Loyal viewer, Brad Johnson, noticed a news story and had a comment:
"On Monday, 8,638 acres of Illinois farmland changed hands for a total of $55.311 million dollars, after the dust settled between a 'battle of two entirety bidders.' In principal I do not object to such transactions. Essentially it is a group of people doing what hundreds of thousands of us have done individually for a very long time, investing in farmland with an eye to long term total return and the pleasure of owning land. However, we nearly all have a gut level reaction to the news when we read it."
Brad, thanks for the feedback, and you are right, there is an instinctive concern about farmland slipping out of farmer control when you read about big sales like this one. But over the years, I have slowly realized they are the exception, not the rule.
We notice big sales like this because they are rare. It has historically been really hard to accumulate big chunks of prime land and even harder to keep them together. With the effective turnover rate of only about 2%, farmland is a slow and illiquid market. About twice as much changes hand each year, but between private parties or families.
So even if outside investors were going to take over the land market, it wouldn't be overnight. Also, remember that with about 900 million acres of farmland, and roughly 400 million of cropland, even a sale if this size is a tiny fraction. It has huge impact in the community where it is located, however.
It might be helpful to check the numbers on who owns America's farms. As you can see 60% is owned by the guy farming it. But even the ground owned by non-operators has a farmer component. About half of non-operator owned ground is owned by former farmers, generally old retired guys who like to drive out and bug the tenant by droning on about the old days.
The upshot is about ¾ of US farmland has to be pried out of our cold, dead fingers. And that number has been fairly stable for decades.
So while it may be upsetting for a big sale to be closed by a big buyer, we'd probably be just as uneasy if a big farmer bought it.