Buyer demand appears strongest in Nebraska, where pasture tracts are trading at an estimated $1,388/acre, or 18% above midyear 2012 levels.

In neighboring Kansas, quality bluestem pasture is fetching $1,500-$2,000/acre — unchanged from a year ago, says Richard Griffin, with Griffin Real Estate and Auction Service in Cottonwood Falls.

“Everyday ranchers who make their living running several hundred head of cattle are sitting back and waiting until we have an adjustment down,” Griffin says. “If CD rates start paying 3% to 4%, I don’t think people will invest in land; they will leave their money in cash.”

In the southern Midwest and northern Mid-South, pasture values are 1% above a year ago, and range from $1,757/acre in the Memphis region to $2,913/acre in the St. Louis region, according to the Federal Reserve.

In the North Central region, pasture values were up 9% for the 12 months through June. Prices range from an estimated $488/acre in Montana to $544 in North Dakota, $1,783 in South Dakota, $2,250 in Minnesota and $2,275 in  Wisconsin, reports the Fed.

In Texas, ranchland values were trading mostly even for the 12 months through June. The Northern High Plains remains a hotbed of activity, driven by interest in grassland that can be developed into irrigated cropland. Here, ranchland values have risen 14% to an estimated $527/acre, the Fed says.

Cropland expansion pushes pasture rents

Pasture rents continue to be pressured higher by demand for row-crop land expansion and the higher profits derived from crop production.

In Kansas’ 14-county Flint Hills region, which often serves as a benchmark for pasture rates across the Plains, full-season summer contracts (with and without caretaking) averaged $21.10/acre this year, according to the Bluestem Pasture Release, published by the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Lease rates ranged from $20.40/acre in the southern zone to $21.80/acre in the central zone. Full summer-season contracts typically commence around April 24 and end Oct. 17.

values in U.S. pastureland

Partial-summer season contracts, which can include both early intensive grazing and three-quarter-length season reports, averaged $23.70/acre, and ranged from $22.10/acre in the southern zone to $25.90/acre in the central zone.

Landowner caretaking services usually include burning and fence maintenance, and can include a guaranteed head count, salt and minerals, and weed control.

Surveys of market conditions through this year’s first half indicate pasture rents are up an average of 4% from a year ago across Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. Meanwhile, rates have climbed nearly 16% in the Mountain States of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Ranchland lease rates range from $65/acre in Nebraska to $55/acre in western Missouri, $24/acre in Kansas, and $18/acre in Oklahoma. They average $16/acre across Colorado, northern New Mexico and Wyoming, according to bankers surveyed by the Federal Reserve in June.

At midyear, bankers say pasture lease rates this year vs. a year ago in the North Central U.S. ranged from up 27% in Minnesota to up 6% in South Dakota. Rents averaged $96/acre in Minnesota, $53/acre in South Dakota and $24/acre in North Dakota.

Across the southern Midwest and northern Mid-South, pasture rents range from $88/acre in the Louisville region to $52/acre in the Memphis region, says the June Fed survey. A midyear survey by the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and the University of Illinois estimated that the average statewide charge for pasture rents is $40/acre. That’s slightly under USDA’s 2013 rent survey, which pegged state-level pasture rents steepest in Illinois, at an average $53/acre.

At the county level, the five highest average pasture lease rates are $77.50/acre in Iowa’s Harrison and Pottawattamie counties; $76/acre in Fulton County, IN, and Lebanon County, PA; $70.50/acre in Cuming County, NE, and Washington’s King and Whatcom counties; $70/acre in Iowa’s Crawford and Shelby counties; and $69.50/acre in northeast Nebraska’s Pierce County.

In Indiana, pasture lease rates average $94/acre statewide, ranging from $65/acre in the southeast to $135/acre in the west-central region, according to a June survey by Purdue University. Lease rates for established alfalfa/alfalfa-grass hay ground average $175/acre, and range from $121/acre in the southeast to $208/acre in west-central Indiana. Grass hay rents average $136/acre (range: $72-$173).


Michael Fritz is editor and publisher of Farmland Investor Letter. Reach him at or visit


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