The value of land

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 18, 2017

What’s the real value of an acre of Iowa farmland? It depends on who you ask and what you mean by value. My ag economist training will look at the net present value of future earnings from the farm. The Iowa farm boy in me knows that there are intangibles that are difficult to put a price on. The farm I grew up on in Mills County sold the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We were tenants and never owned it, but it shaped me from an early age. My sister tried to convince me to buy it when it sold in the early 1990s. She said the place had a lot of memories. I pointed out it also had a lot of ditch and it wasn’t that good of a farm. This time the farm sold for approximately three times the price from 25 years earlier. I guess I missed out on both counts.

Iowa State University has been analyzing the monetary value of Iowa’s farm land annually since 1941, and we were the first in the nation to do so. The ISU Land Value Survey provides information on general land value trends, geographical land price relationships and factors that influence the Iowa land market. The survey doesn’t provide a direct estimate for any particular piece of property. Did you know?

  • After three years of decline, the average estimated value of an acre of Iowa farmland increased to $7,326 in 2017. (See the news release to learn more.)
  • The survey is based on reports by licensed real estate brokers, farm managers, appraisers, ag lenders and others who know land market conditions, as well as actual land sales. The 2017 survey is based on estimates from 710 agricultural professionals.
  • Wendong Zhang has led the survey since 2015. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics and extension economist, and is affiliated with the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. Previously, extension economist Mike Duffy led the survey, from 1983 to 2014.
  • CARD has developed a portal where you can dig deeper into the 2017 survey results, find more land value data and examine land value trends and expectations.

A few more notes

  • U-TuRN, Iowa State’s new transdisciplinary, translational research network, would like ISU Extension and Outreach staff, faculty and council members to take part in a survey. U-TuRN is seeking our help in better understanding the community health challenges facing Iowans, as well as the resources available to address these issues. We’re not health professionals, but the work we do in ISU Extension and Outreach is vital to Iowans’ health and wellbeing. Please participate in the U-TuRN survey by Jan. 15.
  • Whether you plan to be out for a day, a week or longer during the holidays, also plan for how your clients can get their needs met while you’re gone. Two easy steps are to 1) set up an automated email response with information about who to contact for immediate assistance, and 2) update your voice mail messages with the same information.
  • Please join me in thanking all the folks who recited the Extension Professional’s Creed for our special holiday video. They represented us well. Also, please share the video with people in your network. It may not explain to your brother-in-law what you do, but it is a fun and effective way to explain why we do it.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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