Farm rent up 7.2% in Md. $55 an acre trails only Delaware's $58 in 7-state region

September 05, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The average rent for cropland has risen 7.2 percent in Maryland this year, reflecting the changing face of production agriculture in the state.

According to a survey released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maryland farmers pay $55 an acre, the second highest in a seven-state region stretching from New York to West Virginia.

Delaware, at $58 an acre, leads the region. New York and Virginia both average $35 an acre.

In New Jersey the cost is $50.60 an acre; Pennsylvania, $40; and in mountainous West Virginia, farmland rents for $31.

In explanation of the higher cost to farmers here, Ray Garibay, chief statistician at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said state farmers command a premium price for their grain because of the presence of the giant poultry industry on the Eastern Shore.

Garibay said Maryland farmers also have been increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables they grow and market

directly to consumers, which reaps more dollars per acre than corn or soybeans.

Maryland farmers who sell produce directly to consumers also benefit from proximity to the large population centers of Baltimore and Washington.

"Because there is such a high demand for farm-fresh vegetables, the farmer who rents his land can get a better price," he said.

Garibay, who estimates that 45 percent of the state's 1.65 million acres of cropland is rented, also cited rising land costs as a reason.

"We see more rental land because farmers can't afford to buy land. As farmers get older, they don't want to take on the big, long-term debt required to buy more land," he said.

He said the higher rents are an indication that state farmers "need to get bigger to make a go of it. The family farm is going by the wayside; we are moving toward big-time corporate farming."

California has the nation's highest cropland rents. Because of the premium on water, irrigated land there rents for $235 per acre.

Pub Date: 9/05/98

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