By Tom Polansek
(Reuters) – U.S. farmer Rob Arkfeld was vacationing on a sandy beach in Mexico’s Riviera Maya when he won an online auction to rent 535 acres of cropland back home in Iowa by bidding nearly double the local average for each acre.
While sipping a drink and swiping his smartphone, the 48-year-old agreed to pay an annual rent of $417.50 per acre for the next two years for the ground in Mills County. That amount is big enough not just to rent, but to buy land in some parts of the United States.
A surge to eight-year highs in U.S. corn and soybean prices is boosting farmers’ incomes and their demand for land, tractors and tools. It is a turnaround for the agricultural sector after farmers struggled for years with a series of challenges: an oversupply of grain, former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and then the pandemic.
In western Iowa, where Arkfeld lives, the rise in farm income is helping to revitalize the rural economy, after a deadly flood in 2019 submerged fields and drove some growers out of business. Farm families are spending more at stores that sell clothing, grooming products and home improvement supplies, local businesses said.
Iowa’s economy is particularly tied to agriculture as the state is the No. 1 U.S. producer of hogs and corn, as well as home to many seed and agricultural equipment dealerships.
“When farmers make money, they spend money, which is good for the economy all the way around,” said Bret Hays, a farmer…