pitfalls of buying farmland

I’m considering buying farmland in Missouri for a variety of reasons. I won’t farm it or live on it myself, but might build a home on it in several years. I could rent it to local farmers or (more likely) put it in CRP. This would be rural county property. What pitfalls or issues should I worry about that I haven’t considered?

I’m only somewhat familiar with CRP…govt. wants to keep the land fallow for erosion control or other reasons, so enters a contract with the owner to pay for keeping it fallow. I don’t know what activities are acceptable or not on such CRP land.

I expect there aren’t any building or use restrictions from the county, but I wouldn’t know. I plan on asking real estate agents these questions, but I may be ignorant enough to not know which questions to ask. Enlighten me on topics that I should be aware of to ask the agents.

WATER RIGHTS! If Missouri is anything like Montana, half the value of the property comes from its water rights. I don’t know Missouri law (and IANAL, and all other appropriate disclaimers), so find someone who does. Around here, the year the water rights were filed is just as important as the amount of water and the source.

Oh, and speaking of water, get your well flow-tested (if there is one). Also, do a perc test to make sure you’ll be able to put in a proper leach field for your septic system close to the potential home site.

Check for noxious weeds, too. The county office should be able to provide you with information regarding your responsibilities for spraying and removing noxious weeds. If you have infestations of knapweed or something similar, you could be looking at thousands of dollars to eradicate it.

Also check mineral rights. There have been issues in Wyoming where mineral rights were separated from the property deed, and decades later a rancher finds some mining or drilling company setting up shop on his property and he can’t do a thing about it.

Also speaking of water, check to see if the property is in a mapped floodplain (www.floodsmart.gov). Even if it doesn’t show up on the NFIP maps, it could be in an area which hasn’t been mapped yet. Check with locals to find out if the area has ever flooded before.

That might not be as important if it’s going to stay in CRP, but if you eventually build a house on it, you probably need to know.

I’d go ahead and check on zoning, too. Just because it’s rural doesn’t mean it isn’t zoned.

In MO, it’s also useful to check with DNR (the convervation folks) http://dnr.mo.gov/ .

They don’t regulate farms, but they do regulate a lot of forest lands. If your land hasn’t been cleared yet there may be restrictions. Or they’ll tell you that you have a colony of the rare and Endanged spotted whatchamacallit on that parcel, which would prohibit you from building there.

Even if you don’t intend to live there, it’s useful to check out the neighbors. If they’re all farmers that’s good. If two or three are trailer trash with meth labs out back, I’d buy a parcel a few miles away.