Friday, April 27, 2018

As aging ranchers retire, their lands become targets for investors, and they seek help for transfer

Les Dunmire (NPR photo by Cooper McKim)
Rural ranch and farm lands have a greater chance of being snapped up by developers or other investors as aging ranchers prepare to retire without a succession plan. It's an increasing problem: "In 2012, the average age of farmers and ranchers hit 58 years old, higher than the past two centuries — it's also up about eight years from three decades ago," Cooper McKim reports for NPR. "According to a National Young Farmers Coalition report, 63 percent of farmland will need a new farmer in the next 25 years as older farmers retire."

Passing on a ranch or farm isn't as easy as just writing a will, so interested organizations are trying to help aging ranchers and farmers make solid plans for transferring their land. The Western Landowners Alliance and the University of Wyoming Extension Service offer estate planning workshops for ranchers to help guide them through the process.

For example, rancher Les Dunmire, 66, has been planning his retirement for 26 years. In order to pass on his 106,000-acre Dunmire Ranch in southeast Wyoming, he divided his ranch into six legal entities and hired accountants and lawyers to make sure his adult children won't be forced to sell the land. "That's my goal, is to be able to pass these ranches on in the best possible way I can to not only my kids, but my grandkids," Dunmire told McKim.

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