Farm values still rising, but change is in the air

REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Property tax notices show land values are up again, continuing a trend that started in 2008.

The value of farmland continues to rise, although some county assessors are seeing signs suggesting that the market may be ready to cool down, reports Tom Cheverny of the West Central Tribune in Willmar. Property tax notices show land values are up again, continuing a trend that started in 2008. The assessed value for 2014 on tillable land rose by approximately 10 percent. Renville County saw its largest increase in 2013, when the per-acre value of tillable land ranged from $4,822 to $10,014, according to information from County Assessor Barb Trochlil. Kandiyohi County Assessor Val Skor reported that the county’s 2014 tillable land values range from $3,354 to just over $9,000 an acre. However, there is change in the air: Connie Erickson, Yellow Medicine County assessor, said that since October, her office has seen several land auctions where no sales occurred because the sellers were not offered the prices they anticipated. And while ag land values rose by 255 percent in the last six years, this last year’s increase was only 10 percent. However, “no matter the variations in values per acre, all of the counties in the area have seen major increases in farmland values since 2008, while residential and commercial/industrial property values have remained largely unchanged,” Cheverny wrote. “The result is a major increase in the tax capacity of the counties, along with a shift of the overall burden to agriculture. Erickson reported that in Yellow Medicine County, the tax base has risen from $1.4 billion to $3.2 billion, with agriculture representing $2.8 billion of the total. Swift County added nearly $500 million in value last year alone due to the rising value of farmland.”

Bryce Haugen of the Wadena Pioneer Journal takes a look at last year’s train disaster in Casselton, N.D., and asks the very logical question: What if it happened here? Haugen notes that the same tracks that run through Minot also run through Wadena 110 miles to the west. It was on those tracks that an oil train derailed and exploded last year. Could it have been worse? A train containing North Dakota crude derailed in Quebec last summer and killed 47 people. Luke Mandershied, Wadena County emergency management director, notes that an average of 10 trains hauling flammable North Dakota crude oil go through Wadena each day. Many more trains contain hazardous materials such as propane and anhydrous ammonia. Sheriff Mike Carr said that when an emergency occurs, the area’s emergency plan could muster as many as 100 law officers, many trained in hazmat operations, within half an hour. BNSF’s own hazmat response team would respond as well. 

A similar story appeared in the Fargo Forum, written by Dan Gunderson of Minnesota Public Radio. It focuses on train and truck traffic in Perham. “Last year, trains hit trucks crossing the tracks three times. …, Perham Mayor Tim Meehl said. ‘The fire chief was telling me he walked out of here and a semi tried to beat the train the other day,’ Meehl said. ‘He made it, but the arms actually hit the side of the trailer as he went through’. … Meehl, a 19-year veteran of the volunteer fire department, worries what could happen if an oil train traveling 50 mph hits a loaded truck and derails. ‘If it happened right out there, this place would probably fry,’ he said. … Local firefighters are well-trained, but the most important public facilities, the fire station and City Hall are vulnerable to a catastrophic accident. ‘All of our emergency operations [locations] are sitting right along the railroad track,’ he said. ‘Our number one is upstairs, our number two is in City Hall and that’s right along the railroad tracks, too. So I said to the city manager, ‘You ever think we maybe should get an option three?’ ” 

Bummer for an angler. Sam Cook of the Duluth News Tribune has the story: Rob Scott, 65, of Crane Lake, who caught a potential tip-up world-record lake trout in February, pleaded guilty Friday in Canada to keeping one lake trout over his limit. Scott, 65, won’t get to keep the fish. You can only catch one lake trout a day, and he had earlier caught and kept a four-pounder. Even though Scott said he gave the smaller fish to his nephew, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources wasn’t buying it. Scott also had to pay a $400 fine and $75 in court costs. Scott caught and kept the fish that unofficially weighed 52 pounds, 3 ounces, on Feb. 8, while fishing on the Ontario side of Lac La Croix. The current record is 29 pounds, 6 ounces. “I fully plan on getting a replica (mount) made,” Scott said. “No one can take away the fact that I pulled a 52-pound fish through a 10-inch hole ice fishing.” 

Josh Moniz writes in the Mankato Free Press of Rev. Leo Koppala, 47, who pleaded guilty to felony second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim younger than 13. The Blue Earth-area priest was sentenced Monday in Faribault County District Court. Moniz wrote: “The stay of imposition will place him on probation with monitoring for 25 years. The terms of probation include requiring him to register as a sex offender, have no contact with anyone under 18 years old, pay restitution and undergo psychological-sexual evaluation. Faribault County Attorney Troy Timmerman said the victim and the victim’s family were satisfied with the sentence, particularly since Koppala faces deportation to his hometown in India. Koppala was taken into Department of Homeland Security custody after the sentencing. He will remain in the department’s custody until the conclusion of his deportation proceedings.”

Up in Moorhead, things got a little hairy, according to the Fargo Forum. “Moorhead police said they were forced to use a Taser on a North Dakota man who was found drunk, naked, running around waving his arms and yelling in a public parking lot Thursday morning. Lt. Tory Jacobson said police responded to a report of a drunk naked man in the parking lot at about 9:40 a.m. Thursday. The area is near some apartment complexes. Jacobson said when officers arrived, they found the man running around totally naked, yelling and waving his arms. It was obvious the man was under the influence of some controlled substance, Jacobson said.” Obvious indeed.

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