Wichita Farmland values rose again in Kansas, up 2.5 percent this year despite low crop prices and an uncertain farm economy, Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported.
The biggest increase came in southeast Kansas, where the value of agricultural land soared nearly 6 percent. But the most expensive farmland remained around the big cities in northeast Kansas, the agency said.
Statewide, the average value for all farmland and buildings in Kansas in 2001 is $605 per acre, KASS said. That compares with $590 an acre last year and $580 an acre in 1999. Farmland values in Kansas have been going up each year since 1991, when the value was $449.
Competition for farmland coming from urban sprawl, industrial development and farmers themselves has driven the increase, deputy statistician Eddie Wells said Wednesday.
"For those wishing to farm, and who can afford to farm, there is still a pretty good demand for it," he said.
Government farm subsidies are definitely a part of it: "As government injects funds, there is a natural tendency for the ... prices to increase," he said.
KASS put the overall value of all farmland and buildings in Kansas at more than $28.7 billion an increase of more than $700 million from last year.
A statewide breakdown shows:
l Irrigated cropland brought the highest price: $1,080 per acre, up $50 an acre from last year. By comparison, nonirrigated cropland was $640 per acre, up $10 an acre from last year.
l Rental rates for cropland also increased with irrigated rental at $72 per acre and nonirrigated rental at $36 per acre on a statewide average.
l Also up this year is the value of pastures and range land, pegged at $390 an acre statewide compared with the $375 the same land brought last year. But rental rates for pastureland declined slightly to $12.60 per acre.
Some regions of Kansas showed huge jumps in farmland values, while others remained almost unchanged. Southeast Kansas farmland was valued at $630 an acre an increase of 5.9 percent over last year.
The large percentage jump in that region prompted statisticians to go back to individual records to check for comments in an effort to pinpoint what was driving the price spike in southeast Kansas.
"What we heard was the nonagricultural sector was influencing those prices for agricultural land, even though someone had no intention of actually raising crops over the parcel of property," Wells said.
A big part of that comes from demand from Wichita residents who want to move out to a few acres in the country. Wichita sits on the border of the south-central and southeast reporting districts, and its urban spill was driving the increase in the southeast farming region, he said.
Another factor was demand from other nonagricultural interests for example, a hunting club buying up 1,000 acres in the southeast area.
"There are a greater number of farmers in the eastern part of Kansas," he said.
"Just in sheer population, that puts more demand on agricultural land, in supply and demand."
That compares with farms in central and north-central Kansas, which showed increases in values of less than 1 percent.
The average value of all farmland was $575 per acre in north-central Kansas and $585 an acre in central Kansas.
Wells said statisticians also scoured individual responses to determine why farmland values showed almost no change in those districts, but found few comments to provide any answers.
However, he said, those counties suffered the worst during last summer's drought in Kansas. Typically, farmland that does not show a great capacity to produce crops does not grow in value as much, and farmers in the region do not have the cash flow to buy that land.