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Farm Land Changing Hands

December 20, 2013, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Farm Land Changing Hands

Not far from the small town of Wilmot in rural Roberts County, Jason Frerichs is part of a family farming operation which also includes his two brothers.

"I'm very fortunate when you look at our operation that my folks, along with anyone else that's been involved, were willing to take those risks and obviously have adequate acres to provide room for a nice foundation for my brothers and myself to continue to farm and obviously work with other landlords to make our operation successful," Frerichs said.

His dad Kent is one of many farmers across the country who will be passing farmland on to new hands. The United States Department of Agriculture predicts 70 percent of U.S. farmland will change hands over the next couple decades.

"It's a real pleasure for my wife Faye and I to be able to see our sons wanting to get into production agriculture," Kent said.

Kent plans to be one of the prepared farmers. He and his wife are working on a transfer plan they feel is fair to all their kids.

"I think we're fortunate that we're able to try to work out any of these concerns that we might have and through the process of communication we hope that we can get some degree of satisfaction," Kent said.

But not everyone who owns land has kids interested in farming.

"I'm hopeful that a bulk of the land that changes hands will still have the local perspective," Kent said.

He wants producers who care about the local community to farm it. Jason says he wants to place his stake near his hometown.

With high land prices, Jason and other young farmers will watch to see how the land changes hands.

"I would like to see many of our young and beginning producers receive a shot at being able to purchase that land and be actively involved in keeping that land in those local communities," Jason Frerichs said.

According to the 2013 SDSU Farm Real Estate Market Survey, agricultural land values have more than doubled since 2009 and have increased six-fold from 2001.

"What makes me very nervous are the $10,000 an acre land sales," Jason said. "And I don't begrudge individuals seeking out the highest dollar they can achieve. But when we see $10,000 an acre land sales and see $5,000 an acre land sales, it may not be the same exact type of soils but yet being in similar regions, a person really has to wonder what is the reality out there."

With rent increasing along with the land values, Kent knows the costs can be prohibitive for the next generation.

"At the same time, it's going to be possible, I think, if they're going to do it in a business-like way,” Kent said. “And I think the pendulum is going to start swinging back a little. As much as we hate to see the grain prices decreasing now from what they were a year ago, I imagine that's going to curtail some of the wild increases in land prices as well as land rent hopefully and make it more possible for younger generations to take over."

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