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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Minnesota Farmland Sales Down Slightly in 2016

By David Bau, Extension Educator

Last month I listed the average sales prices for farmland sold in the first six months of 2016 for 14 SW Minnesota counties. That data indicated a 2.6 percent decline in sale prices from 2015 to 2016 but half of the counties average sale prices increased from 2015 to 2016.  In January the farmland sales for every Minnesota County were made available to the public. You can find this information online at

This data is from the county assessors and compiled on this website by Professor William F. Lazarus, University of Minnesota. Results indicated statewide Minnesota farmland sales from 2016 were down 2%, from $4,911 per acre in 2015 to $4,813 in 2016. This was down from $4,975 in 2014 average or 1.3% decline from 2014 to 2015. You are able to find average price acre for farmland sales by township on this website since 1990. The assessed values can also be found at this website. Another feature found here is the ability to search for Crop Productivity Index for all the counties in the state as well.

These figures compare very closely with survey data for 14 counties in SW Minnesota where average farmland prices declined from $6,929 in 2015 to $6,751 in 2016 or a 2.6% decline. Prices declined by 8.9% from $7,556 in 2014 to $6,929 in 2015. The high average farmland sale price was in 2013 with an average of $8.466 per acres, which then declined by 20% from 2013 to 2016.

In 2015 average farmland sale prices were below the assessed values by 2.5% for the 14 counties in SW Minnesota. Four counties farmland sales were above the assessed values included Chippewa, Nobles, Watonwan and Yellow Medicine. Lincoln had the lowest farmland sales compared to assessed values with average sale price lower by over 32 percent compared to assessed values. The average CER (Crop Equivalency Rating) was 64 with the highest in Rock County at 90 followed by Jackson at 78 with the lowest in Lac qui Parle at 54. The average sale price divided by the CER was $95.71 paid per CER per acre. This varied from a high of $118.99 in Rock County to a low of $86.35 in Yellow Medicine.

The last three years the average for the fourteen counties in SW Minnesota had declines in farmland values for the first time since collecting the data starting in 1998.  In 2008 farmland price increased 30%, 2009:0.8%, 2010:4.8%, 2011:19.8%, 2012:33.2%, 2013:35.6%, 2014:-10.1%, 2015:-8.9% and 2016:-2.6%. But the change in values has really fluctuated from 2008 to 2016. Before this time, land prices increased more gradually.

Farmland sale prices really varied as well from a high of $19,000 per acre in Rock County to a low $1,297 per acre in Chippewa County. The average of the high farmland sales was $9,158 with average of $6,756 and low of $3,929. Even though corn prices have continued to decline since 2013, farmland sales have not declined as dramatically.

Rental rates have not declined as much as grain prices and rental rates determine the return per acre which would keep farmland prices higher. Other factor affecting farmland sales are interest rates, which have been at historically low rates, with the first small increase in several years last December.

What happens to farm land sale prices will determined by tax rates, interest rates, commodity prices, rental rates other investment opportunities and local competition.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Early Bird Registration Extended!

Early bird registration for the 2017 Women in Ag Network Conference Planning Our Future has been extended to Feb. 7th!  Register today to receive this discounted rate of $45 online (or $50 by phone).

There is a great line up of speakers and events for the day.  Included is our keynote presenter Lilia McFarland.  Lilia is the new and beginning farmer and rancher program coordinator for USDA.  Her message is titled, "Planting Seeds for the Future" is sure to be thought provoking and inspiring.  There are also breakout sessions on a plethora of topics including entrepreneurship, marketing, business planning, communications, stress management, budgeting, and goal setting.  Another highlight of the day will be our panel focused on Finding and Maintaining Personal Balance in Life.  Panelists include Natasha Mortenson (moderator), Amanda Freund, Alise Sjostrom, and Marianne Peterson.  The day will offer plenty of networking opportunities as well.

For registration and additional conference details, please visit:

The Women in Ag Network was formed to provide educational opportunities for women involved in agriculture, to enhance their leadership, management, and production abilities.  Our goal is to connect women to relevant, research-based education and to each other.  For updates, see our webpage or like our Facebook page:

Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Award Number 2015-49200-24226.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Farm Resource Guide Available

By David Bau, Extension Educator

The Farm Resource Guide for 2017 is now available upon request at many University of Minnesota Extension County offices across the state.  This resource guide includes a variety of useful farm business management information including the following items:

  • Custom rates
  • Average farmland rental rates by county
  • Flexible Rental Agreements 
  • It includes lease forms for Cash Rent and Share Rent arrangements
  • Farmland sales information for all counties in Minnesota
  • Information on charges for custom feeding, commodity storage, leasing buildings and various bin rental rates 
  • Current information on pasture rental rates, tree timber values
  • Marketing information along with recent cost trends for Minnesota
  • Commodity price probabilities for corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, straw, grass hay, hogs and cattle
  • Corn and soybean yields by county 
  • Feedlot Rule Highlights and information on Manure Agreement and Easements 
  • Examples of Manure Spreading Lease and Land Application Agreement forms

This Resource Guide is available for a $25 fee plus postage and sales tax if you would like to have your own copy.  I can provide you the information in your preferred format: e-mail cost $25 plus sales tax; CD cost $28.50; or hard copy cost $30.00.

If you would like your own copy of the Farm Resource Guide, please e-mail me at or give me a call at 507-372-3900 ext. 3906 and let me know what format you would like.  I will send out the materials and an invoice as soon as possible.  I hope you find the Resource Guide useful and would welcome your feedback on what you would like to see included in next year’s Guide.

For more farm business information, please see the University of Minnesota Extension website:

Leadership for Successful Employee Management

Employee management is critical!  

Join us for a multi-session program to learn how to improve your employee management skills.  We'll cover a variety of topics including leadership, supervision, hiring, communications, employee handbooks, employment law, and others.

The program commences February 2, 2017 at the Melrose City Center (located at 225 1st St. NE, Melrose, MN 56352.)  Additional sessions are February 17, March 2, and March 16.  Each session is 10:00 AM-2:30PM and includes lunch.  Three webinars will be held in between classes to discuss implementation of course tools and foster further learning.    

A detailed schedule  and registration details can be found at  The fee is $200/farm and can be made at the first session.  

Betty Berning, Extension Educator explains, “When I ask dairy farmers about the struggles they face, labor management is one of the top two concerns they mention.  It is hard to find and keep good employees.  There is no perfect solution to this problem, unfortunately. Our goal in the class is to equip students with the right skills and tools to set themselves up for success.”  

Please contact Betty Berning (#320-203-6104) with questions.  We hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New W-2 and 1099 Deadlines

By Rob Holcomb, EA
Extension Educator, Ag. Business Management
University of Minnesota Extension

January 12, 2017

New for 2016, in an effort to combat identity theft, the IRS is requiring employers and business owners to file forms W-2, W-3 and 1099-MISC by January 31, 2017.  These changes were contained in the PATH Act (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes) which was signed into law December of 2015. 

A W-2 is the form that reports wages paid to an employee.  The W-3 is a transmittal form that summarizes all the W-2s issued from a single employer. 

Form 1099-MISC is issued to individuals or entities that are not employees.   Form 1099-MISC is typically issued for rent, non-employee compensation and custom hire.  The payment threshold for issuing a 1099-MISC is $600.  The threshold is based upon the total amount paid to the individual or entity during the calendar year without regard to the number of checks or transactions.   Typically, corporations are exempt from the filing requirements to issue Form 1099-MISC.  In other words, if you paid over $600 to a corporation for custom harvesting, you would not be required to file a 1099-MISC because you paid the funds to a corporation.  There are two exceptions to this rule: (1) Attorney fees (over $600) paid in the course of a trade or business requires filing a 1099-MISC even if the firm is incorporated.  (2) Payments to veterinarians are payments for medical and health care services.  This requires taxpayers to issue Form 1099-MISC for such services (over $600) in the course of a trade or business even if the veterinarian is incorporated.   

New legislation increases the penalties for failure to timely file information returns.  The new penalties are in effect for all information returns due after December 31, 2015. Penalties range from $50 per return to $250 per return depending upon when the taxpayer issues the required information return.  For failures or misstatements due to intentional disregard, the penalty per return or statement increases to $500. 


Agricultural Tax Issues. Fall 2015. Harris, P.E., Tax Insight, LLC. Madison, WI.

2016 National Income Tax Workbook.  Land Grant University Tax Education Foundation.

Internal Revenue Service Website.

Planning for a Successful 2017

Happy 2017! I love New Year’s. It’s the start of something brand new. The year is full of promise and opportunities. It is a fresh start.

As a general rule, I recommend that farms look at their financial records around January 1st. This helps to provide a consistent point in time for comparison. Farming is seasonal and a farmer’s finances are no different. Your checkbook after planting (June) might look very different than your checkbook after you sell harvested grain (December). By comparing the same points in time, you get a clearer picture of how you’re doing financially.

Additionally, it is wise to think about what your finances might look like in the year ahead. This is called “cash flow planning”. Simply put, it’s creating a budget for the year. You’ll look at your cash from operations, investing, and financing activities.

To do this, you’ll want to have monthly records of your income and expenses. If you use an accounting software, you can print off these records. Your banker or farm business management instructor can also help. Remember, your records are as good as what you put into them. If you haven’t done a good job keeping financial records, it will be difficult for you to identify how much you should budget. Good records are important for all types and sizes of businesses.

Begin by looking at cash from operating and start with your cash inflows. (Table 1) What is your checkbook balance? That goes in the first line. Add in any sales, payments, dividends, or other income you received. Sum up the total of all lines. This is your total cash inflow.

Table 1: cash inflows
Cash inflows January
Beginning cash balance (Checkbook) $5,000
Sales of crops $250,000
Sales of livestock $2,000
Government payments $0
Dividends $0
Other income $0
Total $257,000

Next you want to determine your cash outflows (Table 2). What expenses do you expect that you’ll have? If you’re not sure, try looking back at your records. As an example, if you are trying to figure out your January 2017 expenses, look at your January 2016 expenses. Use those as a benchmark. Remember, this is budgeting and the numbers are not written in stone. Give your best estimate. You’ll also want to identify the minimum balance you want to have in your checkbook. I used $5,000. Add up all of these numbers to calculate your outflow.

Table 2: cash outflows
Cash outflows January
Seed $0
Fertilizer $0
Chemicals $0
Crop insurance $0
Drying fuel $0
Fuel and oil $2,000
Repairs $1,500
Land Rent $75,000
Real estate taxes $0
Farm insurance $0
Utilities $500
Capital purchase $0
Misc $600
Living expenses/draw $4,500
Minimum checkbook balance $5,000
Total outflow $91,100
Operating surplus/deficit $165,500

Now you want to subtract your outflow from your inflow. In this case $257,000-$91,100= $165,900. It’s a positive number, which means there was money left over after covering expenses. A negative number tells us there wasn’t enough to cover all the expenses.

Next, you move to cash from investing and financing activities next. (Table 3) This includes your capital sales, capital purchases, new term credit, and our term debt payments. This farm is not planning any capital sales, but is planning to purchase a farm truck later in the year. Fill in your loan payments and sum them up. Here’s the tricky part, find your operating surplus deficit, add capital sales and new credit to it, and subtract your loan payments and capital purchases. This will give you your total surplus/deficit.

Table 3: cash from investing and financing activities
Capital sales January
None planned $0
Capital purchases
Farm truck $0
New credit
Truck loan $0
Loan payments
House $400
Land $0
Truck loan $0
Tractor $0
Combine $0
Total loan $400
Total surplus/deficit
(Operating Surplus/Deficit + Capital
Sales-Capital Purchases+ New Credit-Loan Payments)

Finally, refer to your operating loan. (Table 4) Find your operating loan balance. That goes in the second line. If you had a deficit, you borrow against your operating loan (line 3). If you had a surplus, you pay down the balance and interest (lines 4 and 5). Calculate your ending balance based on what you paid or borrowed and fill in. (line 6) Finally, determine your new cash balance. If you have an operating surplus, subtract off the principal payment and interest payment from the surplus, and add in your minimum checkbook balance (here it’s $5,000). If you have a deficit, add the operating loan borrowing and minimum cash balance to the deficit.

Table 4: Operating loan
Annual operating loan January
Surplus or deficit $165,500
Operating Loan Balance $20,000
Operating Loan Borrowing $0
Operating Loan Interest Payment $100
Operating Loan Principal Payment $20,000
Ending Operating Balance $0
Accrued Interest $0
Ending cash balance $150,400

You’ll need to do this for each month of the year. Your ending cash balance from January becomes your beginning cash balance in February, your February ending cash balance becomes your beginning cash balance in March, etc. A template for this can be found at: (Look for cash flow budget)

By doing this planning, you can get a picture for how your year will shape up financially. This can help you determine how much you need to borrow for your operating loan. It will also help you understand if you will be able to pay your bills. I try to be honest about these exercises. This one will take some time. Enlist the help of a trusted financial advisor if you need to. The important part of this is the finalized budget. With this you will be able to determine what you can afford for land rent, if you can purchase new equipment, and get an idea of the financial health of your business.

Be proactive. It is one of the best things you can do to be successful in your business. Good luck in the New Year!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Comparing Corn and Soybean Cash Prices with Average Southern Minnesota Farmland Rental Rates

by David Bau, Extension Educator

The average cash price for corn and soybeans each calendar year since 2000 is listed in Table 1 below. Columns 2 and 3 list the average cash prices each year in Worthington for corn and soybeans. The Column 4 lists the average percent change in corn and soybean prices from the prior year. Column 5 lists the average rent paid by 1200 farmers in Southern Minnesota who are part of an Adult Farm Management Programs. Column 5 multiplies the price percent change by previous year’s actual average rents to determine the farmland rent each year. Column 7 starts with the average rent $98.31 in 2000 and then multiplies this by the corn and soybean price change (-3.21) to determine a rental rate of $95.16 for 2001. To determine the 2002 rental rate, start with the 2001 rate of $95.16 and multiply this by the price change (15.06) and to determine an average rent of $109.49 for 2002. This process was repeated to determine rentals rate through 2016. There are two question marks for 2016 as the average rent will not be available until March of this year.

The last three columns vary quite significantly. If the change in corn and soybean prices was the main factor determining Southern Minnesota farmland rental rates, you would expect the actual rental rates to be similar to the Column 6. Comparing these figures the estimated rents using the price change factor were $25.94 lower than the actual rents listed in Column 5 over fifteen year or an average of $1.73 per acre per year, very close. Using the second calculation of starting with the 2000 average ($98.31) and adding or subtracting the price change each year to the previous calculation, there is much more variability and with calculated rents in Column 7 were higher by $775.67 over the fifteen years or $51.71 per acre per year, a significant difference.

Rent had been on a steady increasing trend of less than $10 per from 2000 through 2005 then started increasing more rapidly from 2006 through 2010 and then increased only slightly in 2011 due to lower prices in 2009 and 2010, with $6.00 plus corn and $12.00 plus soybean prices, rents took off in 2012 and 2013 before beginning to decline in 2014 as corn and soybean prices moved lower.

Many factors effect rental rates like property taxes, input costs, yields, prices and gross income, but there does seem to be a relatively close tie to corn and soybean prices and rental rates.

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