HAYDEN, ID — (Marketwire) — 12/04/12 — A generation of aging farmers is reaching retirement age and is looking for liquidity. Second and third generation owners of farmland who inherited land from their parents and grandparents are also contemplating selling as a means of cashing in on historically high farmland values. This trend is being accelerated by the threat of higher capital gains and estate taxes beginning in 2013.
But neither an increase in the capital gains tax from 15% to say 23% nor an increase in the estate tax are justifiable reasons to sell farmland and, as it turns out, completely unnecessary according to one expert. Enter Charles T. Sorensson of the US Farmland Partnership Exchange Inc. (USFPE): “Selling productive farmland is always a bad idea in my opinion when the increase in capital gains tax can be made up in less than one year. So you’ve sold the farm in haste to avoid the tax, ANY tax and now lost the asset and all future income and appreciation in the process. You killed the Golden Goose, unnecessarily.”
Sorensson, a 3rd generation Ph.D. Agronomist with science and business degrees from three universities, grew up learning how to work the family ranch and irrigated farm. After his mother’s passing, he and his siblings experienced the emotional and financial challenges of forced asset sales caused by estate taxes. Sorensson’s team of agricultural and financial experts spent years interviewing farmers and testing and refining business models that could generate the liquidity farmers need “on their own terms” — no land sales, no loss of operational control.
Sorensson says his approach is the answer since it allows participating farmers to get the liquidity they need without selling outright.
Their approach allows participating farmers to avoid hefty capital gains taxes, realtors’ commissions and/or auction fees. Farmers can maintain possession and control of all their farmland and can continue earning an income from their farms and participate in the continued appreciation without going into debt. It can eliminate the need for a farmer, heir of a farmer or owner of farmland to sell outright. It can also eliminate the infighting and bad feelings that often accompany farm estate settlements.
Their approach connects farmers directly with investors, who agree to invest silently as passive investors to avoid the high managerial expenses charged by most other firms. Owners of farmland and investors (many of whom will be farmers seeking to geographically diversify their farm investments) will be able to buy and sell farmland interests on the Company’s trading exchange, probably in a matter of days, to a national and perhaps global audience of interested buyers.
Sorensson is passionate about his company’s social responsibility: “We see a potential catastrophe in the making, the possibility that much of this country’s family-owned ground could end up in the hands of investors rather than farm families (who currently own about 875 million acres, over 95% of all U.S. farmland). We are building this exchange so that no farmers ever have to sell their ground. And we want farmers to own and control our business and the flow of money into and out of family-owned farmland.”
He sums up quietly: “The fact is that a lot of influential farmers and landowners are seniors and already have begun seeking ways to retire to enjoy and support their grandkids. I really understand what it is like to be pressured by big numbers to sell out. Well-meaning friends and family may even encourage you along the way, but selling is a short-term friend and a long-term enemy.”
Sorensson hopes farmers will register on his website, without obligation, and tell him and his team what matters to them: “Farmers: this can be your website, your exchange, your business model. Our approach is absolutely unique, and it was 100% designed to help farm families like yours prosper.”