Thursday, October 23, 2014

LDS-Affiliated AgReserves Australia Puts 47,000 Hectares Of Farmland On The Market

AgReserves Australia, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has put four different Riverina properties worth $100 million on the market in Australia, and there are at least four prospective buyers nosing about as of this post. The 47,000 hectare aggregation includes Kooba Station at Darlington Point, Bringagee and Benerembah stations at Carrathool and Booberoi near Euabalong. All are located in the Australian state of New South Wales. It is understood the portfolio includes river water entitlements and bore water extraction rights; sheep and Wagyu cattle are also part of the package.

US-based Westchester Group (owned by American financial services giant TIAA-CREF), Auscott (owned by J. G. Boswell Co of California), the Harvard Endowment Fund, and Bengerang, the newly renamed PrimeAg, believed to have teamed up with Walnuts Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Webster, are all said to be interested in the four farms. Bids were due several weeks ago and price expectations are in the range of $100 million to $120 million. Thus a profit of as much as $50 million could be realized as a result of the sale.

The four properties, where wheat, corn, beans, rice, stonefruit, olives, and other crops are grown, were bought by AgReserves in 1997 for about $70 million from the renowned South Australian family business G. H. Michell & Sons, an institution in the wool industry. At the time of the purchase, then-President Gordon B. Hinckley explained, "We have felt that good farms, over a long period, represent a safe investment where the savings of the church may be preserved and enhanced. At the same time, they are available as an agricultural resource to feed and support people should there come a time of need." In addition, pioneer treks were operated out of the Benerembah Station for interested parties; there was a $15 charge assessed per person for handcart and site maintenance. Along with some facilities, handcarts with boxes containing equipment, portable water cart and portable toilets were available. It is unknown if the new owners will continue the pioneer treks.

AgReserves Inc. is a for-profit company, owned by the LDS Church, which together with other Church-run agricultural affiliates, owns about 1 million acres in the continental United States on which the Church has farms, orchards, ranches, and hunting preserves. AgReserves also operates in Britain, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. Some of the Church-owned land is leased to farmers. The Church does NOT use tithing funds to purchase commercial properties. The Bare Record Of Truth blog provides a partial list of properties owned by the LDS Church as of March 2014.

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