Strengthening Agriculture Through Involvement

The Real Estate Market Influence

mtls graph

Volume of Montana Land & Ranch Sales

I think everyone is aware of how unbelievable the real estate market has been for the past three years. Our office and most of the ranch real estate industry enjoyed several record setting years in terms of total sales. The third quarter of 2020 through the first half of 2022 was an incredibly volatile time in our real estate market. The spike in prices and the volume of transactions was beyond any period that I am aware of and may always remain that way unless, God forbid, our country and economy have to endure another event like we did during the 2020 pandemic.

I don’t have firm statistics yet on 2023 for Wyoming, but the total sales volume for transactions in our office was a little over half of what it was only a couple of years ago. Actual sales prices (per acre) have not declined, so it appears that despite a reduction in volume, the demand for good properties is still strong. In my opinion, the increased demand is due to significantly lower inventory, and investment minded buyers like the security that comes from owning real estate. Yet, gone are the days of site-unseen, frenzied purchases. Because of the high cost of capital (interest rates), and lower risk, higher returning alternative investments like treasury bills and CDs, buyers are now exercising more discretion. This softening or flattening of our market and the decrease in volatility should make for a more “normal” time in real estate, going forward. Agriculture should also benefit from the higher land valuations ensuring that their balance sheets remain strong.

The Critical Role of WSGA

For many of us, strong land values are foundational to our business’s ability to leverage operational and business capital, and of course, they represent the largest part of our net worth. I understand that the higher land prices make it tough for people to buy agricultural land or expand their existing operation but a drop in prices now while inflation and the cost of goods and services remains so high would be disastrous for landowners. Therefore, staying engaged in agricultural industry issues and fighting to keep our livelihoods and businesses healthy and prosperous is why I am a member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. The strength of their collective voice matters when it comes to standing up for our God given constitutional rights and against those groups and the regulatory agencies that want to take them away. This past December at the WSGA annual convention and tradeshow the theme was “Engaging in Your Industry”. I would encourage you to visit with your local director or regional VP if you were not able to attend and would like more information about it. The timeliness of its focus was in direct response to the critical issues facing the livestock industry and private property owners. Most notable of these is the controversy that has emerged because of the renewal of the Rock Springs Management Plan with the BLM, but we were also updated on the status of Corner-Crossing litigation (that directly affects our private property rights), wild horse management, and issues related to wildlife populations and their control, plus many others. I will admit that many of these issues never seem to go away, but are always confronting and challenging our ability to freely operate. Sadly, the only way they do go away is if we quit fighting or lack the resources and resolve to keep standing in the gap to protect and defend our properties, business, and way of life. That is the reason WSGA exists and why stakeholders need to get involved.

WSGA is not a social club, though we do enjoy good fellowship and opportunities to reconnect with friends and make new ones at meetings and conventions. It is an advocacy organization that exists because of the interest of its members. Without member participation and involvement, and yes paying dues, we are less effective and lose a powerful voice speaking on our behalf. I understand that we will not agree on every issue, but at the end of the day, let’s come together and fight for the ones that really matter. Keep in mind, that even if one of the hot-button issues like public land might not be directly affecting you, another issue like it, soon will. The same regulatory and anti-grazing advocacy organizations going after public land users are also attacking private landowners and producers.

Please take time to consider getting “engaged” again in the organization and use it to leverage your voice in a much more powerful way than you can do individually. Even if you’re not a livestock producer a lot of service sector businesses like mine exist because of the wealth that’s created from agriculture. My business and others like it, are directly affected by its economic well-being and long-term vitality. Distressed or contentious ranch sales never go as well as planned sales. The more we can do to make ranching a thriving and viable industry the real estate valuations will remain strong and the more attractive it will be for the next generation to take over.

God bless everyone and may 2024 be a prosperous and successful year for us all.

Galen Chase
Chase Brothers Land & Ranch