Monthly Archives: January 2014

Farmland appraiser sees flat prices and some declines for 2014

By Bernard Tobin

It’s been a quiet January for farm appraiser Marleen van Ham. That lack of activity leads her to think that 2014 Ontario farmland prices will range from flat to a five per cent decline in some areas.

van Ham, a broker and appraiser for Agri Choice Real Estate Appraisals Inc, says she’s done very few sale appraisals so far this year. “Last year I was doing appraisals in January for deals that were closing in February.” In many cases, when For Sale signs went up, offers were made immediately, banks received financing requests and within two weeks the request for appraisal was on van Ham’s desk.

The story is much different in January 2014.

“In some areas we are starting to see For Sale signs go up and they are staying up. That means one of two things either seller expectations have increased even further, they are asking more than last year, or the buyers are not willing to go there,” says van Ham. “Right now we are seeing a break in the market. Usually when that happens,where properties are for sale for a longer period of time, it means that prices should come down.”

Enthusiasm for land deals has been tempered by tumbling commodity prices, but interest rates remain low and the short-term outlook is that money will remain cheap and available.

Read More: What features make Ontario farm land most valuable?

van Ham says buyers are aware that they will not likely see the annual 20 per cent increase in farmland value they’ve become used to in recent years. “A lot of farmers are saying ‘If I want to own it, I have to be realistic about my expectations. I’m probably not going to cash flow my farm from the crop sales and I’m probably not going to see a tremendous increase in land values, which kind of begs the question of why would you do it?’

“We hit the $20,000 per acre mark in Oxford and I think that’s a mental barrier for some people. I think buyers are probably a little bit more cautious now.”

van Ham says until some properties actually start to sell, it’s hard to determine where the market is. January is not a strong closing month for land deals. Typically, signs go up in January/February, deals are made in February/March and they close in April.

Since the last big closing month, April 2013, van Ham reports that prices have continued to increase significantly in many Ontario counties. She estimates that prices in Huron and Perth counties increased 20 per cent during the April 1, 2013 to Jan 1, 2014 period; Oxford is up 10 to 15 per cent; Elgin 10 to 20 per cent; while Norfolk, Halton and Middlesex have been flat.

van Ham says April will prove to be a litmus test for farmland prices. That’s the month when about 60 per cent of land deals close. “If I had a crystal ball I would guess that prices are going to stay stable and decrease marginally, up to five per cent in some areas.”

Van Ham says Ron Phillips, her predecessor at Agri Choice, summed up best how appraisal activity is reflective of land prices. He said: “When property values are going up we are busy. When property values are going down we are busy. It’s at the top of the mountain or the valley when we have nothing to do.”

RealAg Markets: Make the Most of Oat Marketing Opportunities — Chuck Penner

If there’s one crop that’s been generating buzz this month, it’s oats, followed closely by flax. A plugged supply chain for our export markets has several farmers exploring other viable crop options for the 2014 growing seasons. Hot on the heels of this, the federal government recently announced funding for the oat market to re-build Canada’s supplying the U.S. pony oat market and tailoring varietal development for it.

Read more: Oat market and varietal development gets $3 million in funding

In this RealAg Market Update, Chuck Penner, with LeftField Commodity Research, discusses oat market and oat marketing opportunities, some of the hiccups in focusing on the U.S. market (logistics notwithstanding) and, perhaps of most interest, the opportunity for oats as a functional food in Asian markets.

If you cannot see the embedded player, click here to hear this interview.

Corn School: The 7 Wonders of a Great Corn Crop

While each and every wonder of the corn plant reaching maximum yields hinges on the weather, there are several other factors that have a measurable impact on yield. At the recent FarmSmart conference at Guelph, Ont., Bernard Tobin spoke with Dr. Fred Below, from the Universtiy of Illinois, to discuss the seven wonders of 300 bushel corn yields and how each factor can be shaped by farmers’ management decisions.

See more: Check out the entire Corn School video series here

From the right rate and placement of nitrogen (with weather the wild card on potential losses) accounting for 70 bushels, to hybrid selection making up another 50 bushel swing, to the impact of crop rotation (soybean roots leave big gaps for corn roots to fill, meaning there are penalties for corn on corn). Below also notes that farmers should get comfortable with pushing corn populations, as new genetics really can handle the numbers. And where does tillage fit in? And what about growth promotants? Below tacks a number on to the contribution to yield of these two factors in the video below.

If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.

The 15th Anniversary of FarmTech: Larger Than Life & Interactive

Not all good ideas pan out. Sometimes the effort you put in to a new venture or event is all for naught. But sometimes, what starts as something new and different catches on, and years later becomes the one farm conference that sells out year after year. The FarmTech conference is one such event that has grown in scope and scale each year, and has likely become the most interactive farm conference in Canada. (It even has its own app!)

See more: See all our interviews from FarmTech here!

In the interview below, Shaun Haney sat down with Mr. FarmTech himself, Rick Taillieu, to talk about the show’s beginnings, the unique set up and how the 2014 show is truly an interactive experience for the attendees.

If you cannot see the embedded player, click here.