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Abstract

This paper aims to describe and highlight the key issues of farm capital structures, the dynamics of investments and accumulation of farm capital, and the financial leverage and borrowing rates on farms in selected European countries. Data collected from the Farm Account Data Network (FADN) suggest that the European farming sector uses quite different farm business strategies, capabilities to generate capital revenues, and segmented agricultural loan market regimes. Such diverse business strategies have substantial, and perhaps more substantial than expected, implications for the financial leverage and performance of farms. As an illustration, the financial risks clearly increased in the Danish agricultural sector with loan rates following an upward sloping trend in 2006; the first sign of the forthcoming financial crisis that may also severely hit highly leveraged agricultural firms. By using standard measures for farm assets and lending rates, we reveal that countries adopt different approaches to evaluating agricultural assets, or the agricultural asset markets simply differ substantially depending on the country in question. This has implications for most of the financial indicators. In those countries that have seen rapidly increasing asset prices at the margin, which were revised accordingly in the accounting systems for the whole stock of assets, firm values increased significantly, even though the firms had been disinvesting. If there is an asset price bubble and it bursts, there may be serious knock-on effects for some countries. The large variation in leverage positions and their substantial decrease over time raises new issues to be addressed in more analytical studies.

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