Farmland and Private Equity

By February 25, 2014May 21st, 2019Leadership News
An alarmist article has been making the rounds on the Internet this week – “Half of U.S. Farmland Being Eyed by Private Equity”, by Carey L. Biron (www.ipsnews.net). In the wake of rising commodity prices, it seems that speculators are buying up farmland, hiring farm management companies to run the farms, and pushing for those farms to be operated for maximum profits. This leads to an environment in which young farmers have an even harder time finding land they can afford, in which farm workers are paid even less than they have been recently, and in which environmental factors are even more likely to be ignored. Perhaps we should be worried about the Wall-Street-ization of the American farm. On the other hand, of course, this can be a beautiful opportunity. For example, there are several companies — which qualify as “private equity” firms, sure — which are buying up conventionally-farmed land, putting young farmers on the farms, helping them convert to organic methods, and selling them the farms after the conversion is complete. The companies make a tidy profit for their investors, young farmers take over a thriving operation, and another farm makes the organic transition. If it weren’t for these private equity companies, this kind of transition would be difficult, if not impossible. Admittedly, these companies are the exception, not the rule. But I think we should take the time to recognize that they’re working with us, helping to make a transition toward a more sustainable planet. Don’t you?