Strong demand for farmland in Wisconsin has continued this year. It’s keeping land prices steady despite low commodity prices and suffering farm incomes.
The latest data from the state Department of Revenue showed a slight increase in land sales during the first four months of 2018.
“That surprised me,” said Arlin Brannstrom, associate professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I thought there would be some dampening in that enthusiasm for land ownership given the weak prices we’ve seen for agricultural commodities, in particular milk. But I think there’s still a lot of demand.”
Brannstrom said large dairy farms looking to expand continue to drive strong land prices in northeastern Wisconsin. But he said there is also more interest among investor groups looking to take advantage of the state’s steady land prices or to convert farmland to other uses.
Land prices were also strong in the southeastern part of the state.
“That’s primarily because there is relatively little agricultural land that is exchanging hands in that part of the state,” Brannstrom said. “Of course, the southeast is the area where the new Foxconn plant is going in and there’s a lot of activity going on in that area to acquire the land for the plant.”
He said strong land values can help older farmers looking to retire. But it’s likely to be a continued problem for younger generations hoping to get into agriculture.
“It’s going to be very very hard for a person with no ties to agriculture to get started,” Brannstrom said. “The stories you hear about people who started with 7 cows and 20 acres of land 20, 30, 40 years ago are just not financially feasible today.”