According to a recent news article by reporter Linda Qiu, Farmland Values Hit Record Highs, Pricing Out Farmers in the New York Times, deep-pocketed investors, including private equity funds, are dominating the farm real estate market, and some farmland in the midwest has climbed to $11,000 an acre.
On the first days of meteorological winter, this is dark news, complementing the mere nine hours of daylight in snow-covered upstate New York on the winter’s solstice. To be exact, nine hours and three minutes of daylight for my hometown of Albany, New York, based on info from the remarkable website, time and date, where a user can search for “sunrise, sunset, and day length” for any city or place.
According to a 2022 Summary of Land Values from the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United States “farm real estate value” (a measurement of the value of all land and buildings on farms) averaged $3,800 per acre for 2022, up $420 per acre (12.4 percent) from 2021.
According to the data from the USDA, the United States “cropland value” averaged $5,050 per acre in 2022, an increase of $630 per acre (14.3 percent) from 2021, and the United States “pasture value” averaged $1,650 per acre in 2022, an increase of $170 per acre (11.5 percent) from 2021.
Reporter Qiu shares some sad stories related to the financial risks facing actual farmers who grow our food in her reporting, including the skyrocketing cost of land in Redland, an historically agricultural region in the Miami area, where a five-acre property now costs $500,000 to $700,000. Particularly troubling is the fact that “40 percent of farmland in the United States is rented, most of it owned by landlords, who are not actively involved in farming.”
One of the first books reviewed on this website, David Montgomery’s history of agriculture in one must-read volume, Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations, makes the irrefutable argument that humanity’s well-being requires “prioritizing society’s long-term interest in soil stewardship.” Farmland speculation places undue focus on profit with insufficient concern for people and our planet.
What can be done? Users of our website are familiar with our steady advice, for nearly a dozen years, to know where your food comes from, and in the last couple of years, our advice has been fine-tuned, to encourage our readers to support a local family-scale farm that practices regenerative agriculture.
For Earth Day last year, Earthday.org spotlighted regenerative agriculture whose benefits were described succinctly and worth repeating to balance out the troubling news of out-of-control farmland speculation:
Regenerative agriculture counters climate change and promotes food security by restoring soil, organic matter, and biodiversity as well as reducing atmospheric carbon. it’s an evolving holistic nature-based approach that boosts topsoil, food production and farmers’ incomes. The robust soils and diverse ecosystems that its organic practices create yield more high-quality, nutrient-rich produce than conventional agriculture, fostering fruitful farms, healthy communities and thriving economies.
The CSA (community supported agriculture) farm model provides one important way for a nation’s farm system to provide a thriving livelihood for farmers and farmworkers, environmental protection and healthy food. We encourage our readers to search for a farm share by using our directories of CSAs for each of the 50 states, provinces of Canada, and England, Scotland & Wales. Support farmers who are stewards of the soil!
And equally important is to support farmland conservation.
American Farmland Trust recently spotlighted the alarming news that America’s farmland is disappearing at the rate of three acres every single minute in its report, Farms Under Threat. American Farmland Trust takes pride in noting that it has “led a movement that has protected in perpetuity over 6.8 million acres of farmland and ranchland using agricultural conservation easements.” This praiseworthy non-profit organization has also “reduced development pressure on over 300 million additional acres by advancing smart land-use planning and tax policies.”
In northeastern upstate New York, we’ve often sung the praises for the Agricultural Stewardship Association, which has worked to protect the farms, rich soils and agricultural landscape in Washington and Rensselaer counties by conserving over 28,000 acres on 158 properties.
(Frank W. Barrie, 12/21/22)