Farmland values last year were up 21 percent in South Dakota and 18 percent in Iowa, and have nearly doubled in Illinois since 2004 -- providing wealth for current farmers, The Christian Science Monitor noted in a Monday story.
On the downside, some economists and rural advocates say, it means it's just that much harder for young people to get a farm of their own and it furthers the consolidation of farmland ownership.
The rising values put arable tracts "out of reach to all but those who have large farms and/or corporate backing," said Brian Dabson, a professor at the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri-Columbia and executive vice president of the Rural Policy Research Institute. "And that's not healthy for a rural economy."
Unlike residential real estate that has been falling in value, economists and land agents don't expect farmland prices to drop much, if at all.
"It's viewed as a very safe investment," says Troy Louwagie, a land consultant in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
Part-time farmer Jarrett Smith of Spencer, Iowa, says it doesn't look like he'll be able to afford to jump in any time soon.
"Right now, I could only dream of getting some ground," Smith said.