Whether you prefer the wide Texas range, the verdant pastures of Missouri or South Dakota's rolling hills near the Missouri River, the ranchland market has been hot, hot, hot.

“I see ranchland values continuing to appreciate, perhaps not as fast,” says Bill Helming, a Lenexa, KS, agriculture economist. “For one thing, the ag economy is doing well, both directly and indirectly as it impacts on land values. And there continues to be strong interest on the part of non-farm investors.”

Indeed. The value of farm real estate jumped 10.4% in 2004 and was expected to add another 7.3% in 2005, estimates USDA's Economic Research Service. It's the continuation of a trend that began to pick up momentum in the early '90s, and then really soared when investors turned from Wall Street to real estate.

In this 2006 special issue, BEEF editors take a look at the ranchland-value phenomenon. Over the following 40 pages, we discuss the conditions that created the value boom, its impact and what it means to America's cow-calf producers. We hope you find it both interesting and useful.