Update: Ag Land Prices Soar, Record Sale in Clay County

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

Auctioneer Randy Ruther says a farm similar to the 160 acre gravity irrigated one in Clay County he auctioned off would have brought $6,000-7,000 an acre a year ago. On Monday it sold for twice that.

"We'd had three sales about three weeks ago - $10,900; $11,600; $11,700 - but $12,000 seems to be an all time high for Nebraska real estate," said Ruther of Monday's Clay County sale.

Ruther says auctions have been the way to go when selling farm land this year because the market changes quickly.

"I describe it as like trying to hit a moving target with your eyes closed because it's been going so fast," he said.

Reports from UNL's Department of Ag Economics and the USDA say when 2011's record land values are adjusted for inflation those numbers show new historic highs, leaving many to wonder if this is a market bubble or a new plateau.

"The good news here is that so many of these land sale now are from people who don't really have to have them financed," said Roger Doerr, a professor of business administration and economics at Hastings College. "They've had success with crop prices in recent years and are cash flow savvy enough that a lot of this is taking place without major borrowing."

Doerr says Nebraska ag land is unlikely to drop much in value as the world population grows and looks to the US for food. Doerr also believes water will be a world concern in the coming decades as oil is now.

"Fresh water is a very small percent of this planet and we're sitting on top of the Ogallala Aquifer and we have streams running by that are fresh water - this is going to be the key to a lot of economic security for Nebraska," he said.

Ruther says as long as commodity prices and yields are high and interest rates low, there isn't much to stop land prices for the near future.

"There's always corrections and there's little highs and lows and we could hit one of those, but the present time I don't see anything that's going to knock off this price drastically," Ruther said.

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