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Not Buying, Not Selling

Caring for land is increasingly more important than turning a profit; fewer people are looking to buy farmland this year but that doesn’t mean more are looking to sell; and a higher percentage of people expect land prices and cash rents to remain steady this year. Those are all according to the new LandOwner Annual Land Survey Report.

LandOwner reports that the survey included more than 1,000 farmers, ranchers, and investors. The Corn Belt saw the highest number of respondents (Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana had the most). But there were 44 states represented in the results overall.

About three-quarters of respondents were either row-crop farmers or livestock producers. And approximately one-quarter were landowners who don’t actively farm.

“Key takeaways include shifts in intentions to buy or sell farmland or pasture ground in 2024. The rally in land values over the past few years was a thing to behold and sellers rejoiced as gavels fell on record price after record price,” wrote Davis Michaelsen, editor of LandOwner.

He continued, “But the majority of our respondents indicated they believe some of the starch has left the land market and while values have since reset slightly lower, there is little chance row-crop and pasture ground will collapse. The message from respondents is that land values are in a bit of a pause presently as farm economics tighten.”

That belief about a “pause” in land values is demonstrated by 43.1% of responses from people expecting land values to remain steady in 2024. That is up from 37.9% who had felt values would remain steady in 2023.

RELATED: Land value increased 12% nationally, according to Peoples Company 2023 National Land Values Report. Read that report here. 

The percentage of those respondents who expected values to see a single-digit increase declined from 30% last year to 25% this year.

But those with the confidence that values would rise by more than 10% increased from 17.6% last year to 18.6% this year.

There was a bit less pessimism from those who expected single digit drops in land value. In 2023, 12.1% thought that values would decline up 10%. But for this year, 10.5% felt that way.

The report summarized those numbers, “The overwhelming expectation of steady 2024 land prices may cap the market to a degree. But, once again, land sales/purchases are driven by far more than simply the price per acre.”

But farmland ownership is not only about dollars and cents. The survey asked about priorities. And the majority of people who responded indicated that they valued land stewardship over the priority to make money.

Which is more important: Stewardship or Profits?

o   Stewardship: 51.5% (+11.1% from 2023).

o   Stewardship and profitability are equal concern: 45.3% (-14.4% from 2023).

o   Higher profitability: 2.5% (+2.5% from 2023).

RELATED: Farm incomes are expected to drop 25% in 2024, according to USDA projections. Read that report here. 

With more respondents focused on protecting their land (rather than maximizing profits), as well as more people holding the belief that land values will remain essentially where they are this year (rather than experiencing dramatic appreciation or decline), then perhaps it is no surprise that most respondents aren’t looking to sell their land.

An additional one in ten respondents this year said that they aren’t looking to buy land compared to last year (58.3% in 2024 vs. 47.8% in 2023).

3.1% want to sell. That’s similar to 2023.

“Land remains in tight hands, and buyer interest is tepid,” the survey report read.

Modest expectations for land values in 2024, no big plans to buy, no big plans to sell, and committed to take care of their land. That sums up what is on the minds of these respondents as they plan out their year.


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


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