Housing bust returns U.S. farmland to farmers

TRD New York /
Nov.November 14, 2011 04:19 PM

In the wake of the housing bust, farm land scooped up by developers with plans for lucrative housing complexes is returning to the hands of farmers who use it for agriculture, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As prices of crops rise farm income has increased to its highest inflation-adjusted level since 1973, and the value of cropland in the continental United States has gained 20 percent in the last four years as a result. Meanwhile, home values have plummeted some 70 percent, especially in areas far from business centers, like farmland, because of rising gas prices and high unemployment rates.

As a result, farmers are picking up land at deep discounts from what developers paid for it just a few years earlier. For example, a dairy farming family paid $8 million in September for a 760-acre field in Arizona that a real estate developer had paid $40.8 million for just six years earlier. A 430-acre swatch of cotton fields in the state was recently reacquired for $1.75 million by the same family that sold it in 2009 for $8.6 million.

The Journal noted similar discounts in Illinois, California and Nevada. Now, an eight-year trend where U.S. land used for farms fell by 2 to 4 million acres a year between 2000 and 2007 is being halted. The amount of farmland has held steady at 920 million acres for the last four years. [WSJ]

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