From the October issue of Drovers CattleNetwork.
USDA says one-tenth of the 911 million U.S. farmland acres outside of Alaska and Hawaii, or about 91.5 million acres, is slated for ownership transfer in the next five years, not including farmland that is in or is expected to be put into wills. Landlords expect to keep or put nearly 48 percent of these acres in trusts.

Only 21 million acres of land are expected to be sold to a non-relative, while 26 million acres are expected to be sold to a relative or given as a gift.

This means that only a small percentage of farmland will be available for new entrants into the farming sector, says Joseph T. Reilly, administrator of USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service (NASS).

“Farmland has always been a valuable resource, but what we see in the most recent Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) results is the emergence of farmland as a future investment,” Reilly says. “More families are creating trust ownerships to make sure land remains in their family for farming or as an investment.”

Agricultural producers rented and farmed 353.8 million acres of farmland, according to the results of the 2014 TOTAL survey from NASS. Of these acres, 80 percent are owned by non-farming landlords.

NASS says the combined value of rented farmland acres and buildings on that land are valued at more than $1.1 trillion. The TOTAL survey counted roughly 2.1 million landlords with various ownership arrangements. In 2014, all of the landlords combined received $31.2 billion in rental income while incurring $9.2 billion in total expenses.

TOTAL also provides a glimpse into demographic information for 1.4 million non-farming individuals and principals in partnerships arrangements, also known as principal landlords. These findings say the average age of the landlords is 66.5 years old. The average farmer is 58.3 years old, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture. Only 18 percent of all principal landlords were under 55 years old. Nearly 45 percent of all principal landlords have never farmed.

TOTAL is the only NASS survey that collects agricultural landlord data. The survey is expected to greatly contribute to research and policy analysis. Farmland ownership and decisions stemming from ownership arrangements are key issues for which the Economic Research Service (ERS) serves as a primary source of information.

“Access to land is one of the biggest challenges facing agricultural producers, particularly beginning farmers,” says Mary Bohman, ERS administrator. “TOTAL gives us a chance to demonstrate the extent of the land access issue and provide realistic projections of future land availability for purchase or for rent.”

To access the complete 2014 TOTAL results, click here.