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Farmland Values Up 20%


by David Oppedahl

Published: Friday, November 18, 2022

The following is from David Oppedahl, senior business economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Climbing 20% in the third quarter of 2022 from a year ago, agricultural land values for the Seventh Federal Reserve District maintained their upward momentum. In addition, values for "good" farmland in the district overall were 4% higher in the third quarter of 2022 than in the second quarter, according to the 160 bankers who responded to the Oct. 1 survey.

While just over two-thirds of the survey respondents anticipated the district's farmland values to be stable during the fourth quarter of 2022, 25% anticipated district farmland values to go up again in the final quarter of this year and 7% anticipated them to go down.

On balance, the district's agricultural credit conditions were better in the third quarter of 2022 than a year earlier, despite average interest rates on agricultural loans rising sharply. Repayment rates for non-real-estate farm loans were higher relative to the same quarter of the previous year for the eighth consecutive quarter.

Additionally, renewals and extensions of such loans were lower than a year ago. In the third quarter of this year, demand for non-real-estate farm loans was down relative to a year ago for the ninth quarter in a row.

Notably, the availability of funds for lending by agricultural banks was lower than in the third quarter of 2021. The average loan-to-deposit ratio for the district edged up to 68.2% in the third quarter of 2022.

Farmland Values

With farm incomes still robust, the district had a year-over-year gain of 20% in its agricultural land values in the third quarter of 2022. This was the fourth year-over-year increase in a row of at least 20% for district farmland values. Indiana led the way with a year-over-year surge in farmland values of 29%; the other district states also saw double-digit year-over-year growth in farmland values (see table).

After being adjusted for inflation with the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCEPI), district farmland values were still up 13% in the third quarter of 2022 relative to a year ago; this was the fifth consecutive quarter with at least as large a year-over-year increase in real farmland values. In nominal terms, the district's agricultural land values in the third quarter of 2022 were 4% higher than in the second quarter.

Even though planting delays in the spring and drought over the summer lowered district states' crop potential, 2022 turned out to be another strong production year. An Iowa banker reported that "harvest to date has exceeded most expectations in light of drought conditions."

For the five district states, both corn and soybean yields in 2022 were the second highest of all time—slightly behind the records set in 2021—according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. In October, the USDA forecasted the five district states' 2022 harvests of corn for grain and soybeans to decrease by 2% and 3% from the 2021 harvests, respectively.

The price of corn in September 2022 was 2% lower than in August, but still 30% higher than a year ago; likewise, the price of soybeans in September of this year was 8% lower than in August, but 16% higher than a year earlier.

In October, the USDA released price forecasts for the 2022-23 crop year of $6.80 per bushel for corn and $14 per bushel for soybeans. So, when calculated using these price estimates, the projected revenues from the district states' 2022 corn and soybean harvests would surpass the record levels of 2021 by 11% and 3%, respectively.

Moreover, the USDA price index for livestock and animal products was up 26% in September 2022 from a year earlier. Compared with a year ago, average prices for cattle, eggs, hogs and milk in September 2022 were up 14%, 157%, 5% and 33%, respectively. Hence, higher livestock and crop revenues looked to positively impact farmland values, even though farmers also had to deal with inflated expenses for agricultural operations and their households.

Credit Conditions

Agricultural credit conditions for the district showed improvement overall in the third quarter of 2022, although higher expenses due to rising interest rates cut into net farm incomes. Agricultural interest rates—in both nominal and real terms—increased rapidly during the third quarter of 2022. As of Oct. 1, the district's average nominal interest rates on new operating loans (6.52%) and feeder cattle loans (6.58%) were at their highest levels since the third quarter of 2008; in addition, its average nominal interest rate on farm real estate loans (6.13% ) was last higher in the second quarter of 2009.

In real terms (after being adjusted for inflation with the PCEPI), the average interest rate on farm operating loans was slightly above zero in the third quarter of 2022, after being in negative territory for the four previous quarters; the average real interest rate on feeder cattle loans followed a similar trajectory over this period. Yet, the average real interest rate on farm real estate loans remained negative for the fifth quarter in a row.

For the July through September period of 2022, repayment rates for non-real-estate farm loans were again higher than a year earlier. The index of loan repayment rates was 121 in the third quarter of 2022, as 23% of responding bankers observed higher rates of loan repayment than a year ago and 2% observed lower rates.

Also, renewals and extensions of non-real-estate agricultural loans were lower in the third quarter of 2022 than a year ago, with just 3% of the responding bankers reporting more of them and 15% reporting fewer.

Collateral requirements for loans in the third quarter of 2022 were up slightly from the same quarter of last year, as 6% of the survey respondents reported that their banks required more collateral and 1% reported that their banks required less.

In the third quarter of 2022, the district saw weaker demand for non-real-estate farm loans relative to a year ago—this marked the ninth consecutive quarter of such softer demand. The index of loan demand was 91 in the third quarter of 2022, as 25% of survey respondents noted higher demand for non-real-estate farm loans than a year earlier and 34% noted lower demand.

The availability of funds for lending by agricultural banks was lower than a year ago for the first time since the second quarter of 2019. The index of funds availability dropped to 96 in the third quarter of 2022, as 21% of the survey respondents indicated their banks had more funds available to lend than a year earlier and 25% indicated their banks had less.

The district's average loan-to-deposit ratio rose to 68.2% in the third quarter of 2022. The gap between the average loan-to-deposit ratio and the average level desired by the responding bankers was 12%age points; moreover, 78% of the survey respondents stated that their respective banks were below their targeted levels.

Looking Forward

Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents anticipated district farmland values to stay the same in the final quarter of 2022, 25% anticipated them to rise, and 7% anticipated them to fall. Also, the survey respondents who expected farmers and nonfarm investors to have stronger demand to acquire farmland this fall and winter compared with a year earlier outnumbered the respondents who expected these groups to have weaker demand.

On the whole, respondents anticipated a rise in the volume of farmland transfers during this fall and winter relative to a year ago.

Net cash earnings (which include government payments) for crop, cattle and hog farmers were expected to be up during the fall and winter from their levels of a year earlier, according to the responding bankers.

For crop farmers, 61% of survey respondents forecasted net cash earnings to rise over the next three to six months relative to a year ago, and 18% forecasted these earnings to fall.

For cattle and hog farmers, 28% of survey respondents expected net cash earnings to increase over the next three to six months relative to a year ago, and 21% expected these earnings to decrease.

The district's dairy industry was expected to do less well, with 17% of responding bankers forecasting higher net cash earnings for dairy farmers over the next three to six months relative to a year earlier and 20% forecasting lower such earnings.

Twenty-five percent of the responding bankers predicted a higher volume of farm loan repayments over the next three to six months compared with a year earlier, while 7% predicted a lower volume.

Also, forced sales or liquidations of farm assets owned by financially distressed farmers were expected to decrease in the next three to six months relative to a year ago, according to 30% of the responding bankers (only 4% expected them to increase). Even in a rising interest rate environment, the non-real-estate farm loan volume of the survey respondents' banks was generally anticipated to be higher in the October through December period of 2022 than in the same period of 2021; yet their banks' farm real estate loan volume was generally anticipated to be lower.

In regard to the current situation facing Midwest agriculture, one Indiana banker noted: "Inputs are much above norms, and if commodity prices begin to fall, it will not be pretty. We still have good equity on most farms, but that can dissipate quickly."

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