By Stan Maddux
VALPARAISO, Ind. – An Indiana farm sold for a whopping $17,306 per acre or nearly double the current record average price for top quality farmland in the state.
The sale price was achieved Nov. 9 during an auction featuring more than 50 bidders.
“It was just a barn burner of a sale,” said Jonathan Kraft, who auctioned off the property near Valparaiso in the northwest part of the state.
Kraft said the 199 acres belonging to the estate of Lawrence Grieger went for slightly more than $3.4 million.
The buyers are two farmers in neighboring LaPorte County with plans to use the ground for expanding their operations, he said.
According to Purdue University, top quality Indiana farmland in August averaged a record $9,785 per acre, up 14.1 percent from the same time last year.
There are indications the market has taken off even more ever since.
Recently, Kraft said a nearby realtor sold a farm for about $12,000 per acre while a farm in the southeast part of the state fetched roughly $16,000 per acre at auction.
In August, Beck’s Hybrids placed the winning bid at more than $14,000 per acre for a farm in Tipton County.
Kraft said he’s scheduled to auction off another farm at the end of November and is curious how high that bidding will go. “We’ll see if that market holds true,” he said.
Kraft said one reason for the skyrocketing prices is people, including non-farmers, worried about the declining value of their cash are investing that money into land to get an upper hand on high inflation. He said land purchased at top price could later be worth less but winds up at a higher value in the long run.
“There’s people out there with money and they’re looking for a place to park it,” said Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economist at Purdue University.
Langemeier said the main contributors to soaring prices are continued very low interest rates and farmers who earned higher profits the past two years have deeper pockets to purchase ground.
‘That’s just a perfect combination for strong land values,” he said.
Kraft said he expected the land to go for about $12,000 per acre, but that amount was exceeded in the super active early on bidding. “It was a pretty exciting few moments for sure,” he said.
Langemeier said farmers often keep bidding when the price no longer makes sense for outside investors.
Typically, he said outside investors have to wait for values to rise above the original price to cash in.
He said farmers, though, can make money right away by putting the land into production until they’re ready to sell for a higher amount.
Langemeier said worldwide supply chain difficulties are also helping to drive up prices. Normally, farmers with extra money sink those dollars into things like new machinery, he said.
Langemeier said there’s isn’t a wide enough selection of new farm machinery in stock right now and that’s driven up the price of used equipment.
As a result, many farmers are setting aside less money for equipment purchases and more cash for buying land.
“I’m not surprised there was a lot of people bidding, initially, because there’s a lot of money out there,” Langemeier said.
Kraft said Grieger quit farming the ground he owned for much of his life when he became disgusted at the rising price of seed.
Nothing was produced in the ground for about 10 years until a friend of Grieger’s, who was the executor of his estate, planted soybeans in the spring, he said.