Wyoming Ag Land Value Up 19% From Pre-Pandemic Years

The value of Wyoming agriculture land is up nearly 19% from 2019, but is leveling off even as it continues to explode across the United States.

John Thompson

August 11, 20234 min read

A herd of cows graze in a pasture below low-hanging clouds in Wyoming.
A herd of cows graze in a pasture below low-hanging clouds in Wyoming. (Getty Images)

The value of agriculture land nationwide is up 20% on average in the last two years but has leveled off in Wyoming, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

Several Wyoming ranchers agree with a recent USDA study of agriculture land values. Prices for rural acreage jumped during the COVID-19 pandemic as people fled cities. Rural acreage, especially developed ranches, were selling sight unseen during the pandemic.

Strong demand for Wyoming ranches and rural properties remains, but the brisk demand that existed during the pandemic has tempered.

Value Holds In Wyoming

Galen Chase owns a small ranch near Sheridan and is a partner in Chase Brothers Land and Ranch Brokerage. Chase said he's not seeing any regression in land values, but demand for it has levelled off.

"The escalation in pricing has levelled off since the second half of last year," he said. "Prior to that, we saw a run up in prices that created a real frenzy."

In Carbon County, rancher Jack Berger said people shopping for land there have seem to have gotten a lot more selective and prices are being reduced to make sales.

In Fremont County, sheep rancher Marvin Schmidt said land values have gone up to a price point where agriculture is not viable because the margins are too thin to justify the cost.

By The Numbers

The USDA study released last week shows U.S. farm real estate values, including all land and buildings on farms, is averaging $4,080 per acre in 2023. That's an increase of $280 per acre over 2022 prices and an increase of nearly $1,000 per acre since 2020.

In the Mountain States — Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Montana — average farm real estate prices are up about 4% over last year, from $1,390 per acre to $1,450 per acre.

In Wyoming, the price of farm real estate is up $30 an acre over last year and $140 per acre since 2019. According to the study, Wyoming farm real estate average value in 2023 is $880. In 2019, the value was listed at $740 per acre. While not as pronounced as ag land prices elsewhere in the U.S., that’s still a nearly 19% jump from pre-pandemic values.

Among the Mountain States, Colorado saw the largest increase in land values over the past year at 10.2% to $1,950 per acre. Montana values increased about 4% to $1,070 per acre.

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The USDA study shows prices for grazing pasture in Wyoming up slightly from last year at $670 per acre. Wyoming average price for pasture in 2019 was $575.

The highest price pasture grazing land in the Mountain States is in Idaho, where it increased to $2,040 per acre this year, from $1,560 in 2019.

For irrigated cropland, the study lists Wyoming at $3,000 per acre, up from $2,430 in 2019. The most expensive irrigate cropland in the Mountain States is in Idaho. The study listed Idaho at $7,990 per acre and $6,020 in 2019.

In California, the value of irrigated cropland is listed at $18,600 per acre, up from $15,100 in 2019.

Priced Out Of Productivity?

Berger, who is president of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, said it's positive to see the Wyoming land rush cool down because the cost of nearly everything else associated with ranching is still going up. He said farm machinery costs are up 30% to 40% and implement dealers have limited inventory.

"Cattle prices are amazing right now, but profits aren't," he said. "We are seeing record prices, but it's not translating into record profits at the farm level."

Chase said across Wyoming, it's a good time to be in the ranching business. Cattle prices are high, and with all of the rain this year, the grass is tall. There are a lot of people shopping for ranch land, but the inventory in Sheridan, Crook, Campbell and Weston counties is limited.

"There are plenty of buyers but not a lot of inventory, and that is keeping prices up," he said. "It's a good time to be a rancher if you own land and cattle."

Schmidt said most of the recent land sales in Fremont County have gone to people who made money outside of agriculture.

"Most of the ag land selling here is not selling at a price that you could justify," he said. "The cost of land is way too high to make it viable for a farmer unless you have the money up front. I'm an old-time farmer and sheep man, and there's just no way that I can see to get the value out of that land by farming."

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John Thompson

Features Reporter