Bids don't reach reserve price for Vermilion County farmland

CATLIN — Vermilion County is still in the farming business, after bids for about 112 acres of county-owned farm ground failed to meet the reserve price of $10,000 an acre at an auction Thursday.

Vermilion County Attorney Bill Donahue said the top bid came close to $10,000 an acre, but didn't reach that reserve price, which was set prior to the auction by a subcommittee of the Vermilion County board. The high bid totaled $925,000, said Donahue, who added that at one point in the process, the auctioneer revealed the reserve price, which drove bidding higher but not enough to meet the reserve.

The county was hoping for at least $1.12 million for the 112 acres located southwest of Tilton. The land was originally part of the Vermilion County poor farm, which eventually became the Vermilion County Nursing Home.

Donahue said the auction at the Catlin Community Center drew a full house, but not everyone was bidding.

With some Midwestern farmland selling for more than $10,000 an acre last year and with a private company earlier purchasing the nursing home, county officials decided to try selling the farm ground, as well.

For years, the county has been paying Farmer's National Co. of Danville to manage the land. It is custom-farmed, meaning the farmer is paid per task — a certain amount for planting the crops and a certain amount for harvesting them. Under that arrangement, the land has generated about $50,000 a year for the county.

In voting to auction the land this winter, county officials reasoned that now was the time to get the best price. Four years ago, the land would have sold for about $3,000 to $4,000. County officials also said there were indications that the price of farm ground would begin to drop, so now was the time to get the best price.

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