Ohio farmland prices decline; good farmland stable

(Toledo) Overall prices of farmland in northwest Ohio were down in 2009 compared to a year earlier. But agricultural real estate experts said those prices mostly refer to average to poor quality land.

Good land - with excellent soil, good drainage, and good location - continues to fetch a premium.

"People always ask me, 'What's an acre worth?' " said Gary Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Appraisal Service LLC in Oak Harbor. "I always scratch my head and say, 'It depends.' It depends on where it is, the quality, how well is the drainage, how much frontage does it have, and who is located around it. … If it's pure farmland, you may be talking as high as $7,000 an acre for top quality," he said. "The thing is, not a lot of that comes up for sale."

Cropland values decreased in 2009 compared to a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ohio's 2009 average per acre was $3,900, down nearly 6 percent, and Michigan's was $3,370 an acre, down 3 percent.

The national average was $2,650 an acre, down 4 percent.

Agricultural real estate firm Farmers National Co. said high-quality nonirrigated cropland in Ohio averaged $6,000 an acre as of the first week of January.

However, in 2009 it was less. The firm said such land sold for $4,500 to $5,000 an acre last year, and mid to lower-quality land went for $3,000 to $4,500.

Roger Hayworth, Farmers National area sales manager for Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, eastern Kentucky, and western Missouri, said high-quality land with better soil types attracts investors.

"They are actually out there trying to buy land right now for their portfolios," he said. "The marketplace doesn't have a lot of selling going on, but there are a lot of buyers."

But if land isn't high-quality, it's not selling as rapidly and sometimes is not selling at all, Mr. Hayworth added.

Just three weeks ago, vegetable farmer Kyle Shepard of Napoleon bought more than 100 acres from an adjacent farm. He wouldn't disclose the per-acre price but said he paid a premium because it was excellent land.

"I'd say it was a pretty good deal for me because it butts up to my property," he said. "It's sandy land, good for raising vegetables."

Dirk Meyer, a real estate agent and land auctioneer for Whalen Realty and Auction in Napoleon, said land in Henry County contains richer soil than many other areas of northwest Ohio.

As a result, prices were up in the county in 2009 and higher than in other areas. "I've probably sold close to 1,000 acres and farm ground is still at it's highest that it's been in a long time, almost record levels here," Mr. Meyer said.

High-quality land is going for nearly $5,000 an acre in Henry County, he said.

In Williams County, Wilson Auction & Realty Co. of Bryan reported that any "tillable land" sold in 2009 matched prices in 2008, which were about $4,000 an acre.

Prices have remained stable over the last two years, a spokesman for the firm said. The firm recently conducted a sale of 502 acres of prime tillable land that sold for $4,400 an acre.


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