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Wisconsin Land Values Update

Dennis Badtke
Educational Opportunities: 
Grain, Young, Beginning Farmers, Appraisal
Home > Education & Events > February 2019 > Wisconsin Land Values Update

The ongoing volatility in the farm economy all across the U.S. continues to put the squeeze on a number of industry sectors. In Wisconsin, 2018 land sales reflect the stress the industry is currently experiencing.  Based upon transfer return documents from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the table below tells the story. Only sales of land taxed for agricultural purposes and sales between 35 and 1200 acres are included in these statistics.

Transactions by quarter:
Year Quarter 1 Quarter 2  Quarter 3 Quarter 4 Total
2017 273 374 238 314 1,199
2018 352 418 192 202 1,164

In a year by year comparison, there were 35 fewer transactions in 2018 compared to the previous year, resulting in a 2.9% decrease from 2017.

During the first six months of 2018, however, there were 123 more transactions when compared to the same period of 2017. This is about 19% more sales during the first six months of 2018 compared to the previous year.
On the flip side, the last six months of 2018 brought 158 fewer transactions when compared to 2017. This is a significant decline during the last six months of 2018 totaling a 28.6% decline in transactions for that six month period year to year.

The total annual decline of 2.9% in 2018 is not in and of itself significant, but the down-trend noted during the last six months of the year is. The decline in transactions the last half of 2018 may demonstrate how stress in the ag sector affects the land market, and impacts to farm expansion.

Acres sold by quarter:
Year Quarter 1 Quarter 2  Quarter 3 Quarter 4 Total
2017 23,397                      32,078                18,655                        23,717                      97,847
2018 27,972                       31,535                14,409                        15,746                      89,661

Comparing the total number of acres sold, there were 8,186 less acres sold in 2018 than 2017, an 8.4% decrease in the number of acres sold.

For the first six months of 2018, there were 4,032 more acres sold compared to the first six months of 2017. This is a 7.34% increase in acres sold.

The 12,217 fewer acres sold the last six months of 2018 when compared to 2017 indicates a decrease of 28.8% for the last six months of 2018. This is a significant decline when compared to prior year. If this trend continues into 2019, it could be an indication of a change in the land market.

The Compeer appraisal team across the state of Wisconsin reported several “no sale auctions,” in addition to situations of land on the market that is not selling. This data supports those reports and is likely a result of the sellers asking more for the land than buyers are willing to pay.
Source: Arlin Brannstrom
Faculty Associate, Emeritus
UW Center for Dairy Profitability
Recent Land Sales
  • St Croix County – January 2019 Sale
    • 81  acres, 68% Tillable, $3,300/acre
  • St Croix County –January 2019  Sale
    • 58 acres, 98% Tillable, $5,690/acre
  • Vernon County – January 2019  Sale
    • 75 acres, 71% cropland, $4,858/acre
  • Fond du Lac – December  Sale
    • 100.16 acres, 80% Tillable, $6,240/acre
  • Winnebago County – January 2019 Sale
    • 90 acres, 98% Tillable $5,556/acre
  • Grant County – February 2019 Sale
    • 798 acres, 78% Tillable, $4,498/acre
  • Walworth County – December 2018 Sale
    • 151 acres, 99% Tillable, $10,609/acre
  • Walworth County- January 2019 sale
    • 78.5 acres- 96% tillable, $8,350/acre
  • The decline in dairy farm operations continue  
  • There are more farms on the market than there are buyers
  • Expectations: Small and medium sized dairies will continue to transition to crop and or heifer farms.  Large farms will continue to expand and become more strategically important to the processing sector.
  • The outlook for both crop and dairy sectors are impacted by the current trade negotiations.
Agricultural land values, like many assets, can vary greatly across states and even counties. The number of transactions and land values are often a reflection of what’s taking place in the overall agriculture industry and are influenced by global farm economics. Being prepared with a documented business plan as well as the capital and resources necessary to make a solid purchase are the first steps for producers interested in expanding their land base. It’s also important for producers to understand the fluctuations and watch the trends in order to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

About the Compeer Financial Appraisal Team: The Appraisal Team consists of 81 members including appraisers, reviewers and support staff, providing internal appraisals for Compeer Financial, external appraisals for outside entities and appraisal reviews in support of other Compeer business units. The team has experts in specialized agricultural facilities such as agronomy/fertilizer, beef, dairy, grain merchandising and swine, along with traditional agricultural properties, for both internal and external clients.

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