More and more farmers are being sought out by solar energy companies about leasing their farmland. And the offers are getting pretty high.

The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer surveys 400 U.S. ag producers each month. For the past several months, the survey has asked farmers if they’ve been actively engaged in discussions with any companies about leasing farmland they own for the installation of a solar energy project to generate electricity.

April and May saw slightly higher “Yes” responses, but June had 16% of respondents say yes. Dr. Jim Mintert, director of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture and principal investigator of the survey says 69% of those were offered over $1,000 per acre.

“And one out of four, approximately- 27 percent- said they were offered $1,500 per acre or more. That surprised me. I knew enough to know that there were some people being offered rates above $1,500 because we’d heard about it. I didn’t expect it to be that many.”

Dr. Michael Langemeier, associate director of the Center for Commercial Ag, joins Mintert on the Purdue Commercial AgCast to discuss the results of the Ag Economy Barometer. He agreed that number was surprising.

“No, I didn’t think it’d be 27%. And just to remind those that are not as familiar with the rental market as other people, this is several multiples of cash rent.”

They knew this solar topic was a hot one in Indiana, but Mintert says, “the nationwide aspect of this has kind of got me a little bit befuddled. And I think one of the issues for us is we don’t have a good grip on how many acres have been contracted here in Indiana or the Eastern Corn Belt. We know that there’s quite a few acres that are under contract where no activity’s taken place. We don’t have a good grip on how many acres are actually under contract. So, this is suggesting there’s quite a bit of activity under the surface that we’re not seeing that you can’t pick up by visual traveling around the country.”

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