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Farmers losing land to suburban development

Posted at 6:39 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 19:39:34-05

The Waco housing boom has barely cooled off after a red-hot summer.

The enticing prospects of living in Central Texas have people rushing to buy new houses. However, the houses aren't going up fast enough, so people are building their own. Land prices have exploded as a result. It's an excellent market for a certain kind of individual.

"It's really good for sellers," said associate professor of accounting at TAMU-CT Rob Tennant. "But if sellers are looking to buy again, then they're also buying a new property or new real estate that has also gone up on average like 20 percent year over year."

In fact, the average price per acre last quarter topped the third quarter average in 2020 by 30 percent. Landlords who are intent on just selling are able to make a serious payday.

The eagerness to capitalize on the market has led to the overturning of farmland. Pam Hanson, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Apex, Realtors, and her husband have seen it happen firsthand.

"If they aren't a third, fourth-generation farmer that's had land handed to them, they can't survive," said Hanson. "And unfortunately a lot of them are getting land sold out from underneath them."

Without inherited land, farmers usually lease land from other landlords. Some of those landlords have been looking to turn the land into a hefty check, leaving the farmers without a field to earn their living.

"I'm seeing a lot of people that have had family land that have just been holding on to it in hopes of maybe passing it down or maybe not selling it," Hanson said. "Now they're kind of thinking about selling it because the prices are just too good to pass up."

The selling of family land isn't happening just because people are seeing dollar signs. Some farmers have come to the hard realization that without fields to plow, selling their land may be necessary to turn a profit.

"I've seen a lot of farmers selling out because they can make more off their land than they are their crops right now," said Hanson.

The impacts are being felt from crops to livestock. Rancher Lisa Martin confirmed that her cattle operation also fell victim to the sudden sale of their pastures. They were forced to relocate their herd.

For farmers that still rely on leased land, they've had to either search out new leases or accept the losses and hope that farmland next year won't be whisked away. They may be at the mercy of the housing market, and experts believe the buying rush may continue for another year.