Key takeaways

  • Many farmland owners have purchased land as an investment and need assistance and expertise in managing it.

  • For more than 70 years, the Farm and Ranch Management Group at U.S. Bank has worked closely with landowners to help maintain and optimize their farms.

American agriculture is undergoing a massive change. As of 2017, nearly 40% of U.S. farmland is owned by people who don’t farm. While some of these owners are retired farmers, about a third of them have no farming experience at all.1

Agriculture is considered a specialty asset class, and many of these owners may have purchased the land as an investment. But farms face unique challenges and managing them is important for making an agriculture investment worthwhile.

Farms face unique challenges and optimal management is an important aspect toward making an agriculture investment worthwhile.


Challenges facing landowners

Farm management requires an understanding of agricultural trends, market headwinds, financing and agricultural technology. In recent years many ranch and farm operators and tenants have also faced a landscape with less working capital and unpredictable swings in commodity prices.

And while many owners may want to keep farmland in the family, issues could arise if the next generation is inexperienced or unwilling to tackle the demands of running a farm.


On-site assistance

Specialists from the Farm and Ranch Management Group at U.S. Bank work closely with landowners to help maintain and optimize their farms, harnessing years of firsthand experience. Many are accredited by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

“U.S. Bank has been in the farm management business for over 70 years,” says Jon Norstog, vice president and western regional farm manager at U.S. Bank. In addition to educating clients on how to effectively manage their farms, Norstog and his team spend plenty of time in the field — literally. “Our job is to represent owners out on the ground,” Norstog explains, “to make sure that the land is being taken care of and that all the potential for income is being realized.”

This on-site work is particularly important because many of Norstog’s clients live far away from their land. “We take a lot of pride in being active on the ground, so our clients have confidence that they’re getting the most from their farm,” he says. Norstog’s advice often gets down into the weeds: He regularly advises clients on weed control, fertilizer use, drainage and other specifics.


Passing down the land

In addition to checking crops and livestock, the Farm and Ranch Management team helps owners by negotiating leases with tenant farmers and serving as an unbiased third party. And when it comes time for farm owners to pass their land to their children or other heirs, the team is on hand to guide the transition.

“Farms are something that people hold near and dear to their hearts,” Norstog says. Many farm owners inherited the land and plan to pass it on to their children. “Holding on to something that has been in the family for generations is something that many clients value,” he says.


One family’s story

For example, two siblings had inherited their family’s corn and soybean farm. Even as second-generation owners, the pair wasn’t fully comfortable with the practical aspects of managing a farm. They didn’t want farm management decisions to negatively affect their relationship. They also worried that the farmer who leased their land wasn’t paying them fair market value and that weed and drainage issues weren’t being adequately addressed.

The Farm and Ranch Management team helped address the siblings’ concerns, resulting in generating additional income and ensuring proper soil and drainage management, thus making the farm a more valuable asset. All this gave the siblings peace of mind that their land would be taken care of without jeopardizing their relationships with their neighbors or each other.

Whether it’s helping a client decide between a cash-rent or crop-share lease, or planning crop rotations, Norstog’s team avoids a one-size-fits-all approach. Advice is tailored to individual needs and local conditions, so landowners can be confident that their land is managed with knowledgeable care.

Specialty assets require special attention. Learn more about Specialty Asset Management at U.S. Bank.

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  1. Farmland Ownership and Tenure. Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Investment and insurance products and services including annuities are:
Not a deposit • Not FDIC insured • May lose value • Not bank guaranteed • Not insured by any federal government agency.

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U.S. Bank and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Your tax and financial situation is unique. You should consult your tax and/or legal advisor for advice and information concerning your particular situation.

The information provided represents the opinion of U.S. Bank and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or guarantee of future results. It is not intended to provide specific investment advice and should not be construed as an offering of securities or recommendation to invest. Not for use as a primary basis of investment decisions. Not to be construed to meet the needs of any particular investor. Not a representation or solicitation or an offer to sell/buy any security. Investors should consult with their investment professional for advice concerning their particular situation.

U.S. Bank does not offer insurance products but may refer you to an affiliated or third party insurance provider.

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Non-financial specialty assets, such as real estate, farm, ranch and timber properties, oil, gas and mineral interests or closely-held business interests are complex and involve unique risks specific to each asset type, including the total loss of value. Special risk considerations may include natural events or disasters, complex tax considerations and lack of liquidity. Specialty assets may not be suitable for all investors.