Wall Street Sodbusters

    I love the names: Bobcat Farm, Golden Eagle Ranch, Long Prairie, Ten Mile Farm. They conjure up Americana, the old homestead, and our rich rural culture.

    Less bucolic, however, is the fact that all those farms are part of a massive Wall Street investment scheme called Farmland Partners Inc. It’s run by a couple of slicks trained in mergers and acquisitions as executives at the investment powerhouse Merrill Lynch.

    Rather than sodbusters, Farmland Partners are taxbusters. They’re using a legalistic plow called the Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, to get enormous tax breaks to subsidize their scheme.

    With this special subsidy, the partners have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to buy up farms and ranches. They now own 295 farm properties covering 144,000 acres in 16 states.

    Of course, the Wall Street plowboys don’t soil their own soft hands by actually farming. No, no — the syndicate hires tenant farmers to do the sweaty work of plowing, planting, and nurturing the crops.

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