Wyoming's rising land prices 'really rough' for some farmers looking to grow

Agriculture - Fields from the Air - iStock - IMNATURE
Published Thursday, March 31, 2022
by David Beasley | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) - Farmland prices are on the rise in Wyoming, according to a recent report.

Prices for farmland real estate in the state increased 5.3% from 2020 to 2021, to $790 an acre, the Buffalo Bulletin reported.

"Some of this stuff, we would not have guessed it would have sold at as high a price as it has," Byron Geis, a sales associate with Chase Brothers and rancher in Johnson County, told the Buffalo Bulletin.

Nationally, farm real estate increases 7% to $3,380 an acre, the newspaper reported.

For farmers, higher prices could be both good and bad, Wyoming Farm Bureau Public and Governmental Affairs Director Brett Moline told The Center Square.

"It all depends on what side of the fence you are on," he said. "If you are selling, it's great. For people who are retiring and don't have family members, it's a good retirement fund. But for farmers who are looking to expand, or want land to get into the business, it's really, really rough."

In Wyoming, the value of farmland isn't always equated with the value of the crops that can be grown on it, Moline said. Although crop prices are up, so are the costs of raising a crop, he said.

"When the price of nitrogen fertilizer has more than doubled, that tempers what we are getting for the crops, as does the price of fuel," he said.

The state's climate, soil and water supply are also factors, Moline said.

Feeder calves are the state's top agricultural product. But the climate doesn't allow farmers to grow enough feed stock such as corn and grass to fully raise the young calves from birth until the time they are ready to be sold at market. So, the calves are moved to other states.

"Most of our calves get moved to South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado," he said. "My family sells calves in the fall. Most of them will go to eastern South Dakota to get finished up. It's not that we don't raise corn, but states like Nebraska can raise it so much cheaper. It's a lot cheaper to move the live animal to where the feed is."

In Wyoming, many people buy land because of the scenic value, Moline said.

"A lot of times, our rangeland, especially if it's in the mountains with a lot of big-game hunting, will go for more than $1,000 an acre," he said. 

Buyers often purchase tracts of 2,000 acres or more, Moline said.

"For a lot of people, $2 million is not as much money as it is for me," he said. "Farm ground constantly goes up."

The state is also increasingly attracting wind farm for power generation, he added.

"Wyoming has some of the best wind in the world," he said. "We're getting more wind farms. There is starting to be a little bit of pushback just because you are losing the scenic quality. Sometimes the best wind is where you also have the most beautiful views."

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The Kiowa County Press is an independent newspaper published in Eads, Kiowa County, Colorado, and to the world at KiowaCountyPress.net.