FCC reports rise in Manitoba farmland values

Astrong agricultural economy fuelled by low interest rates, growing world food demand and resulting higher commodity prices, continue to underpin a national increase in average farmland values. The average value of farmland in Manitoba increased by 13.9 per cent during the second half of 2012, according to a new Farm Credit Canada.

The latest increase is part of a trend that shows farmland values have been rising in the province since 2001. In the two previous six-month reporting periods, farmland values increased by 10.3 per cent and 1.9 per cent.

The FCC report provides important information about changes in farmland values across Canada. The average value of Canadian farmland increased by 10 per cent during the last six months of 2012, following gains of 8.6 per cent and 6.9 per cent in the previous two semi-annual reporting periods.

Average farmland values remained virtually the same in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. Average farmland values increased in the other provinces. Quebec experienced the highest average increase at 19.4 per cent.

Canadian farmland values have continued to rise over the last decade. The current average national increase of 10 per cent is the highest since FCC began reporting in 1985. The second-highest increase of 8.6 per cent occurred in the first half of 2012. The last time the average value decreased was by 0.6 per cent in 2000.

“The market is currently being driven by existing producers interested in expanding their current land base,” said Michael Hoffort, FCC senior vice-president of portfolio and credit risk.

“With most transactions involving an incremental addition to the holdings of established operations, it is common to see aggressive bidding to secure land available for sale. Producers want to achieve economies of scale and use newer technology to farm larger areas. They also recognize limited opportunity to purchase land near their current operations.”

The national value of farmland has increased at the annual rate of 12 per cent on average since 2008, about twice the level it did from 2002 to 2007.

“Strong crop receipts create a favourable environment for higher farmland values,” said J.P. Gervais, FCC chief agricultural economist. “Low interest rates make it easier for producers to consider expanding their farm operation.” He cautioned buyers to do their homework and ensure their budgets have room to flex should commodity prices fall back from current highs or interest rates rise to more traditional levels.

Gervais noted that current farmland values also reflect expectations of future crop receipts. Recent agricultural outlook reports in Canada and the United States suggest that while crop prices are expected to come down from recent highs, prices are projected to remain above historical averages over the next 10 years. “The outlook for Canadian agriculture is really positive,” Gervais said.

“While there is some concern that farm debt in Canada is increasing, net farm income — especially in the grain and oilseed sector — has roughly increased at the same pace,” Hoffort added.

Increasing farmland values might make it more difficult for young producers to expand or get into the business. Alternatives are to lease some of the land — not giving up the possibility to build equity by purchasing land, but complementing the business model by looking at the leasing market. Crop-share rental agreements and joint ventures can sometimes meet the needs of the landlord and the farmer, but the decision to buy or lease really depends on the financial situation of individual producers.

According to the 2011 Ag Census, the majority of the total land in agriculture (including areas that were used by others) in Canada was owned by those who operate it, at 61.5 per cent. This is followed by rented land at 21.9 per cent and land leased from government at 13.1 per cent.

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