Amid decline in commodity prices, farmland values could fall too

U.S. farm real estate values rode the express elevator to the penthouse during the commodity boom, gaining an average $860 an acre in five years. They are still at elevated levels despite the sharply lower farm income of recent years but may drift lower in the near term, according to two examinations of the farm economy.

The biggest U.S. landowners own nearly as many acres as New England states

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.

Bipartisan House bill to help young and beginning farmers

Reps. Sean Maloney of New York state and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania unveiled a U.S. House bill to help young and beginning farmers get established. The sponsors said action is needed because of the advancing average age of U.S. farmers, nearly 60 in the 2012 Ag Census.

India emerges as No. 1 in the world for cropland

A high-resolution search by satellite found 15 to 20 percent more cropland in the world than previously thought and identified India as the world leader, says the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS says its new map, showing 1.87 billion hectares of cropland, will help "to ensure global food and water security in a sustainable way."

House, Senate bills would close sodbuster loophole

Lawmakers from the Plains and Midwest filed companion bills in the House and Senate to discourage farmers from converting native sod into cropland nationwide by closing a crop insurance loophole. The legislation would require a reduction of crop-insurance subsidies for four years before producers could qualify for them.

Shorthanded USDA lax on enforcing law on farmland ownership by foreigners

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.

Impact investors flock to food and agriculture sector

Impact investors are now putting more money into food and agriculture than any other sector, using their capital to help ranchers switch to 100 percent grass-fed beef production, to connect small farms to communities with little access to fresh food, and to transition farmland used to grow commodity corn and soy to organic, regenerative systems, says Civil Eats.

Solar farms, and farmers, create political sparks

As costs have dropped, solar panels are becoming a common sight, including in rural America, where farmers are using solar to offset their costs in a variety of ways, says Civil Eats. When farmers move beyond generating electricity for farmstead use into acres of solar panels, it creates a tussle between clean energy and preservation of open spaces for forests and farms, according to a news site in Connecticut, where solar has the upper hand.

Value of Nebraska farmland down 15 percent in three years

The University of Nebraska's annual Farm Real Estate Survey says the average value of farmland in the state fell by 10 percent in the past year, to $2,805 an acre. It was the third year of declines since land peaked at an average $3,315 an acre, an overall drop of 15 percent.