High-quality farmland remains in demand in North Dakota, but uncertainty over grain prices is making producers choosy.

Brian Mohr, area sales manager for Farmers National Co. in Garretson, S.D., said he sees more farmers buying only high-quality, high-producing land.

Alan Butts, a Realtor with Pifer's Auction & Realty, agrees that there is still demand for high-quality land. He said lesser-quality property can be more of a struggle to sell and sales prices for pastureland have greatly reduced.

Butts said farmers are no longer setting record-high sales prices as they did in 2012 through 2014: "2012 was a banner year in North Dakota."

But he contends the land market is still relatively strong — far above values seen four to five years ago.

"Fifteen years ago if you had told farmers we would see land values as high as they've been, they would have laughed you right out of the room," he said.

Prices of farmland sold by Farmers National Co., which mostly includes property in the eastern half of the state, came in around $6,000 per acre this month, down about $800 from the same time last year, the company said.

Butts said the properties he lists are selling at 10 percent to 20 percent off the past high. Pastureland around Bismarck-Mandan goes for about $1,200 to $1,500 an acre on average, he said. Good producing cropland goes for $2,200 to $2,700 per acre.

"They were as high as $3,000," he said.

A survey conducted in January 2015 and funded by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands put 2015 average value of rented, non-irrigated cropland in Burleigh County at about $1,775 per acre, more than $600 above the 2010-14 average.

In Morton County, the average land value of rented, non-irrigated cropland was $1,623 in 2015. The McLean County average was $2,121, the Mercer County average was $1,319 and the Oliver County average was $1,814. Western county averages were less.

For pastureland, the survey showed the average value of rented property in Burleigh County as $1,134 per acre in 2015, more than $400 above the 2010-14 average value.

Pastureland values of rented land in Morton County averaged $1,146 per acre in 2015. The McLean County average was $850, the Mercer County average was $729 and the Oliver County average was $1,174. The averages in Dunn, Stark, Hettinger and Billings counties were in the same range as McLean County.

Butts said, should crop prices remain low for several years, land prices would likely follow. 

(Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com)