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Time to Think About Farmland Again

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Touch the Soil News #605 (Feature photo – Shanghai, China with a metro population of over 35 million is consuming farmland on its outer edges). We all understand that civilization began in the most fertile areas and then expands out. Accordingly, a large sector of the world’s best farmland has been urbanized. Estimates are that the best farmland that has been urbanized and is about to be urbanized around mega-cities is almost twice as productive as farmland farther out. Recently, a group of scientists from Yale, Texas A&M, the University of Maryland and research institutions in Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Austria gathered to study the loss of farmland mega-trend.…

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USA Farmland Transition

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Touch the Soil News #588 Over the last decade, economists have been warning about farm operators getting older. Today, about 1/3 of farm owners are over 65. A greater issue than the age of the farmer is the cost of farming and farm assets. Mainstream agriculture is so capital intensive that $1 million doesn’t mean much these days. Due to the aging farm operator population, the USDA just announced that they expect 10 percent of all farmland to change hands over the next five years. Total U.S. farmland stands at around 900 million acres. That means 90 million acres are set to change hands. Good cropland can sell for $10,000…

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Chinese Investors Pursue Food of the Gods (Chocolate)

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Touch the Soil News #508 (Feature Photo – Aztec sculpture with cocoa pod) The cocoa bean (or cacao bean) grows on the trunks of the cacao tree. It grows in tropical zones and is processed after harvesting to make cocoa solids and cocoa butter – the basis of chocolate. The cacao tree is native to the Americas and has been cultivated for its bean for almost 5,000 years. Today, 75 percent of the cacao beans are produced in Africa, 15 percent in the Americas and about 10 percent in Oceania. Cocoa beans drying in the sun (photo courtesy of Irene Scott/AusAID). In order to assure a reliable supply of this…

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What Can Be Done About the 90 million Acres?

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Touch the Soil News #505 In the global rush to own farmland, Oxfam recently reported that more than 1,500 land deals sought over the last 16 years now have contracts and their intended projects are getting up and running. The problem is that these land deals cover about 90 million acres and up to 59 percent of the land is claimed by indigenous peoples. Tractors, bulldozers and corrupt local officials are pushing these indigenous people off the land and often into desperation. Local people in East Africa perform a drama illustrating the perils facing many Africans due to foreign land grabs aided by corrupt local officials (photo courtesy of Oxfam).…

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Words of Premonition?

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Touch the Soil News #498 The chairman of the Chinese overseas trade council – Jiang Zengwei – recently made a foretelling announcement. “We must help Chinese agriculture go global, as people have an increased demand for agricultural products with improved quality.” Less than two years ago, China was still steeped in policies that obliged the nation to attempt to produce its own food. That failed, and China is now openly grazing around the world for agricultural assets. Yes, some of the food will be purchased on the global market. However, much of it will come in the form of owning agricultural assets – farmland, food manufacturing facilities, transportation facilities and…

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Who Is Interested in “Cherry” Picking Farmland?

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Touch the Soil News #493 (feature photo – ripe almond nuts CC 2.5) If your contacts are many and people know you are in the business, you can create an agricultural empire by buying good farms. That seems to be the strategy of Gladstone Land Corporation. This Wall-Street investment company – focused on owning productive farmland – was organized in January of 2013. Gladstone made news recently when it acquired two large California almond farms totaling 2,485 acres. The purchase price of $27.5 million represents about $11,000 per acre. The farms are located in Stanislaus County – in the central heart of California. Stanislaus County’s economy is primary agricultural with…

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Retirement Funds – Chasing Farmland – Implicated in Corruption and Violence.

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Touch the Soil News #491 Imagine going to the poorer parts of Brazil, a nation unfortunately gripped by corruption (see video below) with million dollar checkbooks to buy farmland. The story regularly repeats itself around the globe as local indigenous officials – intoxicated with the vision of large money – move to deliver the land for which millions of dollars are lined up. As we all know, land is not free and every bit of farmland in the world is occupied by farms or indigenous people. Getting the farmland out of the clutches of the locals has a name in Brazil – “grilagem.” Grilagem denotes using falsification of documents and…

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Investors and the Growing Food Demand

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Touch the Soil News #488 (feature photo CC 2.0) Milltrust International is a global investment management company with headquarters in London and Singapore. They have a special division that deals in agricultural (farmland) investments. The CEO of Milltrust, Simon Hopkins, recently participated in a revealing interview about the growing investments in agricultural assets. Following are some of the highlights of Hopkins’ remarks: This past year saw the birth of the 7th billion person on the planet and the global population is generally expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. According to the scientists, the world is currently sustainable with a population of somewhere between 300 million and 2 billion, depending…

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Is Demand for Food Creating a Financial Frenzy over Farmland?

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Touch the Soil News #484 (feature photo cc-by-sa-2.0) In 2008, while the focus was on the unfolding real estate crisis, another crisis was simultaneously unfolding. Through price shocks on basic grains, about 100 million people (bringing the total to over 900 million) were relegated to the ranks of the hungry almost overnight. Today, with the multitude of global trade agreements in place, one thing about the future cost of food is certain – food will go to the highest bidder in the world. There were shortages of wheat in 2008 in the U.S., as higher international bidders cleaned out the nation’s stocks. The volume of investor dollars looking for farmland,…

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All Cooped Up – The Unnatural Order of Things

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Touch the Soil News #442 (feature photo: ProtoplasmaKid / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0) Policy planners and environmentalists loosely agree – humanity’s encroachment on the world’s resources is so dramatic that urban sprawl must be converted to higher density living. WorldWatch Institute (http://www.worldwatch.org/) does a good job at looking at the global social and environmental condition. The Institute recently published a report called: “Can a City Be Sustainable?” From this report, emerges a disturbing number. It is estimated over 8.15 million acres of agricultural land are lost each year due to urbanization. It is numbers like this, that policy makers rally around to justify why people must live in closer…

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