If you are like most city-dwelling investors, you probably don't think much about farms, much less the investing potential of agriculture.
Yet farmland has historically returned high yields – especially during times of high inflation (like the recent post-pandemic period). Better still – now you can invest in agricultural land with or without purchasing a farm outright. Discover all you need to know about investing in agricultural land and if this asset class is right for you.
Farmland has been crushing it in the 21st century. Over the past two decades, American farmland has delivered annual returns of 11% – 12%. Compare this to real estate, which has seen a growth of less than 9%, and farmland suddenly becomes much more attractive.
Supply and demand are also a factor. Why? There is only so much available farmland. When there is a limited supply of something, the need for it increases.
What follows is an increase in the land's price.
Farmland also sees less volatility than most markets. Globally, people rely on agriculture for everything, from global food to alternative fuels. These necessities aren't going away and will almost certainly see further growth.
Farmland is both inflation and recession-resistant and is historically lowly correlated to other investment assets. Because farmland and agriculture operate relatively independently from other markets, it can be a safe way to diversify an investment portfolio. Since food is a commodity, inflation will cause a higher income per crop, causing farmland to rise in value.
This leads to a ‘bumper harvest' with farmers increasing their revenue in line with rising food prices, which raises the underlying land valuation. Often, farmland outpaces inflation. In fact, according to the NCREIF Farmland Index, the value of U.S. farmland owned by investors rose 10.2% in 2022, while the average inflation rate was 8%.
How Can I Invest in Farmland?
According to Forbes.com, farmland represents a nearly $9 trillion market globally and has historically high returns. Agriculture is necessary globally to feed people and animals alike, so many see investing in farmland as recession-proof. While investing in a farm specifically isn't for everyone, there are a few options for people who are interested in this type of investment.
How To Invest In Agriculture
1. Purchasing Farmland Directly
Some people may wish to purchase farmland directly. This option typically requires hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments or a mortgage to pay for the land. Even if you are not a farmer, direct ownership of farmland can produce high returns.
Many landowners do not till their land. In fact, according to the USDA, roughly 40% of farmland is currently being leased out. Farmers rent property from landowners to farm it themselves. These lease agreements typically last several years, and the farmer rents the ground for more than the mortgage cost.
In this agreement, the farmer rents the land for more than the mortgage costs. This way, the landowner can pay their mortgage and build equity on the property without farming. The farmer can generate income through farming without coming up with the money to purchase the land.
2. Real Estate Investment Trusts
Purchasing a farm outright can be incredibly expensive, and many expenses go along with farming. These expenses include seed and supplies, equipment such as tractors, paying for labor, and more.
One solution to this is farmland REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). A REIT is a group of accredited investors who purchase a farmland portfolio and then lease it to farmers. Two of the largest are Farmland Partners Inc. (FPI) and Gladstone Land Corporation (LAND).
3. Harvest Returns
Harvest Returns is an online equity crowdfunding platform dedicated to agriculture investments. The company provides flexible debt and equity funding for specialty farmers while making access to private placements in agribusiness more accessible to investors. Minimum investments range from $5,000 to $25,000.
Harvest Returns vets agriculture projects submitted by farmers and only selects the most attractive deals to put on its investor platform. The company manages the deal from investment to exit.
You can also invest in farmland online. AcreTrader is a platform that allows investors to purchase shares of a farm. They behave as a middleman between farmers or landowners and investors.
They do all the back-end work, including selecting which farmland has the highest opportunity to return. They allow investors to purchase shares in the farmland.
The company handles all the investment management and works directly with the farmers and managers to protect their investors. The average return on AcreTrader is 3-5% but can exceed 10% depending on the land. Investors can also sell their shares of farmland on this platform. The platform recommends holding shares for at least 3-5 years.
Similar to AcreTrader, FarmTogether behaves as the middleman between landowners and investors. FarmTogether acts as a middleman between farmers or landowners and investors. They allow investors to purchase shares in the farmland. They do all the back-end work, including selecting which farmland has the highest opportunity for return.
The company handles all investment management and works directly with the farmers and managers to protect their investors. FarmTogether targets returns in the 8-12% range. Investors can also sell their shares of farmland on this platform.
How Can I Invest in Agriculture Other Than Farmland?
If you decide that investing in farmland is not for you, there are several other ways you can invest in agriculture. Nowadays, investing in agriculture is not only limited to one thing. Various industries directly support farming, including equipment and services. Here are a few ways that you can invest in agriculture without directly investing in farmland:
1. Purchase Stocks
Another option is to invest in equity in the agriculture industry. These equities support farmland industries, such as fertilizer and seeds, equipment, and distribution or processing. In the farming sector, several publicly traded companies and investors can invest in agriculture stocks in these companies.
This is a good option for people already involved in stock trading and interested in purchasing in the agriculture industry. Large companies that you may want to consider are Deere & Co (D.E.), Monsanto Co. (MON), and DowDuPont (DWDP).
2. Mutual Funds & Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)
A third option is mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETF). If you are interested in purchasing stocks but aren't sure which ones will yield the highest returns, you can mitigate the risks by purchasing a farming-focused mutual fund or ETF. Some examples include Invesco D.B. Agriculture Fund (DBA) or iShares Global Agriculture Index ETF (COW).
These companies purchase shares of the stock picks above, such as Deere & Co or Monsanto, and bundle them into a fund to replicate the agriculture industry's performance. Then, investors can buy shares of the fund. These funds typically have medium risk and offer middle-of-the-road returns.
It is important to note that mutual funds and ETFs often have fees associated with them. Be sure to consider the costs associated with these trades before investing in a mutual fund or ETF.
3. Invest in Farm Debt
Instead of investing in equity in farms or related markets, you can lend to farms. Farmers often take on debt each season because the industry is so capital-intensive. Typically, a farmer will finance expensive equipment such as tractors and pay them off over several years. They likely also have a mortgage on their land.
They will have to purchase seeds and make other significant annual investments to pay off after selling their harvest. Farmers need short-term loans to make these yearly purchases.
You can purchase long and short-term farm debt both directly and through bonds. The farmer or landowner will repay the loans monthly or quarterly, and you will receive consistent cash flow. It is wise to remember that when you purchase debt, there is a risk that the debtor will not make their payments.
However, if you find a farmer is in good standing, you likely will have found a reliable investment opportunity.
Is Farmland an Excellent Investment?
Another way we might ask is – can you make money on farmland?
There are many reasons to invest and earn profit online in agriculture, such as farmland. When you analyze potential investment opportunities, think about your goals and evaluate the pros and cons before investing. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Pro: Agriculture Is Always Needed
In short, people need to eat. Both livestock and crops contribute to the global need for nourishment. Scientists are finding new ways to create fuel from plants and use vegetables instead.
The global population is growing, and so is the need for sustainable agriculture. Agriculture is a commodity and is mostly recession-proof because of the constant demand for food.
Pro: Farms Are Becoming More Productive
Farms are growing, and technology is contributing to a more consistent yield. Technology makes everything from the supply chain to finance farm management more seamless and less risky by leveraging data.
Automation has made farms more efficient and can leverage data to optimize production cycles. Robotics and the use of drones to fertilize and autonomous driving capabilities allow tractors to self-drive.
Con: Weather Can Be Debilitating
Anything from flooding to droughts can cause drastic fluctuations in the productivity of a farm. Climate change is out of our control, and a swing in temperature or other environmental factors can make or break a farm's yield.
A farm could underproduce or have a low-quality yield due to weather patterns. This means that investing in farms and farmland can be perilous.
Con: Finance in Agriculture Is Unstable
The costs of supplies in agriculture are rising. While a necessary expense, Tractors are being outfitted with the most updated technology. This technology has myriad capabilities, including optimizing and automating seed planting distance and automated soil testing. However, this makes the equipment very expensive, and some farmers will argue that the return on these ‘smart farming' capabilities is not worth the expense.
The global population is increasing. As people inhabit more land, the land available for farming is also decreasing. This, therefore, drives up the price of the property. While this may also increase agricultural products' prices, it also means higher landowner's and farmer's expenses.
Con: Politics Plays a Role
Trade wars can directly affect farms and other sectors of the agriculture industry. For example, the U.S. International Trade Administration reported that American agricultural exports to China fell from $15.8 billion in 2017 to $5.9 billion in 2018. The trade war with China directly affected this. Consider who purchases the product that a farm produces before investing in it to mitigate your risk.
The Bottom Line
Farmland has consistently grown faster than other markets in the last several decades. There are over two million farms in the United States, and globally, the market will continue to grow with population growth. An agricultural investment like farmland offers an excellent alternative investment option and is a great way for you to bring your money up without too much risk in the market.
While there are several ways to invest in farmland, there are also options to invest in other agriculture areas that can also yield high returns. Be sure to investigate the pros and cons of each field of agriculture before deciding where to put your hard-earned investment budget.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.