U.S. southern Midwest farmland prices ease in 1st qtr - St Louis Fed

Thu May 15, 2014 10:18am EDT

May 15 (Reuters) - Farmland prices in the southern U.S. Corn Belt and Delta region of the Midwest eased in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the previous quarter as bidding for grain acreage and rents tracked lower grain prices over the winter and expectations for this year, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said on Thursday.

"Quality farmland prices fell slightly in the first quarter, a reversal of the gain reported in the fourth quarter of 2013," the bank said in its quarterly survey of 49 farm lenders in the district. "Despite the decline in value, quality farmland prices in the first quarter were 7.5 percent higher than a year earlier."

The bank put the average crop land value at $5,496 per acre, down 6.3 percent from the fourth-quarter average of $5,868. But ranch or grazing land values were put at $2,499 per acre, unchanged from last quarter and reflecting an improved profit outlook for livestock producers benefiting from the decline in feed prices after last fall's bumper harvest, the bank said.

The St. Louis survey covers Arkansas, eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and Indiana, and parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. The area is a key producer of corn, soybeans, wheat, other food commodities, cotton, hogs and cattle. (Reporting by Christine Stebbins in Chicago)