Fueled by strong farm income and low interest rates, farmland values soared more than 20 percent in the central Plains during 2021, according to a quarterly survey of ag bankers by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. A majority of the lenders said they expected values to increase this year, but an equally large number "also indicated that farmland values were currently over-valued, suggesting there may still be future risks of declines," said the regional Fed.
The Democratic-controlled House Agriculture Committee approved its $66 billion part of President Biden's $3.5 trillion "build back better" bill on a party-line vote Monday, with Chairman David Scott saying he was confident that $28 billion will be added later for land stewardship and climate mitigation by farmers. Meanwhile, House Democrats said they would not alter a tax break that helps farmers pass land from generation to generation.
China would be barred from buying more U.S. farmland and the land already in its possession would become ineligible for farm subsidies under language approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. On a voice vote, the provision was added to a $197 billion USDA-FDA funding bill headed for a vote on the House floor.
Thirteen House Democrats representing farm districts asked party leaders on Thursday to exempt farmers from President Biden's proposal to apply the capital gains tax more stringently. Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne, one of the organizers of the letter, said "a significant number of Democrats" support the farmer exemption.
Despite its fearsome reputation, only a comparative handful of farm households are obliged to file a federal estate-tax return and most of them will not pay the government any money, said USDA economists. Large tax exemptions — $11.58 million per person in 2020 — shield most estates from tax liability.
In agricultural lore, the absentee landlord is often a resented figure, an outsider who reaps an income from the labor of the farmer and takes away the profits rather than investing in the local community. The modern-day situation is more nuanced, says a USDA study which finds that, for the most part, "non-operating landlords" (NOLS) live fairly close to their property.
The main obstacle preventing a younger generation from entering farming is a lack of access to land, the National Young Farmers Coalition said in a recent report that advocates for programs that would advance a new generation of farmers and promote racial equity in the sector. “Access to land is the number one barrier facing aspiring farmers today, and this barrier is even greater for farmers of color,” said the director of the group's Land Access Program. (No paywall)
The 2018 farm bill included a provision to make it easier for farmers operating on so-called heirs property — land that passed from one generation of a family to another without a clear title — to obtain a USDA farm number and thus gain access to a multitude of government programs. The Senate is scheduled to vote this afternoon on an amendment by Alabama Sen. Doug Jones to provide $5 million for a re-lending program that would be a step toward resolving ownership issues.
Since the end of Reconstruction, following the Civil War, many black farmers have felt the twin pressures of hardship and neglect, reinforced by systematic discrimination from government agencies and financial institutions. The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy institute, issued a recent report advocating for policy changes to correct those inequities, many of which it says remain today. (No paywall)
Billed as "the magazine of the American landowner, The Land Report says the largest 100 landowners in the nation acquired an additional 2 million acres during 2017, an area larger than Delaware. All told, the 100 largest private land holders own 40.2 million acres, equivalent to the land mass of the New England states with Vermont excluded, said the Washington Post.
Since 1978, foreign entities and individuals have been required to report it to the USDA if they have at least a 10 percent interest in parcels of U.S. farmland totaling 10 acres or more. Yet the USDA does not review the reports for accuracy or completeness and, for lack of resources, does not even investigate if foreign investors are filing the required reports, says the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.