The release of the Agriculture Department’s earlier this month held relatively few surprises at the headline level. The total value of agricultural land, including buildings, was $2.7 trillion in 2018, up $59 billion, or 2 percent, from prior-year levels. Overall, average agricultural land values increased an average of 1.9 percent, up $60 per acre to $3,140 per acre. With the 2017 inflation rate running 2.1 percent, this would suggest the real price of agricultural land was unchanged for the year.
With agricultural land values rising in 2018, an increase in cash rents was not unanticipated. The national average rate moved from $136 per acre in 2017 to $138 per acre in 2018, again about the same rate as inflation. This was essentially the same rental rate as observed in 2013. While rates did bump up to a high of $144 per acre in 2015, land rent has been fairly static around this $135-to-$140-per-acre rate for the last six years.