Higher commodity prices continue to nudge U.S. agriculture toward larger-sized farms and create crop production shifts to better maximize farmland use and improve farmers’ profit potential.

That is the bottom line from a panel of farmland value experts who addressed land value trends for several regions of the country during the 2011 American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ (ASFMRA) annual meeting held in Phoenix, Ariz., this fall.

Here is a breakdown of farmland values and changes tied in part to higher commodity prices in the West, Southern Plains, Mid-South and Mississippi Delta. The information was gathered from surveys and industry polling.

West

Steve Runyan of Runyan Appraisal Service, Bakersfield, Calif., discussed farmland values in California, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon.

Runyan says some California farmland values have increased up to 20 percent per acre in the last 12 months; largely for land in permanent crops including almonds, pistachios, and grapes.

“The strong almond, pistachio, and table grape markets over the last four to six years have increased land values,” Runyan told the crowd. “If there was more (land) supply there would be more sales due to the huge demand. There are enough buyers knocking on the doors that if its (priced) reasonably they’ll buy it.”

California citrus land values are stable to slightly higher.

In Arizona, overall farmland values have stabilized after declines in 2008 and 2009. The largest gains are in southwestern Arizona where crop production is year round, including winter vegetables.

In Washington and Oregon, farmland sale figures remain low while overall farmland prices are rising. Prices for orchard-quality irrigated land in Washington can fetch up to $8,000 per acre. Oregon land prices are 10 percent to 15 percent higher over the last year with limited sales.

Western farmland sellers are local farmers, those who recently inherited land, and some development speculators. Buyers are mostly interested in expanding existing farm operations.