farmland irrigation
(Photo by David A Litman / Adobe Stock)

SGMA Breakdown of the 2024 Trends in Agricultural Land and Lease Values.

By Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice

Agricultural land value continues to be negatively impacted by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, according to the Outlook 2024 Agribusiness Conference hosted in Bakersfield on March 19-21.

Rural appraisers and agribusiness professionals gathered to discuss the “SGMA Effect” at the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ annual conference. The conference also included the release of the 2024 Trends in Agricultural Land and Lease Values Report covering California and Nevada.

According to the trends report, farming districts and regions with the most secure groundwater and surface water supplies continued to see a strong interest relative to regions — namely Central and Southern San Joaquin — with insecure water supplies.

During a water outlook presentation, Vice President of Company Resources for Wonderful Orchards Kim Brown explained that water, not land, is the limiting factor in California agriculture.

“When you start from the overall picture of California, we’re water short,” Brown said. “We have more people than the state was designed to hold from a sustainability factor, and we have overplanting as far as crops go, especially when you look at what’s going to come down the pipeline in the diminishment of the use of groundwater through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and allocations or reductions in pumping for certain areas.”


According to the report, Region 4 — Fresno and Madera Counties — there has been downward pressure on ag land real estate due to low commodity prices, high farming costs, rising interest rates, and an increased awareness in the marketplace of SGMA’s impact.

The highest land values are within the Fresno Irrigation District, the Kings River Water District, and San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors due to their strong, inexpensive water supply.

“In addition, implementation of groundwater restrictions in these areas is not currently expected,” the report said.

Conversely, the lowest demand for farmland and values within Region 4 is attributed to white zone areas without surface water supplies as well as west side properties in federal districts for their unreliable water deliveries, expensive water costs, and pumping restrictions.

The ASFMRA report included four tiers detailing the most reliable and inexpensive water districts to the most unreliable and expensive water supplies in Tier 4. Water districts were not ranked within their assigned tiers.

  • Tier 1: SJR Exchange Contractor Districts, Fresno Irrigation District, Alta Irrigation District, Consolidated Irrigation District, and Kings River Water District.
  • Tier 2: Orange Cove Irrigation District, James Irrigation District, Tranquility Irrigation District, Madera Irrigation District, and Chowchilla Irrigation District.
  • Tier 3: Raisin City Irrigation District, Pleasant Valley Water District, Gravelly Ford Water District, and Root Creek Irrigation District.
  • Tier 4: Triangle T Water District, Aliso Water District, Westlands Water District, Panoche Water District, and White Land Areas.

For Fresno County, demand for cropland with well water as its sole water supply was limited last year, with a stable to slightly declining value trend ranging from $8,000 to $16,000 per acre. Similarly, properties reliant on well water in Madera County reflected limited demand and a stable value trend, maintaining a value range of $7,000 to $12,000 per acre.

“Demand has historically been driven by buyers motivated to develop permanent plantings; however, SGMA pumping restrictions have curtailed marketing activity,” the report explained.

Properties with multiple water sources experienced the greatest demand and strongest values in 2023— a trend expected to continue considering current and potential pumping restrictions in Fresno and Madera counties.


Value trends in Region 5 — Kern, Kings, and Tulare Counties —were weakening in 2023 and properties with limited to no surface water rights were dramatically lower, according to the report.

Concerns over the implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans directed market pricing for permanent plantings and underlying land value. Now, the market takes great account of the future water budget of a given property based on groundwater pumping regulations and the historical percentage of surface water deliveries.

Properties within the river districts reflected the strongest demand and highest values for strong, inexpensive water supplies. Additionally, all Region 5 districts have groundwater recharge facilities to capture water not utilized within their service boundaries.

Similar to Region 4, the lowest demand and land values are White Land Areas with no surface water supply as well as west side properties in state districts. The four-tier breakdown of the most reliable and inexpensive water districts to the most expensive is as follows:

  • Tier 1: ALTA Irrigation District, Buena Vista Water District, Consolidated Irrigation District, and Kern Delta Water District.
  • Tier 2: Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District, Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Kings County Water District, Kings River Conservation District, North Kern Water Storage District, Orange Cove Irrigation District, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District, Stone Corral Irrigation District, and Tulare Irrigation District.
  • Tier 3: Cawelo Water District, Corcoran Irrigation District, Lower Tule River Irrigation District, Melga Irrigation District, Semitropic Water Storage District, and Wheeler Ridge Maricopa Water Storage District.
  • Tier 4: Angiola Water District, Belridge Water Storage District, Berrenda Mesa Water District, Dudley Ridge Water District, Kern-Tulare Water District, Lost Hills Water District, Pixley Irrigation District, Terra Bella Irrigation District, Westlands Water District, and White Land Areas.

The members of ASFMRA are trained to determine the value or lease rates of agricultural properties. Co-chairs of the 2024 trends report include agricultural rural appraiser Todd Combs, agriculture broker Josh Mendrin, accredited farm manager Scott Bozzo, and Matan Goldberg.

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