The Source On Orten’s Land Rent Sale

One of the big gossip items at the 45th International Sugarbeet Institute was that – whew – maybe stories about land rental rates is a myth. “Did you hear?” one of my favorite farming addicts whispered. “Did you hear that Orten’s land deals didn’t go through after all?” My smiling friend was referring to the story I broke on this blog, the Grand Forks Herald, about the Feb. 21 public auction that determined the fate of 7,300 acres in Cass County, owned by Orten B. Brodshaug of Horace. The rents ratesranged from $126 to $174 per acre and averaged $150 to $160. Lenders and farmers told me this rental auction would have a huge impact on farm land rental rates up and down the Red River Valley, and on either side. Horrors, I thought. Had I misled the public on this story? Was I duped? So I asked, what happened to the $10,000 checks the “qualified bidders” had to bring to the auction. Did they forfeit those dollars, too? “Yup,” the guy said, nodding deeply. The rumor is, he said, that the bidders had gone home to their lenders who had nixed the whole deal on grounds that there was no way they could make these deals pencil out. Better to lose the $10,000 and cut your losses than lose a whole lot more on a bad land rent deal. Really, I said. “Check it out,” he said. So, I did. Scott Steffes of Steffes Auctioneers Inc. of Fargo, took my call on his cell phone this morning on his way to some future auction business. Yes, Steffes, said, he’d been approached by someone at his big Ag Iron event the other day, who challenged him with the same “facts.” “Yeah, the guy said he heard that nearly all that land got turned back,” Steffes said. Steffes told the man that rumor wasn’t true. “‘Bull¬¬¬___!’ the guy said,” Steffes says. “So I asked the guy, why would YOU know and I wouldn’t?” Steffes told the man, adding. “I was one of the people who cashed the checks!” The deal was that the winning bidder had to write an immediate check for 10 percent of the rental amount and then write a check for the balance by March 1. All of those checks went through, Steffes says. Steffes wasn’t able to convince the guy. “Well, the guy tells me that he heard it from ‘The Source.’ Maybe it’s from one of the renters who got the land, I don’t know.” Steffes acknowledged he’s been approached about the rumor at various functions in the past several days. He says the “opposite was true,” because two different individuals came in after the auction and asked who had won the bid. One of the farmers at the auction offered a winning bidder $20,000 to walk away from their contract, giving them a chance to rent. And so, folks, Scott Steffes is MY source on this, as well as a few other trusted souls I’ve known since my temples weren’t gray. I don’t know if there’s a way to impeach an auctioneer, even if you wanted to, but I’d say Steffes is an unimpeachable source. While I had him on the phone, I asked Steffes to give me the non-promotional version of how Brodshaug’s farm equipment sale went. Steffes – who fortunately has a sense of humor — said it went “excellent” and proved that well-maintained older equipment still sells pretty well, especially in light of rising prices with new equipment. An 8820 combine of the 1983 vintage went for about $9,000, for just the machine. Meanwhile, AgIron had 1,900 bidders, a “near high” on the first day of the Sugarbeet Institute. The average bidder numbers for these sales is about 1,250, Steffes said. “It showed some market weakness in late model combines and probably the higher-end truck equipment, but overall it was excellent.” Excellent, I said.

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