I love the names: Bobcat Farm, Golden Eagle Ranch, Long Prairie, Ten Mile Farm. They conjure up Americana, the old homestead, and our rich rural culture.
Less bucolic, however, is the fact that all those farms are part of a massive Wall Street investment scheme called Farmland Partners Inc. It’s run by a couple of slicks trained in mergers and acquisitions as executives at the investment powerhouse Merrill Lynch.
Rather than sodbusters, Farmland Partners are taxbusters. They’re using a legalistic plow called the Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, to get enormous tax breaks to subsidize their scheme.
With this special subsidy, the partners have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to buy up farms and ranches. They now own 295 farm properties covering 144,000 acres in 16 states.
Of course, the Wall Street plowboys don’t soil their own soft hands by actually farming. No, no — the syndicate hires tenant farmers to do the sweaty work of plowing, planting, and nurturing the crops.
This tenant system produces a double-line cash flow for the faraway owners. Farmland Partners charges the tenants rent for tilling the corporate soil, then they harvest a sweet share of any profits from the sale of crops the tenants produce.
Meanwhile, the young farmers America desperately needs — those who actually want to, you know, farm — are having a hard time finding affordable land to get started. This new generation of farmers can easily be out-bid for good land by Wall Street speculators who have the cash flow from tenants and the subsidy from taxpayers to underwrite their financial contrivance.
To prevent the money schemers from literally walling off young farmers, and to fight this insidious Wall Street takeover of agriculture, connect with www.YoungFarmers.org.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.