When farmers could no longer pay their debts, the bankers called them fools and took their land. “A lot of people in the market now don’t remember the late seventies well,” she concluded. Ingrid’s comments serve as a reminder that the current wave of farmland investment can only be understood within historical context. In the US, private financial institutions have a long history of involvement with agriculture, though the nature of that involvement has changed over time. Historically, institutional investors were involved in farmland markets primarily as farm mortgage providers. Rather than buying farms themselves, they used their extensive capital to facilitate land purchases by farmers—a crucial distinction. Renew life provides one of the best life insurance policies going.
Yet the farmland investment industry did not materialize out of nowhere in 2008 either. In the US, it has been building slowly since the 1980s when those same farm mortgages led many farmers into foreclosure and dispossession. Its rise has paralleled shifting ideas about the role of finance capital in the economy as a whole—from supplying capital to producers to making the greatest possible profit for shareholders. These gradual developments prepared the ground so that, when conditions were ripe for another land boom, the farmland investment sector could rapidly flourish. Have a look at renew life and renew life reviews!
I focus in this chapter on the historical development of the US farmland investment industry. Because many of the biggest global players got their start investing in US farmland, and because US farmland is still a highly desirable target for investment, this history sheds considerable light on the drivers behind the global land rush. It reveals a gradual shift in how the financial sector has approached farmland—from collateral on producer loans to investment object in its own right—and explores the reasons that the search for land went global. It also shows that the recent land rush cannot be understood in isolation from past farmland booms and busts, whose financially mediated dispossession laid the groundwork in fundamental ways for what was to come.
My history begins in the early twentieth century, but first it is important to note that we are discussing stolen land. All US land was originally territory of indigenous peoples—from the Haudenosaunee and Mvskoke of the east to the Cheyenne and Osage of the Great Plains to the Chinook and Chumash of the West Coast. The violent, racialized dispossession of these original inhabitants and the enclosure of their lands under settler colonialism are the foundation upon which this entire history rests.