solve challenging problems, share their knowledge to move a deal forward, and even give of their time without compensation to ensure the client is served to best of our abilities. Peoples Company is continually searching for acquisition opportunities and real estate professionals to join our leading land brokerage and farm management company. If you are innovative and resourceful, enjoy working with other professionals and looking for an opportunity to build lasting relationships in your community, we want to talk with you about the opportunities our firm has to offer.

If you’d like to know more about what sets us apart from our peers, please contact me directly at Andrew@PeoplesCompany.com.

Andrew Westlake is the Vice President of and a Broker with Peoples Company. A native of Bozeman, Montana, he grew up on a farm raising wheat and barley alongside a horse and cattle ranching operation. Andrew and his family currently reside in Iowa, where he attended Iowa State University and spent a number of years as an Information Technology Programmer and Analyst in the banking, financial services and insurance industries. Andrew is licensed as Peoples Company’s broker in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. He joined the Peoples Company team in 2008.

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Finding the Perfect Hunting Property

Every outdoorsman dreams of owning their own hunting property, however finding that perfect property is not always easy. If you do your homework and ask yourself a few simple questions the perfect property may be closer than you think. First of all, I am by no means an expert hunter, and it’s highly doubtful you will ever see my face on any hunting show. I’m just an average guy with a passion for hunting in southern Iowa.

My love of the outdoors started at an early age, fishing and hunting with my brother. I got really serious about bow hunting whitetail deer over the past six years. Apart from spending time with my wife and kids, I count down the days until I can climb into my favorite tree stand each October. To me, hunting is about the experience of being in the outdoors and spending time with friends and loved ones.

Peoples Company and other brokerages have numerous recreational properties for sale, and many of my clients are looking for that ‘perfect’ hunting property. I find myself answering questions from prospective buyers on what makes a good property. Of course trail camera pictures of 200 inch bucks and an abundance of red headed gobblers is the easy answer. However, when you really think about buying a good hunting property, many questions need to be answered. Does the farm have a lease in place and does this lease include hunting rights? Does the property have water or electricity on site? Have large bucks been harvested on the property over the years? All these questions are worth asking and hopefully a capable land broker can help you navigate through all the small things to think about when purchasing a hunting property.

Three big questions need to be asked, and hopefully the answer is “YES” before you put in an offer.

Can the property hold and produce quality deer? It gets a little depressing watching hunting shows on TV and seeing them harvest mature bucks each and every year. Many of these bucks live exclusively on property owned by these TV personalities. They name each buck and put together a ‘hit list’ of which bucks are ready to be harvested. This makes for great drama and I set my DVR each week to keep up.

In the real world, most landowners don’t have own properties large enough for deer to exclusively live on their property. You don’t need to own a whole section of farm ground to produce quality bucks. Ideally you need good timber – oaks and other hardwoods – bedding, and year -round food to hold quality deer. The most important is food or the ability to hunt over standing crops or travel corridors between bedding areas and crops.

Farms as small as 40 acres can make great hunting properties, if they tie into larger timber tracts and have food. Personally, I killed my largest buck on a 40-acre farm with only about 10 acres of timber. Neighboring properties may have acres upon acres ofKyle Walker deer hunting standing timber, but if your property has year round food the big bucks will eventually be under your stand. On smaller properties, try to add food plots that contain different types of vegetation. I prefer to hunt over whitetail clover or alfalfa in early to mid-season and brassicas – turnips and rape – during late season. Choose your food plot locations based on predominate wind and trees large enough for stands.  Try to add natural grass areas or enroll some acres in CRP to provide natural bedding areas on your property. Look for farms that have a good balance of crops and timber with at least one water source. Corn and beans are great food sources but additional food plots are needed with late season foliage to hold deer during late season and into shed season.  Finally, keep mineral sites on your farm for antler growth and overall herd nutrition.

Is the property income producing? Most buyers wanting to purchase recreational land are also looking for some return on their investment. Buyers initially want a sizeable hunting property complete with an abundance of timber. This idea is quickly vetoed when buyers realize standing timber equates to minimal or no return on their investment. Buyers then recognize that they need tillable acres to maximize return and make their investment look favorably on a piece of paper.

If you’re truly interested in buying a quality hunting property, please understand these properties will not show a 4 percent to 5 percent return on investment. Investors will jump on properties that show a 4 percent net return after taxes, insurance, et cetera, and these farms generally have little or no timber. They may also be tied up in a long CRP contract or some sort of a sale-leaseback clause.

Timber acres can also be an additional revenue stream if you’re willing to part with timber. Tree buyers are generally looking for walnut and oaks, and to a lesser degree maple, cottonwood, and hickory. When assessing a farm in southern Iowa I usually put a $1,000 to $1,500/acre value on timber acres. This depends on the type of trees, the maintenance, slope of the land and overall age / quality of the timber. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has a complete list of bonded timber buyers. Please visit the website below to learn more.

Look for properties that are close to 50 percent to 50 percent in row crop and timber. Properties that show a 2.5 percent to 3 percent net return are more realistic when buying a recreational property, and should be given a serious look when you’re ready to purchase a property.  Most hunters are not interested in actually farming their property and need a little help taking advantage of all revenue streams. Peoples Company has a complete land management department headed by Randy Luze and Mollie Aronowitz to help you maximize revenue on your new property.  They can help you find quality tenants, pay taxes, insurance, increase land values, and address all questions pertaining to your property.

Do the surrounding landowners actively manage hunting? Good fences make good neighbors, but a good relationship with nearby landowners is critical to a good hunting property. Harvesting mature deer is usually an outcome of a collaborative effort with neighboring landowners. Ideally, your neighbors will work with you and allow deer to reach maturity or harvest ‘management’ bucks to wean out bad genetics. Three years of good deer management can completely change and improve the entire genetics in an area.

Everybody knows a nearby landowner who allows anybody and everybody to hunt on their property. These properties have commonly been in the landowner’s family for generations, and the owner is usually well liked in the community. They have a hard time saying ‘no’ when asked to hunt their property. In Iowa, a deer herd can be nearly ruined by large groups’ shotgun hunting and shooting anything that moves.

Investigate neighbors and try meeting the surrounding landowners before you put in an offer. Working with like-minded neighbors can transform an eighty acre property into one that hunts like a thousand acres.

Peoples Company agents are interested in helping buyers find that perfect property. Please visit www.PeoplesCompany.com or contact me with any questions at (515) 291-5766 or Kyle.Walker@PeoplesCompany.com.

 

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Myron Stine, Son of Billionaire Seed Entrepreneur Harry Stine, Slated for the 2015 Land Expo

Myron Stine, the son of billionaire seed entrepreneur Harry Stine, has been confirmed as a speaker for the 2015 Land Investment Expo presented by Peoples Company on January 23, in West Des Moines, Iowa. High-density corn will be the topic of his presentation.

Myron Stine started his career at Adel-based Stine Seed as a farm worker and worked his way up through the organization, which is deemed as one of the largest and most successful seed companies in the world. With a background in crop science, the McPherson College alum has served as district manager, regional manager and sales director before taking on his current vice president of sales and marketing role.

Myron StineHarry Stine, who grew up as part of a poor, hard-working Central Iowa farming family that put in 12-hour-plus workdays to make ends meet, is founder and president of Stine Seed. Last year, at the age of 73, he was the only Iowan to make the Forbes 400 – a list of the world’s richest people.

The family’s fortune, amassed by “revolutionizing the agriculture industry” via innovations in corn-and-soybean crop genetics and plant breeding, includes approximately 26,000 acres with 20,000 acres of Iowa farmland – some of the most arable and valuable ground in the world. Today, Stine Seed is focused on the growth and efficiency of high-density – or high-population – corn that’s intended to beef up production of animal feed and biofuels.

And produce enough food to satisfy the demands of a worldwide population expected to go north of 9 billion people by 2050.

Register today at www.LandInvestmentExpo.com to hear from Myron Stine in person during the 2015 event, as well as Donald Trump, Dennis Gartman, and a whole round up of expert presenters or commentators operating in numerous agricultural real estate, crop production and farmland investing fields.

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Trump, on C-Span, Talking of Real Estate Business, Politics in Iowa

Donald Trump, president and chair of the Trump Organization, kicks off a discussion with Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein with talk of his upcoming trip to Iowa.
Donald Trump on C-span
Rubenstein interviewed Trump at The Economic Club in Washington, D.C., with topics related to the real estate magnate’s political aspirations and business goals.

“There is a real estate dinner in Iowa done by a very, very big company – and a terrific company – and they asked me to be the keynote speaker,” Trump said. “So, I’m there for two reasons: real estate and politics.”

Trump, who is seriously considering a run for president in 2016, plans to make a decision by spring. The Land Expo takes place January 23, at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel.

There is a limited number of tickets still available. Learn more at www.LandInvestmentExpo.com.

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LAND EXPO SPEAKERS AND TOPICS

2015 Land Expo Speakers and Topics

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Land Investment Monthly – January 2015 – Land Expo Edition

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.

Donald Trump and Steve Bruere at Trump Tower in New York

Donald Trump and Steve Bruere.

The Land Investment Expo is two weeks away with Donald Trump scheduled to headline the annual conference presented by Peoples Company and featuring presentations by some of the most recognizable names in land ownership.

The first Land Investment Monthly of 2015 is dedicated to highlighting the buzz around The Donald, and those such as Jim Rogers, T. Boone Pickens or Dennis Gartman, who’ve either spoken at the Land Expo in years past, or are in line to present at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel on January 23.

The Land Expo is the Midwest’s premier agricultural real estate conference with in-depth programming that covers topics ranging from commodities prices and farmland values to socially responsible land investing and future of agricultural real estate.

Join us in Iowa this January along with Donald Trump, Dennis Gartman and Eric O’Keefe, along with Land Expo moderator Ken Root and more than 600 attendees to consume a day full of educational breakout sessions and expert commentaries covering the land investing trends and topics that are of greatest interest to you.

A limited number of tickets are still available and can be purchased via online registration at www.LandInvestmentExpo.com.


Serious Drudge
The Drudge Report was among the media to pick up the Des Moines Register’s story on Donald Trump’s visit to Iowa to speak at the Land Expo. The article covers the potential presidential candidate’s plans to follow the Land Expo by attending an invitation-only dinner event at the Stine Barn with Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and other prominent leaders, celebrities and businesspeople.
Read more.

Dollar Power
Land Expo speaker Dennis Gartman, making his inaugural appearance at the conference in 2015, has been directly involved in the capital markets since August of 1974. The editor and publisher of The Gartman Letter, who is sourced and quoted regularly in business or financial publications, has been making a lot of noise as of late about declining oil prices and the brokenness of OPEC. He also expects the U.S. dollar to power up in 2015. Gartmantold CNBC that, “I think the bull market in the dollar has really only just begun. Of course there’ll be corrections along the way.”
Read more.

Land Publisher
Author, editor and journalist Eric O’Keefe has covered everything from the NFL to Willie Nelson, as well as numerous celebrities and politicians during a 20-year career. Since 2006, that career has included the publication of The Land Report – or The Magazine of the American Landowner – a quarterly publication centers covering topics of interest for landowners and those interested in investing in land. O’Keefe’s insights and opinions, which he will share live from the main stage of the 20015 Land Expo, have been been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Investor’s Business Daily.
Read more.

Inside Rogers
Business Insider published an excerpt from Jim Rogers’ “Street Smarts” last month and included a synopsis of the Wall Street legend’s view on how to become a successful investor. Rogers, the author and billionaire adventurer who headlined the Land Expo in 2013, writes that sometimes doing nothing is the most prudent course of action. “That is how you make money,” he says.
Read more.

T. Boone Oil
Oil-and-energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens said on January 5, that he expects that oil prices won’t reach $100 a barrel for 12 to 18 months. Fox Business News conducts an on-camera interview with the 2013 Land Expo speaker regarding the future of oil and cost of energy.
Watch more.

Farm Foods
More food in the next 40 years will need to be produced by people than the previous 10,000 years combined, causing institutional types such as pension funds to consider global prospects in farmland investing. The Economist, reporting that the most patient and diligent investors are poised to reap the largest rewards, shines a light on “Barbarians at the Farm Gate.” The article includes thoughts on helping farm producers to attract more capital and grow their operations while investors deal with the sector’s “peculiar risks and complexities,” such as commodities prices or soil health.
Read more.

Fabled Acres
The world can’t “grow” new farmland, but that doesn’t mean more of it can’t be produced to meet worldwide demands for commodities such as ethanol and soybeans. DTN Executive Editor Marcia Zarley Taylor plays myth buster in a look at Purdue University’s analysis by economist Chris Hurt. The U.S. shuffled plantings to add 21.3 million acres of corn and soybeans between 2005 and 2014. DTN reports, by reducing acreage in crops such as hay, cotton and oats while adding former CRP land or working with double-crop soybeans. Though the supply of global farmland is limited, “acreage surges show new cropland gets planted until demand catches up to supplies.”
Read more.

Read more about the 2015 ​Land Investment Expo and speakers, including climate economist and commodity yield expert Dr. Simon Atkins, executive consultant Dr. Edmond J. Seifried and other​s ​at www.LandInvestmentExpo.com.

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​Olympic Gold Medalist ​Shawn Johnson o​n Land Investment Expo Speaker Donald​ Trump’s Political Aspirations​, “Celebrity Apprentice”

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson will appear Sunday on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” as the real estate magnate and 2015 Land Investment Expo keynote Donald Trump launches his seventh season of the ​merciless reality television show.

Johnson, 22, just wrapped up her second season on “Dancing with the Stars” and is now competing on ​”The Celebrity Apprentice” to raise money for the not-for-profit Character Counts in Iowa.

But she’s not the first Iowan to go toe-to-toe with Trump in front of a national audience.

​Johnson follows Tana Goertz, the radio host and motivational speaker who appeared as an “Apprentice” finalist in 2007. Both reality stars were quoted in a Des Moines Register article with talk of Trump’s potential presidential bid.

Goertz commented on the presidential nature of Trump’s straight-​forward ​attitude and decision-decision-making skills. “He’d be an amazing president because he is a leader,” she said. He’s very decisive, and he doesn’t put up with nonsense.”

Johnson, working to wrap her head around the ​concept ​of The Donald as president, said she “actually loved him,” found him to be a “very respectable guy,” and wished “all the power to him.”

“I mean, he puts on a crazy show, but he’s really nice,” Johnson told the Register. “I got to talk with him and his daughter (Ivanka Trump) off camera a lot. He was intimidating the first few times I saw him, but he’s a good guy.”

Catch Iowa-native Shawn Johnson at 8 p.m. CST on Sunday, along with celebrities Gilbert Gottfried, Geraldo Rivera and Kate Gosselin​, who are each taking a celebrity dive into the 2015 competition.

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Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey Explores Aerial Seeding of Cover Crops with Peoples Company

Peoples Company in early September set the stage for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to fuel some boots-on-the-ground dialogue surrounding the use of targeted land conservation practices on Iowa farmland.

The field day began with Northey stepping onto the tarmac at Osceola Municipal Airport to visit with Peoples Company President Steve Bruere and Land Manager Mollie Aronowitz as employees of  Indianola-based Agri-Tech Aviation Inc. loaded winter rye seed into an Air Tractor 402 idling on a runway. The seed would later be aerially applied on a 150-acre demonstration farm managed by Peoples Company just south of the airport.

Northey, an Iowa native and fourth-generation farmer who in January 2015 will begin serving his third consecutive term as the state’s agriculture chief, said the practice of sowing cover crops is taking hold with greater numbers of landowners and producers looking into the positive and lasting effects of limiting nutrient runoff, stifling erosion and increasing organic matter. He visits annually with farmers and industry leaders in each of Iowa’s 99 counties to better understand how they are maximizing breakthroughs in science and exploring the potential for innovative technologies intended to protect air, water and land.

“There have always been some folks who’ve done a little bit with cover crops, but we see the interest really growing,” Northey said. “We think we’ve doubled the number of cover crops each of the last few years. It’s still a small number in Iowa. It’s a great practice for the field and controlling erosion. Certainly has the possibility of creating some organic matter, as well. But it’s a great water quality practice. Iowa State’s research will show about a 30 percent reduction in the amount of phosphorus leaving the farm, and another 30 percent in the average amount of nitrogen leaving a farm on an average year with a cover crop planted.”

The preservation of organic material and a reduction in nutrient leaching are among the primary benefits associated with laying down a winter cover crop such as cold-hearty rye, which can be aerially seeded or drilled into the dirt following harvest, and is typically killed off using a herbicide the following spring.

Northey spoke with Agri-Tech’s aviation crew – who shared their perspective on what works or what doesn’t in the air and on the field – before a pilot departed and engaged GPS-guidance technology to help ensure as complete coverage as possible as he lined up to spray the rye on a field of standing corn a few miles away.

Aronowitz, who has a diverse background in Midwest agriculture, horticulture and her own family’s Iowa farming operation, watched as the conversation went beyond the face value of cover crops – in terms of their ability to control erosion and build soil – and to the future importance of documenting both the methods and results of land conservation practices today.

“A standard measuring matrix can help,” she said. “But what’s good on one farm isn’t always the best for another. Whether we’re talking about cover crops, tilling practices or fertilizer application timing, it all depends on variables such as soil type, slope and location in the state. By collecting and comparing research, we will ultimately allow farmers and managers to make more informed decisions when it comes to crop intelligence. We can set benchmarks and begin to evaluate which collection of practices is expected to have the greatest net-positive impact on individual farms.”

Northey, discounting any notion of a one-size-fits-all approach to land management, acknowledged that there is plenty of room for creativity and innovation in the farmland marketplace. Some of technologies that are introduced will work. Others will not. “None of these tools are universal,” he said. “That’s why we need decision-makers. It’s not like the government can just say, ‘Hey everybody does this.’ It’s needs to be the right thing, in the right place, for the right operation. We are all going to learn from each other as we have field days. We’ll target these pieces based on the operator, based on the land.”

He compared caring for the land with the keeping maintenance records on a car or pickup truck. “Picture two vehicles sitting side-by-side,” Northey said. “They may have been taken care of. May look the same. But if one has maintenance records, and you are able to understand what happened to that vehicle over the past five years, you have more trust. First of all, you know what did happen. But second, you know that someone cared for it.”

Bruere sees collaboration as a critical piece, too, as well as a need to properly capture and share the results of land conservation practices; tasks that fall squarely into the wheelhouse of today’s farm producer or land manager. “The necessity of capturing and communicating fertility history is growing right along with investor interest in farmland,” he said. “Landowners have never been in a stronger position to leverage technology and information to gain valuable insights into the history and future predictability of their land. These types of applications go hand-in-hand with profitability, sustainability of and the appreciation of productive farmland in Iowa and other corn-and-soybean producing states.”

Northey, who said research and communication are key elements to the success of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy program, anticipates that in time cover crops will become even more of “an economic driver for farmers, in addition to the water quality benefits.”

He recalled how earlier this year a sense of pride and accomplishment swept recently over his friends in Washington County, following the addition of cover crops to their annual rotations of corn and soybeans. “They’d go out right after rain and watch water flow off the field,” Northey said. “In some cases it was too much water, to be able to all be soaked in. The water coming off those cover crop fields was clean; it had no soil in it or almost no soil in it. It gave them a lot of pride. They were holding that soil in place. They were doing the right thing. And they were maintaining the long-term productivity, as well, of that farm.”

Aronowitz said Peoples Company embraces conservation practices throughout tillable and non-tillable managed acres with a goal of minimizing soil erosion in all farming operations and mitigating the impacts of soil or productivity loss on a farm’s balance sheet. The Iowa State University graduate said everyone has a part to play and that it is people coming together from all areas of the agriculture industry that will have the greatest impact on uncovering new innovations in soil conservation – while at the same time improving water quality.

“This is no longer just an issue important to a handful of small farmers,” she said. “It is the future of how we farm and buy or sell land here.”

“We’re no longer thinking in black-and-white,” Bruere said. “This is about managing for the future and managing for long-term appreciation more so than the cash return piece. You have to start with one farm first and make it work before you can scale it. You have to document that it’s working. You have to communicate that.”

“To be able to show that the folks managing this farm went above and beyond the simple practice of getting the crop in and getting the crop out of the ground – and sold – can create value in that farm beyond just what the soil looks like or where it sits,” Northey said. “A company reaching out and being a part of this is very important. This is how we learn the pieces that will get us to that better information 10 years from now.”

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Information Overload: Adding Value to Your Farm

We live in a society where we can find almost any information we are looking for by simply doing an internet search.

You can find anything from college basketball stats in 1978, to the part number of a headlight for a new John Deere R Series tractor.  On the other hand, farm owners or potential farm buyers need to do a lot more research to find property information, and some may not even be available.

When combining all of the new technologies in today’s agriculture industry, including data collecting software and new differences in crop insurance plans with yield history and field knowledge gained by a farmer over the years, it’s easy to see the overload of information we could have on each individual farm.

That being said, it takes more than a high Corn Suitability Rating or CSR value to get the top dollar out of a farm.

Compiling all of this information can make a large difference in the overall price of a farm when it is sold, or the cash rent numbers collected. A farm that has current tile maps, fertilizer maps, yield data, and soil test data will traditionally bring a sales or cash rent premium over a similar farm with less information available. Many of today’s farmers have sophisticated data tracking software or have a working relationship with outside companies to provide them with data to enhance their yields. If a farm is being rented by a farmer, most of this information is rightfully owned by that operator. In those situations, the landowner conceivably should be writing language into their lease agreements allowing access to certain information if they decide to sell.

There are many instances where a string or two of tile was added by a farmer to improve the drainage, but they were never mapped out, similar to yield and fertilizer data which were never stored into memory and were long lost by the time a farm was ready to change hands.

Although collecting all of this information is the first and arguably the most important step, understanding what is collected is also very important. Increasing yield and preventing erosion are two of the best ways to add value to a farm, and the data collected can tell you where tile, fertilizer, waterways, or grass strips may need to be added to enhance the tillable acres.

Whether you are a farm operator, a farming landowner, or a non-farming landowner, collecting data and understanding how to use it to produce optimum results of each individual farm should be a top priority. With farm operations growing larger, there are more opportunities for tenant/landowner relationships to grow. Sharing information helps both parties by improving the land to help the current operator maximize yield along with increasing the value of the farm.

A few examples would be testing soil and adding fertilizer where needed, investing in tile and waterway work, and understanding situations where it may be best to increase or decrease tillable acres, such as removing trees or enrolling wet or erodible ground into a conservation program.

The latest farm bill has brought on new factors that could affect the value of the farm, too. The landowner has the option to update the base acres, and the farm operator can chose between PLC and ARC farm programs. The option that is chosen will be locked in through 2018, with the final payment coming in 2019, regardless if the farm changes hands during that time.

In closing, compiling and understanding all of the information associated with a farm can add value both annually and at the time of a sale. If a landowner doesn’t want to take the hands-on approach such as compiling data and working with a farm operator to improve their property, a land management company such as Peoples Company can be a very affordable way to add value to the farm.

Farmers and investors are becoming more and more sophisticated in buying and renting farm ground and are demanding information on yield, fertility, and drainage before they will pay a premium for land. In today’s market, that could be the difference between a sale or a no-sale.

As the late entrepreneur Victor Kiam once said, “Information is a negotiator’s greatest weapon.”

Travis Smock is a Land Sales Associate with Peoples Company. He may be reached at Travis.Smock@PeoplesCompany.com.

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Energy Entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens Shares Outlook on Oil Prices

Oil and energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens shares with Neil Cavutoa of Fox Business News a global outlook on production, inventories and oil prices heading into 2015.

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