The information on bar rentals is now relatively complete. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently released state and county rents for 2022. The Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers has released its forecasts for 2023 rents on professionally managed farmland. Overall, bar rents increased between 2021 and 2022. Results from the Illinois Society point to increasing bar rents in 2023, albeit at lower rates than in 2022.
Average bar rents 2022 in Illinois
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported the average Illinois bar rent for 2022 as $243 per acre, an increase of $16 per acre from the 2021 level of $227 per acre (see Figure 1). The 2022 rent is a record for Illinois, beating the previous high of $234 set in 2013.
Bar rents vary across Illinois, as shown in Figure 2, which shows the county’s average bar rents for non-irrigated farmland, released by NASS on August 27. This year, NASS has not reported cash rents for some large Illinois agricultural counties. In Figure 2, rents for unreported counties were estimated based on a regression analysis relating rent changes between 2021 and 2022 to the average cash rent in 2021.
Typically, bar rents are highest in the central part of the state, while bar rents are lower in southern Illinois. The highest cash rent of $331 per acre was recorded in Piatt and Moultrie counties, two contiguous counties in central Illinois. The lowest cash rent of $53 per acre was recorded in Johnson County, a county in southern Illinois.
Differences in land productivity explain much of the variation in cash rents. Figure 3 shows a scatterplot of the borough’s average bar rents in 2022 in relation to the borough’s average land productivity index (SPI). The SPI for Illinois soils is published by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Illinois (click here for more information).
Higher SPIs are correlated with higher returns. Figure 3 shows the county average SPI and average bar rents in 2022, with the two series showing a strong, positive correlation coefficient of 0.85. Higher SPIs are typically found in central and northern Illinois (cf farmdoc dailyNovember 7, 2017 for a card).
The SPI of farms within a county may differ from the county average. Based on the above relationship, an “average” cash rent forecast for a farm in a given county can be calculated using the following equation (cf farmdoc dailyNovember 7, 2017 for discussion):
“Average” cash rent = -167 + (3.20 x SPI) + CRD adjustment
where CRD is the crop reporting district. The CRD adjustment values are shown in Figure 4.
To illustrate, consider a farm with a 134 SPI in Champaign County. Champaign County is in East CRD with a CRD adjustment of $18 (see Figure 4). Given this information, the average cash rent is estimated to be $280 per acre (-167 + 3.20 x 134 PI + $18 CRD adjustment).
Variability of bar rents
Actual farm-level cash rents vary widely from the above averages. For example, 60% of rents on farms in McLean County registered with Illinois Farm Business Farm Management (FBFM) in 2019 were in a range of $214 to $287 per acre. Note that the remaining 40% of rents were outside the $73 per acre range. Rental fluctuations are often due to farm characteristics, including soil productivity, drainage, land access, land terrain, field size, and field obstacles. The wishes of the landowner and characteristics of the relationship between the landowner and the tenant also play a major role in determining the rent.
Professionally managed farmland
Annually, the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ISPFMRA) conducts a mid-year survey to ask its members about bar rental expectations for the coming year. This biannual survey is part of the Society’s land value efforts, which produces an annual land value brochure that includes farmland prices and lease information by region of the state (click here for an archive of the reports).
The ISPFMRA reports cash rents according to four land classes: excellent, good, average and fair. Land class classifications are made based on SPI ratings, with excellent farmland having SPIs from 133 to 147. SPI ranges for the remaining classes are given in the first column of Table 1. Average corn yields vary by land class. For example, from 2017 through 2021, corn yield averaged 211 bushels per acre for counties with average SPIs above 133 (see Table 1). Average corn yields were lower for other grades: 204 bushels per acre for the good land grade, 181 for the average land grade, and 156 for the fair land grade.
In 2022, ISPFMRA reported an average rent for excellent quality, professionally managed farmland of $369 per acre. As with all rents, there is a significant range around the average. For counties with SPIs above 133, the average cash rent reported by NASS was $314 per acre. Farmland that was professionally managed had a $55 higher cash rent per acre. Similar relationships exist for other land classes:
- $69 for good quality ($322 ISPFMRA – $263 NASS),
- $60 for an average land class ($275 ISPFMRA – $215 NASS) and
- $69 for Fair Land class ($240 ISPFMRA – $171 NASS).
Overall, professionally managed farmland has higher cash rents than the NASS average. A variety of reasons can be given for this difference, including the desires of farm owners seeking professional management for higher yields.
ISPFMRA rents increased between 2021 and 2022. For the Excellent land class, the cash rent increased from $309 per acre in 2021 to $369 in 2022, an increase of $60 per acre. For the other land classes, the increases from 2021 to 2022 were:
- $57 for good land class ($322 – $265),
- $50 for an average land class ($275-$225) and
- $74 for the Fair Land class ($240 – $166).
Outlook for bar rents 2023
Professional farmland managers say bar rents will increase in 2023. The increases by land class are:
- $17 per acre for excellent land class ($386 forecast for 2023 – $369 for 2022),
- $14 per acre for good land class ($336 forecast for 2023 – $322 for 2022),
- $9 per acre for an average class of land ($384 projected for 2023 – $275 for 2022),
- $17 per acre for Fair Land class ($248 projected for 2023 – $240 for 2022),
Note that the increases for 2023 are smaller than those for 2022.
Rising rents occur because average cropland yields have exceeded average cash rents in recent years, resulting in relatively high yields for farmers (see Figure 5, reproduced from farmdoc daily, August 2, 2022). The complication for farmers of basing future cash rents on high returns in past years does not necessarily lead to high returns in future years, as shown in Figure 5.
The USDA recently released 2022 bar rents by county. These rates, along with recent operating income, can help determine cash rents for 2023. Typically, periods of higher yields result in higher cash rents, which move quickly after years of high yields, but generally remain “firm” or decline only slowly during periods of lower cash yields. Projected farmer returns for 2023 are positive, but much lower than farmer returns in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Professional farm managers’ expectation of higher cash rents in 2023 poses risks for farmers, who face forecasts for much lower returns are. At trend yields, break-even prices are around $5.00 per bushel for corn and $12.50 per bushel for soybeans. A return to lower prices could easily result in negative returns for farmers.
Illinois Society of Farm Managers & Rural Appraisers, land value archive. https://ispfmra.org/land-values-archive/
Illinois Soil Productivity Publications: Soil Productivity Index Reviews for Illinois Soils, Research Bureau, College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois. http://soilproductivity.nres.illinois.edu/
Schnitkey, G., K. Swanson, C. Zulauf, and J. Baltz. “2023 Crop Budgets: Higher Costs and Lower Yields.” farmdoc daily (12):113, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 2, 2022.
Schnitkey, G. “Determination of Average Bar Rent Based on Productivity Index.” farmdoc daily (7):205, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, November 7, 2017.