Land Investment Monthly - April 2018

Published on Apr 13, 2018


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 farm land, recreational ground or development ground.


U.S. cranberry industry is early casualty of incipient trade war

U.S. corn and soybean farmers are concerned about what could happen if President Donald Trump withdraws from the North American Free Trade Agreement, or if China targets agricultural commodities in retaliation for the tariffs on metals. But so far, those two major crops have escaped largely unscathed.

"Cranberries are a small segment of U.S. agriculture," said Terry Humfeld, executive director at the Cranberry Institute, a nonprofit organization founded in 1951 to promote cranberry growers and the industry. "But for our little industry to be impacted does not make any sense. We are concerned."

The timing of the trade tariffs comes as the cranberry industry grapples with a surplus. Last year it voted to dispose of some supply in order to balance it with demand. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the marketing order last month. The industry is recommending growers reduce output 25 percent this year, a plan not used since 2001. Read More


40,000-acre farm goes organic

There are 25 grain bins in Travis Heide’s farmyard, including six massive ones with a capacity of 70,000 bushels each. In total, the bins can store around 550,000 bu. of grain. That’s enough for 10,000 acres of spring wheat, assuming an average yield of 55 bu. per acre.

For most prairie farmers, 550,000 bu. of storage would be more than enough. Not for Heide. He has two other grain storage yards — one near Stockholm, Sask., and another by Whitewood, Sask.

Heide needs a massive number of grain bins because he farms 40,000 acres of cropland in eastern Saskatchewan. Again, for most growers, that would be more than enough.

Not Heide.

He’s converting all 40,000 acres to organic.

“We’re half and half this year, between organic and conventional,” said Heide. “We’ll be 75 percent organic in 2019, and if we don’t add anything else, in 2020 we’ll be 100 percent organic.”

If all goes according to plan, Heide will have the largest organic farm in Canada and possibly in North America. Read More


Millions Own Gas And Oil Under Their Land. Here's Why Only Some Strike It Rich.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that lets private individuals own the minerals under their land, a policy that dates to the founding fathers as they sought to elevate private interests over those of the British Crown. This financial incentive to allow new drilling goes a long way in explaining the nation's natural gas boom. The National Association of Royalty Owners estimates some 12 million American landowners receive royalties for the exploitation of oil, gas and other mineral resources under their property.

But as U.S. production reaches record levels — it recently surpassed the previous high point in 1970 — a complex web of laws and court rulings is evolving over how these royalties are distributed. That's creating vast differences in how much money property owners actually get, and prompting a number of lawsuits accusing energy companies of shortchanging them. Read More


Harnessing the power of soil microbes

There’s a farm in Arkansas growing soybeans, corn, and rice that is aiming to be the most scientifically advanced farm in the world. Soil samples are run through powerful machines to have their microbes genetically sequenced, drones are flying overhead taking hyperspectral images of the crops, and soon supercomputers will be crunching the massive volumes of data collected.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), working with the University of Arkansas and Glennoe Farms, hope this project, which brings together molecular biology, biogeochemistry, environmental sensing technologies, and machine learning, will revolutionize agriculture and create sustainable farming practices that benefit both the environment and farms. If successful, they envision being able to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and enhance soil carbon uptake, thus improving the long-term viability of the land, while at the same time increasing crop yields. Read More


A startling amount of land in Japan has no official owner

 A report last year for the [Japanese] government by a panel of experts estimated that about 41,000 sq km of land, or 11% of Japan’s surface, was unclaimed, most of it in rural regions. By 2040, it warned, the area could more than double. The cumulative cost in lost productivity could be as high as ¥6trn ($56 billion). Read More


As Interest Rates Rise, Beware of Increased Delinquency Rates

According to the Fed, the U.S. economy has the potential to expand 2.7 percent in 2018, and steeper hikes could be in store for 2019 and 2020. Farmers and ranchers are paying close attention to this matter, and planning on how it can and will impact them, especially as the rural economy isn’t seeing much positive news.

Research from ag lender Farmer Mac shows rising interest rates can lead to increased risks for the farming sector, putting pressure on farmland values. If interest rates continue to rise, Farmer Mac warns loan delinquency rates could continue to increase. Curt Covington, senior vice president of agricultural finance for Farmer Mac, says higher interest rates are coming at a time when working capital on farms is dwindling. Read More