December 19, 2014

Farmland values drop almost 9% in latest ISU survey


Iowa farmland values saw their biggest drop in almost three decades in the latest survey released by Iowa State University today. The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development is taking over the survey duties from retired economics professor Mike Duffy. But Duffy helped crunch the numbers this year.

Mike Duffy

Mike Duffy

“What we saw was an 8.9 percent drop,” Duffy says. “When you look, the primary reasons the survey respondents gave for the drop were lower commodity prices.” The drop means an average value of acre of farmland in the state fell $779 to $7,943 dollars. Duffy says it’s not surprising the value would drop given the drop in commodity prices and the impact seen in other areas of the economy.

“You know if you use just the basic formula — land values to income divided by the interest rate — right now when the income drops, then we would expect to see the land values drop. And in fact, I think it’s probably a sign that the market is working when we do see responses like this,” Duffy says. It is only the second year since 1999 that the survey has shown a decline in farmland values.

The drop has some people asking if land prices will continue on the way down after hitting a peak in 2013, just like they peaked and dropped in the 1980’s. Duffy doesn’t see that comparison.

“My personal feeling is that we went into the fall that we did in the early 80’s because we went on a speculative bubble,” Duffy says. “The increase that we’ve just experienced until this year, I think has been more income driven.”

Even with the decrease, he says farmland values are more than double what they were 10 years ago, 81 percent higher than 2009 values, and 18 percent higher than 2011 values. “Even though it’s not good news that it dropped, it is a response to the market. And my personal feeling is that it doesn’t say that we are going to see major drops now for the next several years,” according to Duffy. He believes the values have settled in to adjust to the economic situation. “My guess, if we see corn end up in the $3.50 to $4.00 and beans in the $10 range, which is kind of what it looks like now, we good expect to see these land values stabilizing, maybe a little more down, but stabilizing and kind of holding in there,” Duffy says.

For the second year in a row, Scott County in eastern Iowa had the highest land values and Decatur County in south-central Iowa reported the lowest farmland values. Decatur County reported a value per acre of $3,587 or a drop of $41 an acre from last year’s report. While Scott County reported a value of $11,618 or a decline of about $795 dollars and acre, which was about $22 dollars more per acre than the statewide average decline.

Southeast Iowa was the only crop reporting district in the state to show an overall increase in values. “We had seven counties down in that area that reported an increase in value,” Duffy says. “Southeast had drought a couple of years ago, so they had not been increasing — think that is part of the reason. I think that they had record corn yields.” He also says increased livestock values caused more of a demand for pasture land in the southeast. Southeast Iowa reported land values were 3.2 percent higher than last year. Keokuk County, located in that southeastern portion of the state, reported the largest percentage increase for any single county at 2.4 percent. To find out more, go to CARD’s website.



Hawkeye coach gets questions about team record, QB starter

Jake Rudock (file photo)

Jake Rudock (file photo)

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz got several questions about the team’s lackluster showing and finish to the season during his Learfield Sports bowl call-in show Wednesday. Iowa finished 7-5 and will play in the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida against Tennessee on January 2nd.

One caller said the Hawkeyes have good, coaches, facilities and players and asked the coach why they couldn’t finish with a better record.”All I can tell you is that we’ve tried to coach as hard as we can, I think our players have played as hard as they can, I don’t think it was a matter of effort this year. At times we didn’t play well enough to win, the last game is a great illustration of that,” Ferentz says. Iowa had a 24-7 lead over Nebraska in the final regular season game of the year and ended up losing in overtime.

Ferentz also addressed the ongoing quarterback controversy. An unsubstantiated report in social media said C.J. Beathard would start the bowl game over Jake Rudock. Ferentz says he only stated that every position would be looked at as they prepare for the bowl game and never said Beathard would start the bowl game. “Basically what I said is what I said and that’s what I meant and that’s why I said it,” according to Ferentz. Ferentz then followed up with host Gary Dolphin, saying he would “muddy the waters” and says “Beathard could start.”

Ferentz says the guys who will take the hand-offs from whoever starts at quarterback are a mixed, including Damon Bullock whose status remains a question. “Bullock’s been hurt, so I don’t know if he’ll make the game or not. (Jordan) Canzeri’s been nicked up and to me hasn’t looked full speed all season long, which is unfortunate. Hopefully we’ll have him ready to go. (Akrum) Wadley is doing a good job, you know we’ve got to get him to grow up fast, and we’re practicing him pretty hard right now. And the good news is LeShun (Daniels) has made some great strides the last week to two weeks. I think it’s realistic if we don’t have a setback to get him out there for some play,” Ferentz says.

Ferentz was also asked about Derrick Willies, the wide receiver who left the program in October to be closer to his ailing father, and now says he wants to return to the team. “We’ve talked and I’ve got an open mind towards it so, we’re both going to kind of sit on it until after the bowl game and then we’ll discuss it a little bit further. The ball is pretty much in Derrick’s court at this point,” Ferentz says.

The Iowa players have had this week off for finals and will begin practicing for the bowl game Friday.


Pilot program puts student teachers in schools longer

Department of Education Director Brad Buck.

Department of Education Director Brad Buck.

Thirty-five student teachers are taking part in a state pilot program to provide more intensive training as they prepare to become full-time teachers. Department of Education Director Brad Buck says the pilot project is part of the legislature’s 2013 education reform bill. It gives the teachers-in-training from the University of Northern Iowa and Dordt College more time in the schools.

“This is a full year so students really have the experience of starting a school year, having parent teacher conferences, going through the full length of a school year and closing out a school year,” Buck says.

Buck says student teaching assignments are usually shorter, as he says when he went through the program years ago, his student teaching assignment lasted 16 weeks. “I saw what school was like for a portion of the school year but not the whole school year,” Buck explains. “So really, I think the intent of this is, does it robustly prepare them for their first year of teaching to have gone through an experience of a school year from start to finish,” Buck says.

UNI and Dordt College each received about half-a-million dollars to conduct the pilot project.


Jury finds Meskwaki man guilty of killing parents

A jury in federal court in Cedar Rapids has found a Meskwaki man guilty of murdering his parents. The jury deliberated for around one day before finding 26-year-old Gordon Lasley Junior guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in the February deaths of his mother and father.

Evidence at the 8-day trial showed Lasley used a machete to kill Gordon Lasley Sr. and Kim Lasley in their home on the Meskwaki Nation Settlement. The jury did not believe the argument of Lasley’s attorneys that he was insane at the time of the murders. Lasley faces a possible maximum sentence of life once a sentencing date has been set.


ISU professor expects many Iowa businesses to welcome new Cuban policy

Steffen Schmidt

Steffen Schmidt

An Iowa State University political science professor says President Barrack Obama’s announcement that he is easing economic and diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba won’t fit under the normal formula of politics. ISU professor Steffen Schmidt, says it doesn’t come as a big surprise, as people have wondered with each new president if the policy would change.

“Here you’ve got a policy that is 54 years old more or less, and isn’t working. We have not gotten Cuba to become more democratic, we haven’t gotten the Castro brothers to move the economy towards a more prosperous with the embargo and no diplomatic relations we haven’t gotten Cuba to stop meddling in Latin America.”

Schmidt says the move by Obama could actually be coming at a good time as the Republicans take over the U.S. Senate in January. “It seems kind of weird, but the new congress is going to be dominated in the Senate by the Republicans and not the Democrats. And it’s actually a better situation because the (current) chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is a Cuban American who would be and is dead set opposed to normalizing relations with Cuba,” Schmidt says.

Schmidt believes the changes will be supported by many in Iowa. “I know a lot of businesses in Iowa, agricultural businesses, exporters, companies that deal with agricultural technology for example — chemical fertilizers, machinery packing, so on. They have been anxious to do business in Cuba,” Schmidt explains. He says that’s because Cuba is so far behind modern agriculture. “When I was in Cuba on a state department trip not too long ago, we went out and looked a little bit as some of the rural areas,” Schmidt says, “and good grief, the farming is really 1950’s style and not American 1950’s, a lot of horses and oxen and donkeys, really outdated.”

He believes Republicans will get a lot of pressure from businesses who are in favor of better relations with Cuba. “Insurance and banking and others who are going to say, look we are doing business in China, we don’t like China’s communist government, it is too repressive, there’s only one political party and they have political prisoners and all the rest of the stuff that is similar to Cuba. But we are doing business with them and maybe we can influence those other things a little bit if we have a lot of Americans there, if we have a lot of American companies and businesses there,” Schmidt says.

While many of the president’s moves have been opposed along party lines, Schmidt says the split over the new policy will not necessarily be Democrat versus Republican, as there are a lot of Democrat who will oppose it. He is anxious to see how the process rolls out. “Because this thing is not going to be slam, bang overnight, it’s going to be slowly rolled out with small steps taken along the way as we try to kind of loosen up those relations. And it will be very interesting,” Schmidt says.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, released a statement today opposing the president’s move:

“This policy change is a gift for the Cuban government that has done nothing to provide basic, fundamental human rights to the Cuban people. According to our own Department of State, the authoritarian regime led by the Castros for decades ‘has severely restricted fundamental freedoms, repressed political opponents, and violated human rights.’ Today’s announcement of eased economic and diplomatic relations is not a result of democratic or economic reforms or a newfound respect for human rights or religious freedom. This decision rewards a brutal regime without any significant commitment toward change for the oppressed Cuban people.”


State continues testing for Chronic Wasting Disease in deer

The shotgun deer season is well underway and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is again monitoring for signs of Chronic Wasting Disease in the animals taken by hunters. DNR wildlife research supervisor Willy Suchy says they’ve been testing for CWD since 2002. “We’ve had a couple of positives now, one in a wild herd and a couple in captive situations, so we are doing enhanced surveillance in those areas to see if there’s anything on the landscape that we need to look for,” Suchy says.

The main effort will concentrate on portions of northeast and eastern Iowa near Wisconsin and Illinois, south-central Iowa near Missouri, as well as in Pottawattamie, Cerro Gordo and Buchanan counties. The one positive in the wild population came in Allamakee County in 2013.

“The good news is that we’ve sampled up there for 12 years and this is the first positive. We’ve had over thousand samples within five miles of where this deer was detected, and when we look at the genetics — Iowa State examined it — and it looks likely, you can’t say 100 percent for sure, but it looks likely that it was a Wisconsin deer that actually emigrated into Iowa,” according to Suchy.

While CWD is fatal to deer, Suchy says it is not a concern for hunters. “If a deer tests positive, the CDC does encourage people to not eat those deer, but there is no proven health risk,” Suchy says. The CWD sampling involves removing and testing the brain stem and lymph nodes of the deer. Hunters willing to provide samples may contact a DNR regional office to arrange collection.

For more information, check the Iowa DNR’s website.



Federal officials reach agreement with car company over advertising

A car dealership and advertising company have reached an agreement over claims they violated rules in advertising and marketing cars. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa says Billion Auto Group and and Nichols Media have agreed to a $360,000 judgment to resolve claims they violated a 2012 Federal Trade Commission’s order against deceptive advertising when marketing the cost of buying or leasing a car.

The federal complaint against Billion Auto Group, which owns a chain of 20 dealerships, including those in Sioux City, Iowa City and Clive, says they frequently focused on only a few attractive terms while hiding others in fine print, through distracting visuals, or with rapid-fire audio delivery. The complaint says some dealership ads promoted low monthly payments or attractive annual percentage rates and finance periods, while concealing other material items, such as the low payments being for leases, not sales; major limits on who could qualify for discounts; and significant added costs.

A statement from U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau says “The action taken in this case is an important step to protect Iowans and sends an important message to the marketplace.”