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Fall is in the air: Seasonal events on the calendar

Illinois
Midwest farmland growing in value

Crops are not the only things growing on Illinois farmland. The value of farmland also continues to escalate, a new survey shows.

According to the survey by the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers, Illinois farmland values are up 18% over the past year.

Land broker and chair of the organization Luke Worrell said the surge began last year.

“If you put last year’s gains and then the first half of this year’s gains, in certain parts of the state and certain classifications, you are looking at a 40% jump in 18 months,” Worrell said.

Farmland values increased in neighboring states as well, up over 30% in Indiana and 29% in Iowa in the past year.

Worrell said there are several contributing factors to the rising prices.

“One, obviously commodity prices are up, so anytime those are up, potential for overall farm income can be up,” Worrell said. “Also, historically speaking, farmland values have typically been helped when there are inflationary times.”

Worrell said windmill contracts are also adding to the land values. Forty percent of managers surveyed had at least one farm with an arrangement with a wind company.

Most investors know the names of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Both are known for their desire to own farmland as an investment. Gates owns more than 240,000 acres of tillable farmland, and Buffett owns several farms, including one that reportedly is a massive family farm in Illinois near Pana.

The average investor doesn’t have the bankroll Buffett or Gates has to buy acres of farmland, but they can participate in investing by purchasing shares of farmland or agricultural mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.

In Illinois, farmland is assessed for property taxes based on its ability to produce income, or its agricultural value. A farm building is assessed at one-third of the value that it contributes to the farm’s productivity.

The survey showed in the last 18 months cash rents have jumped 25% and are projected to increase as much as $17 per acre in 2023. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about 30% of U.S. farmland is rented out by owners who serve as landlords and aren’t involved in farming.

Half of those responding to the survey believe prices have reached a plateau, but Worrell said there’s room for more growth.

“If we are going to come down, we would like to come down gradually and not be overly volatile, but I see the rest of this year being strong,” Worrell said.


Crime
Hale found guilty of 2019 murder

KANKAKEE — Rashagun Hale was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder Monday in the death of Anthony Stewart on Jan. 1, 2019.

Jurors deliberated for more than four hours into the evening after closing arguments by the attorneys.

Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe had charged Hale with murder by physical assault and murder by vehicular assault.

The 39-year-old Hale will be sentenced at a later date.

“This case was solved because of courageous witnesses who came forward to testify, and because of the great work of law enforcement in investigating the case, especially Kankakee Detective Jenn Schoon. She was exceptional in her investigation and interrogation of the defendant,” Rowe said.

“I love it when justice is served.”

Hale was one of three men who, on Jan. 1, 2019, attacked Stewart as he was walking in the 200 block of North Chicago Avenue, Kankakee police said.

Police found the 40-year-old Stewart lying in the road in the 200 block of North Chicago Avenue at 1:38 a.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

After the attack, Hale and Warren Thomas Jr. each ran over Stewart with their vehicles, according to Kankakee police.

“This was the Warren Thomas show on Jan. 1, 2019,” attorney Debra Niesen said during her closing argument defending Hale Monday.

“This wasn’t the Warren Thomas show. This was the Rashagun Hale show,” Rowe said during his closing argument.

Thomas is charged with first-degree murder, reckless homicide with a motor vehicle, aggravated battery and failure to report an accident resulting in great bodily harm or death. His case still is pending.

Before the incident with Stewart, Thomas is charged with battering another man a short distance from where Stewart was attacked, according to trial testimony in the Hale case.

Thomas also is charged in a separate case with attempted first-degree murder for shooting the third man involved in the attack on Stewart later on Jan. 1, 2019. That victim was the cousin of Stewart, according to testimony in the Hale case.

The victim was shot five times, according to testimony in Hale’s trial.

Debra Niesen and her son, Nathaniel, represented Hale.

Rowe and Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Reedy prosecuted the case.


Crime
Bradley police shooting suspect wants statement to police suppressed

KANKAKEE — Darius Sullivan is asking a Kankakee County judge to suppress the statement he made to investigators after he was arrested on charges of shooting and killing Bradley Police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic and seriously wounding Officer Tyler Bailey.

Chief Public Defender Ed Pentuic made the motion Tuesday during Sullivan’s latest court appearance.

The 26-year-old Sullivan, of Bourbonnais, gave permission for Kankakee County Circuit Judge Kathy Bradshaw-Elliott to view the lengthy video.

Pentuic said the first eight minutes of the statement is key to the motion.

Bradshaw-Elliott set Nov. 9 as the day of the hearing on the motion. She will watch the video before the day of the hearing.

The shooting occurred Dec. 29, 2021, at the Comfort Inn property in Bradley.

The officers had responded to the Bradley hotel in regard to a dog barking in a car in the hotel’s parking lot, according to police.

Sullivan and his girlfriend, Xandria Harris, 26, of Bradley, were both indicted by a Kankakee County grand jury Jan. 21. They are both charged with first-degree murder in Rittmanic’s death and attempted murder in the shooting of Bailey on Dec. 29.


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