Most Rented Ground Owned by Non-Farmers

Kelly MarshallLand, USDA

USDA_logo_svgA total of 353.8 million acres were farmed in the U.S. last year, according to the 2014 Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey done by the USDA.  80% of this ground is owned by landlords who are not farmers.

The value of the rented land and buildings are valued at $1.1 trillion.  This is owned by 2.1 million landlords with an income total of $31.2 billon and expenses of $9.2 billion.

A tenth of the 911 million U.S. farmland acres outside of Alaska and Hawaii, or about 91.5 million acres, is slated for ownership transfer in the next five years, not including farmland that is in or is expected to be put into wills. Landlords expect to keep or put nearly 48 percent of these acres in trusts. Only 21 million acres of land are expected to be sold to a non-relative, while 26 million acres are expected to be sold to a relative or given as a gift. This means that only a small percentage of farmland will be available for new entrants into the farming sector.

“Farmland has always been a valuable resource, but what we see in the most recent TOTAL results is the emergence of farmland as a future investment,” said Joseph T. Reilly, NASS Administrator. “More families are creating trust ownerships to make sure land remains in their family for farming or as an investment.”

In addition to looking at farmland, TOTAL also provides a glimpse into demographic information for 1.4 million non-farming individuals and principals in partnerships arrangements, also known as principal landlords. According to the findings, the average age of these landlords is 66.5 years old. This age exceeds that of the average farmer, who is 58.3 years old, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture. Only 18 percent of all principal landlords were under 55 years old. Nearly 45 percent of all of the principal landlords have never farmed.

TOTAL surveyed farmland ownership in 48 contiguous states. It is the only NASS survey that collects ag landlord statistics. Land ownership and decisions about ownership arrangements are key issues for which ERS serves as a primary source of information.

“Access to land is one of the biggest challenges facing agricultural producers, particularly beginning farmers,” said Mary Bohman, ERS Administrator. “TOTAL gives us a chance to demonstrate the extent of the land access issue and provide realistic projections of future land availability for purchase or for rent.”