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Last Update: 2014-10-01
Dynamics of a Rural Land Market Experiencing
Farmland Conversion to Acreages: The Case of
Saunders County, Nebraska
David J. Drozd and Bruce B. Johnson
This study analyzes an urban-influenced real estate market that is experiencing land use transitions. Evaluating a three-year period of unimproved real estate sales in Saunders County, Nebraska, has identified components that contribute
to farmland values. Applying these components illustrates that buyers havingspecial motivations often pay premiums to obtain agricultural land. A model based on farmland productivity determines a crossoverpoint where it becomes economically justifiable to convert farmland into acreage tracts, illustrating productivity levels where concerns over development hold merit. Areas experiencing farmland development will obtain valuable informationfor land use and planning decisions from applying this research.
The rapid development of acreages near urban centers has become a highly influential factor in the real estate market for farmland. Buyers of agricultural land for acreage use have been paying substantial premiums above farmland values to obtain desirable parcels for home construction. Enticed by these premiums, landowners have been splitting farmland parcels into acreage tracts rather than selling property to agricultural producers for continued farmland use.
However, people have been discussing whether converting farmland into acreages is an optimal land use. An intense debate has developed concerning farmland conversion to other uses such as acreages and if such changes are economically efficient. Questions have arisen over the appropriateness
of allowing the development of highly agriculturally productive "prime farmland," includinghow,or if, this development should continue. Some believe more efforts should be taken to preserve prime farmland, while others indicate the market will determine what is economically optimal. Discussion
emphasis has been given to population density, commuting distance, and personal space-fundamentally important aspects of the land use debate (Castle 2001, 27).
Acreage development is being driven by personal desires to escape the stressful, fastpaced
city life and its associated traffic,noise, congestion, and crime. A recent Gallup survey confirms that nationally, 60% of adults prefer to live outside of cities and suburbs (The Gallup Organization 1998). People also desire the positive aspects of urban centers, however, such as increased employment
opportunities and a wider variety of retail outlets and entertainment activities. Living on a quiet, serene, rural acreage and commuting to work provides the "best of both worlds" for many people. Thus, a large demand for acreageshas arisen in areas that surround a metropolitan center.
Agricultural producers own the majority of land subject to acreage development. Over the last several generations their demographic profile has been steadily changing. The decline in the percentage of the workforce in production agriculture is well documented, with the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA) indicating farm sector employment has dropped from approximately 20% at the start of World War 11,to lessthan 2% today (USDA 2001). Moreover, with fewer young adults entering production agriculture, the farming population has been growing older (Gale 1993,138,14445). Many producers/rural landowners are either at, or nearing retirement age; they must plan for the dissolution
of their business. Obtaining the best price for their assets is typically a high priority. Thus, the high land prices being paid by acreage buyers are appealing to many landowning farmers. Rather than maintaining ownership of their land and receiving cash rent from another farmer, some landowners are choosing to subdivide the land for sale as acreage tracts, using the proceeds for retirement or non-farm investments.
Virtually all metropolitan areas with a surrounding agricultural corridor are subject to this type of land use conversion and its associated controversy. In Nebraska, the major urban centers are Omaha and Lincoln. Rural agricultural areas are located on all sides of these cities. Thus, both metropolitan expansion on the urban edge and acreage development 10 to 50 miles beyond the city limits are having increased impacts upon surrounding farming areas. "Border wars" and other disputes have arisen between farmers and their new neighbors concerning increased traffic, livestock facilities and their associated odors, rising property tax valuations, dust and noise from farming, and how farmland conversion may force land values beyond the "economic reach" of agricultural producers (Lincoln Journal Star 2001).
It is this final issue of the market price for agricultural land that is the focus of this research. It is critical to understand how the real estate market functions in complex transitional areas that are greatly affected by the interface of urban influences and strong agricultural traditions. It is the market prices
influenced by the varying motivations of market participants (acreage buyers, farm producers, speculators/property investors, existing landowners) acting within the bounds of institutional policy and the law that will ultimately determine future land use patterns.
The primary objective of this research was to analyze real estate values in both the farmland and acreage property markets and identify how the price structure in these markets was influencing farmland development. More specifically, this research was designed to identify and apply the concept of a crossover point, in terms of market value, where rational sellers of farmland would be economically enticed to change the land use and subdivide farmland into acreage tracts. Up to this crossover point, rational sellers would continue to provide land for the agricultural market, where a higher selling price could be attained by maintaining the farmland in agricultural production. Beyond this point, however, changing the land use would provide increased net returns for the seller.
Accordingly, a model was developed to analyze how characteristics of a tract of land determine its value per acre in both the farmland and acreage markets. By knowing these property values and subdividing costs, patterns in farmland conversion to acreage use could be identified; and, based on a certain parcel's characteristics, the model could predict whether that specific parcel was likely to be sold for acreage use or remain in agricultural production. This study provides insight into a dynamic real estate market witnessing land use transitions from farmland to acreages. Quantitative, economic analyses were completed for a specific local market (Saunders County, Nebraska) to define (1) factors determining farmland values; and (2) the level of farmland productivity where economic forces indicate
acreage development pressure will cease.
11. LITERATURE REVIEW
Numerous studies have been completed regarding the general topic of agricultural land values. Many current studies have tended to focus on urban influences and the development potential of farmland.
Most relevant to this research were studies evaluating components of farmland values in rural areas, as the analyses in this project
dealt primarily with properties located 10
to 40 miles beyond the urban fringe.
Studies Utilizing Rural Real Estate Sales Data
Kennedy et al. (1997) used the Louisiana
Rural Land Market Survey to compile
948 sales of rural real estate across the state
of Louisiana (excluding the New Orleans
Metropolitan area) that occurred over the
1.5-year period from January 1993 to June
1994. They performed a hedonic analysis,
finding factors such as tract size, distance
to the largest town in the parish (county),
improvement values, and paved road access
had significant impacts on parcel values
in most subdistricts of Louisiana. Percentages
of cropland, pastureland, and
timber in the tract along with road frontage
were factors contributing significantly to
farmland values in some subdistricts, but
overall could not be classified as strong
determinants of farmland values.
Similarly, Elad, Clifton, and Epperson
(1994) completed a hedonic estimation for
the fannland market in Georgia. They used
the unpublished Farm-Rural Land Market
surveys completed by the University of
Georgia to analyze 1,375 statewide (excluding
the greater Atlanta area) individual land
sales occurring over the four-year period of
1986 to 1989. They concluded that smaller
tract size, the presence of buildings, and being
located closer to Atlanta made significant
positive contributions to farmland values.
Their analysis showed that the number
of cropland acres in the tract did not have
a major influence on land values. They concluded
that regional locations have such
an influence and local markets have such
variations, that making determinations regarding
the overall "farmland market" is
In earlier work, Miranowski and Hammes
(1984) relied on the Iowa Land Value
Survey to determine county average farmland
prices plus a collection of 94 farmland
sales occurring over a six-year period to
determine how soil characteristics impact
land values. They sought to determine
whether farmland buyers properly discounted
land values as soil quality and soil
productivity declined. They found high significance
in topsoil depth and pH values
positively affecting farmland prices, while
potential erosivity had a highly significant
negative affect. Location factors expressed
through dummy variables had little to no
effect on farmland values during the 1974-
1979 study period. The study concluded
that improving soil productivity and reducing
soil erosion led to higher land values,
but was uncertain if the farmland market
properly discounted values as productive
In a recent study, Nickerson and Lynch
(2001) determined differences in sales prices
of properties with unrestricted development
rights and those parcels selling with
conservation easements or other restrictions.
They accessed Maryland's Tax and
Assessment database to find 224 sales
transactions in three counties over a 3.5-
year period. Two hundred of the sales between
January 1994 and August 1997 had
unrestricted development rights, while 24
sold with a conservation easement or other
farmland preservation method.
The analytical framework used by Nickerson
and Lynch involved a hedonic approach,
developing a model to indicate
what factors gave the unrestricted parcels
value, and then applying the model to the
characteristics of the restricted parcels.
This effectively showed the price the restricted
parcels would have sold for if no
preservation measures had been taken, all
else being equal. Similar to previous hedonic
models, larger parcel size, longer distances
to urban centers, and less farmable land significantly
lowered values for unrestricted
The Nickerson and Lynch model showed
the 24 restricted parcels would have sold
for an average of $5,066 per acre according
to the market for unrestricted parcels versus
an actual selling price average of $3,761
per acre. Thus, the average value of development
rights based on these Maryland
sales is viewed at near $1,300 per acre during
the period analyzed. While the differential
on some individual sales was much
larger at $4,000-$5,000 per acre, there was
no case where the restricted parcel's actual
Last Update: 2014-09-15
The Prospectus is a written disclosure document that must be submitted to the SEC along with the registration statement. The prospectus, which contains much of the same information as the registration statement, is used as a selling tool by the issuer. It is provided to the prospective investors to enable them to evaluatethe financial risk of the investment
Last Update: 2014-09-17
• Environmental Management
This syllabus is centred around the concept of: sustainable development. This may be defined as Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
Two concerns are fundamentally tied to the process of sustainable development of the Earth’s resources :
(i) The basic needs of humanity – for food, clothing, shelter and jobs – must be met.
(ii) The limits to development are not absolute but are imposed by present states of technology and social organisation and by their impacts upon environmental resources and upon the biosphere’s ability to absorb the effect of human activities. But technology and social organisation can be both managed and improved to make way for a new era of economic growth.
Last Update: 2014-08-24
Last Update: 2014-09-25
Last Update: 2014-09-25
Last Update: 2014-09-17
Last Update: 2014-08-10
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