For the first time since 1987, farm real estate value has declined, according to the "2009 Land Value and Cash Rents Summary" report released by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

"The contraction in the overall economy has caused less commercial and residential development in many regions. Livestock and crop commodity prices have declined from a year earlier, thus producers and investors are less optimistic than a year ago," say NASS analysts. "A decrease in the demand for recreational land has also contributed to the overall decrease in land values."

In round numbers, pastureland values declined by $20/acre (1.8%) compared to 2008 to $1,070/acre. Of course, that’s still 45% higher than the national average of $740 in 2005.

Pasture rental rates remained unchanged on a national basis at an average $10.50/acre. Regionally, pasture rent values declined the most in the Southeast (Alabama, Florida and Georgia) down $4/acre to $19.50 compared to a year earlier. Rent value declined $3 to $18.50 in Louisiana and Mississippi.

While pasture rent in the Northern Plains and the Mountain regions remained unchanged from the previous year, rents in the Southern Plains decreased by 20¢. The Northern Plains, Southern Plains, and Mountain regions account for nearly 81% of the cash rented pasture acreage in the U.S. The cash rent paid for pasture in the Corn Belt region decreased $1 to $31/acre, which is the highest cash rent paid for pasture in the U.S.

Cropland values declined by $110/acre (3.9%) to an average value of $2,650/acre. That’s still 29% higher than the average value of $2,060 in 2005.

Farm real estate values, a measurement of the value of all land and buildings on farms, averaged $2,100/acre on Jan. 1, 2009, down 3.2% from 2008. Regional changes in the average value of farm real estate ranged from virtually no change in the Northern and Southern Plains regions to an 11% decline in the Mountain region. The highest farm real estate values remained in the Northeast region at $4,830/acre. The Mountain region had the lowest farm real estate value, $922/acre.

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