Chris Soules, the star of the latest season of the Bachelor, is just a modest Iowa farmer, seeking love from a pool of inordinately gorgeous women. And apparently, he's also pretty rich ... but if he's like any other Iowa land-owning farmer, his net worth has been falling fast.
There aren't a lot of details out there about exactly how wealthy Soules is, but it is known that he is a "millionaire" (the closest thing to a real estimate comes from Celebrity Net Worth, which puts him at $1.5 million). Either way, as the Des Moines Register writes, he's a "fourth-generation land baron" (and a quick search of Iowa's land records also shows his name on more than a few mortgages).
Being an Iowa land-owner these days means your investment has lost value remarkably quickly. In 2014, the value of Iowa cropland slid by 8.9 percent, its fastest decline in 28 years, as the Register reported in December.
That's happening because commodity prices are plummeting after a meteoric rise in the last few years. Ethanol, drought, and increased Chinese demand for corn (in the form of corn-fed animals) were just a few factors that drove corn prices sky-high. But thanks in part to bumper crops this year, corn prices are falling — and as corn prices go, so go land prices in the upper Midwest.
Here's a look at that remarkable rise in land values:
It's certainly true that land prices are still fantastically high by historic standards, but keep in mind that that drop on the far right took place in just one year. The big question now is how much that drop continues. A couple of years ago, it was common to hear fears about another land price bubble, like the one that popped in the early 1980s and devastated many farmers.
This is, of course, a story much bigger and more important than any reality show, and far bigger than any farmer's impressive net worth. As land prices fall across Iowa and other parts of the upper Midwest, it hurts farmers, even those who aren't trying to sell their land. And that's because farmers use land to secure loans to grow their operations or buy necessities like machinery. When your land drops in value, so does your ability to grow — or even maintain — your operation.
Fears of a popping farmland bubble aren't entirely gone — corn prices are at around $3.80 a bushel right now, less than half their 2012 and 2013 highs. But there's also reason to think there won't be a disastrous slide. For one, prices have leveled off, and in addition, it's hard to see demand falling off too far, as the Register reports.
(And in case you were wondering, there's good news for anyone seeking to date a farmer with millions of dollars in investments: still-high land prices mean it shouldn't be too hard to find one. Anyone owning around 125 acres at current average prices currently owns a million dollars' worth of land. The median Iowa farm, as of 2007, was 133 acres. Of course, however, there's the question of how much debt that person has under his or her belt. That can change the farmer's net worth drastically.)
Correction: In an earlier version of this piece I conflated net worth and total land value. A farmer will own a million dollars worth of land but quite often have debt that reduces his or her net worth to well below a million dollars.