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MAQUOKETA — In just 15 minutes, a Jackson County record was set when 75 acres of farm ground was sold for $19,900 an acre Dec. 1.

“The price per acre is the highest I’ve seen so far for ag land in our part of the state,” said Chuck Schwager, owner of Maquoketa-based East Iowa Real Estate, who handled the auction.

“But let me add that this is an outstanding parcel of land compared to what we typically see available for purchase in Jackson County and much of East Central Iowa,” he said.

Recent auctions elsewhere in Eastern Iowa are evidence of robust land values. The DeWitt office of Peoples Company has hosted several auctions in recent months that brought in prices that are all-time highs in recent history, if not record highs.

At an October auction of 277.59 acres north of Elvira in Clinton County brought in $17,500 an acre, according to Alan McNeil and Doug Yegge, who operate Peoples DeWitt office. That followed two auctions they hosted last summer that brought prices in the $15,000 and $16,000 range.

The land auctioned in October had a Corn Suitability Rating of 82.5, which is exceptionally high, state agriculture experts said. The rating system was developed by Iowa State University in the early 1970s as a way to measure potential soil productivity based on soil profile, slope characteristics and weather conditions.

The average CSR2 rating for Clinton County ground is 76.9.

In the recent Jackson County auction, the 75 acres sold by Jack and Steve Beck had a CSR2 of 89.7, which is exceptionally high, state agriculture experts said.

The yields from the parcel, which was bought by Jake and Ashley Scheckel, garnered a two-time state champion and five-time district champion in the Iowa Corn Grower’s Contest. The ground, which is located a mile north of Bellevue-Cascade Road near 250thAvenue, was in the Beck family for more than 60 years.

The auction brought good attendance and a number of people took out bidding numbers, as has been the case in land auctions over the past several months in Clinton and Jackson counties where sale prices have been much higher than they’ve been in years.

“Timing for a land auction is really good right now,” Schwager said. “The fall harvest in the area has been great with good weather and dry conditions. Interest rates, commodity prices and cash on hand are all positive factors for the land market.”

The Realtors Land Institute Fall Survey recently released showed that East Central Iowa, which includes Clinton and Jackson counties, has had the second largest increase in land values from March through September at 21.9%. Only the Northeast Iowa Region had a larger increase at 22.5%, noted Schwager, who is a member of the institute. The state average increase was 18.8%.

The largest factor driving the upward trend of farm ground prices is supply and demand, Schwager said, noting that not much land has been on the market for the last several years.

Auctioneer Dan Powers echoed those sentiments at the outset of the auction, noting that the strong markets are helping farmers and resulting in land’s increasing value. He also reminded the crowd gathered at the AmericInn in Maquoketa that the ground for sale, like much of the ground in the area, doesn’t go for sale very often.

“At the end of your lifetime, you can pass it on to somebody else,” he said. “They’ve done a good job of maintaining it and taking care of it all these years. Remember, from 1958 until today is a long time. The next person gets their hands on it, it probably won’t come available for a long time.”

Schwager and others believe land values should hold strong in the near future.

“I believe that if commodity prices stay strong and interest rates don’t spike up we will continue to see strong land prices in our area and throughout the Corn Belt,” Schwager said.

“There has been more land trading hands with the current higher prices, so we will eventually see it cycle and increases will be more moderate in the future,” Schwager said.

Nancy Mayfield is a staff writer with the DeWitt Observer.

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