Good question! And one I’ve been asked quite often.
One good place to start is at the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. NASS is the federal agency tasked gathering and reporting the facts on American agriculture for people working in and depending on the industry. In addition to a Census of Agriculture every five years, NASS conducts hundreds of surveys each year and prepares reports covering virtually every aspect of U.S. agriculture. Production and supplies of food and fiber, prices paid and received by farmers, farm labor and wages, farm finances, chemical use, and changes in the demographics of U.S. producers are only a few examples.
Every other year, they conduct a “Cash Rents Survey” to gather information about and report on rent prices paid for irrigated and non-irrigated cropland, and for pasture. They start in mid-February sending out surveys to farmers and ranchers, and, to make sure they’re getting responses, they follow up with phone calls and sometimes in-person visits. Then, in early August they release the statewide data, followed up by data by county in late-August. You can read more about the survey and estimating process here, but for now, let’s cut to the chase and get you to the answers.
You’ll arrive at a page that looks like this:
As you scroll to the right, you’ll see the estimates per acre for cropland and pasture. They’re listed in alphabetical order by state. After you’ve scrolled through the 2020 estimates, you’ll see the estimates for 2019 and before. If you scroll all the way to the bottom you can see the information they collected in 1994.
You can also click here to see the data visually, with a graph showing nationwide changes over the last twenty years, a map, and state rankings that quickly tell you where pasture rent is the most and least expensive.
You’ll get a similar table, but this time the information is split out by state and county.
How Can You Use This?
The cash rent estimates you find here are just that: estimates. You can use them as a starting point for what you might pay to lease pasture. But there are lots of elements that factor into the value of a pasture from the physical (fencing, water, forage and location) to the financial (Return on Investment, profit sharing and more).
To help you with that, here’s an On Pasture ebook. This ebook gives you tools for valuing pasture, along with links to helpful resources. You can find it here.