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Farmers, Investors Make Deals at Land Fair

June 23, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ Financially strapped farmers seeking bail-outs and investors looking to turn a profit met Monday for an unusual chance to make deals in person at the Chicago Farmers Club’s second annual land fair.

About 75 farmers from across the nation gave brief presentations to an audience of some 200 investors, then set up tables where interested investors had a chance to learn more about prospective deals, said Lee Kershner, club director.

Some farmers came wanting to sell some of their land to investors and have them assume the debt, while others at the fair ″just want to get out of farming because they’ve had it,″ Ms. Kershner said.

″The program is to bring together farmers who are wanting to be bailed out of their problems with investors,″ she said.

″This is the only one I know of,″ said Richard Dees, an attorney and member of the Farmers Club, a group of 550 business and professional people many of whom also own farms.

″The reason it’s so unique is that the farm community feels a lot differently about outside investors than it used to,″ Dees said.

Pride and ″the hostility of family farmers to outside investment″ made such ventures rare in the past, he said.

But because of the sagging farm economy, ″there’s an increasing awareness of the need for outside capital - the need to shift the risk,″ he said.

″I essentially believe that now is an outstanding time to consider farm land as an investment,″ said Franklin Urbahns, a stockbroker who attended the fair. ″Farm land sells at about one-third of what it did in 1981.

″I think it’s dropped down to a level that it makes economic sense,″ he said. ″It’s a reasonable alternative to more conventional investments.″

Urbahns said he was not there to bail out struggling farmers.

″Farmers have in the past leveraged their farm holdings and gotten themselves into trouble. Therefore if we’re going to look for a sympathy vote for farmers - they’re not going to get it from me,″ he said. ″I’m not talking about sympathy, I’m talking about a benefit from an investment standpoint.″

A 31-year-old northern Illinois livestock farmer said he saw the fair as a chance to hook up with an investor who could help him stay afloat.

The farmer, who asked not to be identified, said his family had owned his 240-acre farm for three generations, and had been hard hit by low commodity prices and high interest rates.

″In the 1970s, when everyone said you should grow and expand and diversify,″ the family did, he said.

With the slumping farm economy, however, ″we’ve had to borrow from Peter to pay Paul,″ he said.

″We’re trying to nip it now″ by selling the land to an investor, he said.

″They’ll buy it and we’ll farm it for them,″ he said, adding that he hoped an investor would assume the debt on the land, ″and get a return on their investment.″

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