Rental rates

A wheat field is harvested in Nampa, Idaho. Cash rent paid for cropland is estimated to be flat in Idaho and Washington state and down in Oregon.

Cash rents for farmland over the past year rose slightly nationwide but stayed mostly flat in Washington and Idaho, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reports.

Oregon had lower overall rents for crop and pasture lands, though non-irrigated cropland posted a small gain.

Farm real estate value, including all land and buildings, rose by 4.5% and 2.88% in Idaho and Oregon, respectively, while falling by 0.7% in Washington. The nationwide increase was 1.9%.

The most recent average per-acre values are $2,500 in Oregon, $2,820 in Washington, $3,000 in Idaho and $3,160 nationwide. Irrigated cropland values were higher.

Flat or falling rents can help farmers, many of whom are facing several consecutive years of lackluster prices for certain commodities.

Higher property values can increase borrowing capacity at the same time it adds tax liability.

“It’s always a benefit when we can keep prices stable,” said Brad McIntyre of McIntyre Farms between Caldwell and Marsing, Idaho. “We’ve had stagnant (crop) pricing for five years. You can’t raise rent when there is stagnant pricing.”

He has seen people from outside southwest Idaho buy farmland and then receive less rent per acre than they anticipated.

“We see it a lot with the new owners versus the people who have been here a long time,” he said.

“One thing we have noticed is that loyalty has not been as big a factor as it once was,” McIntyre said. “If there is a higher cash rent that comes on a one-year deal, they are going to take it versus the slow-and-steady guy paying the rent.”

Most of the year-to-year gain in farm real estate value in Idaho reflects new sales, though some producers are adding buildings or improvements, he said.

A farmer may pay higher rent to grow a high-value cash crop for a year or two, said Bruce Corn, who farms north of Nyssa, Ore.

“Mostly the ground you rent for the long term is pretty stable” rent-wise, he said.

Rents can exceed state averages depending on crop history, soil quality, slope, irrigation availability and other factors, Corn said. Some producers in the Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon pay above-average rent for those reasons, and because demand is strong.

“Most commercial farms are striving to expand and become more efficient with larger operations,” he said.

NASS Oregon State Statistician Dave Losh said the numbers are averages based on producer surveys.

Cash rents for cropland “are pretty tightly related to what can be grown or raised on the land,” he said. For example, above-average rents are common in the Willamette Valley given its many high-value crops.

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