The California-based Western Farm Credit Bank will sell 39 Utah properties at auctions in Provo and Ogden later this month.

Most of the properties are undeveloped pasture or crop land, but some include homes, barns and other structures.The Provo auction, which includes 25 central and southern Utah agricultural properties, is scheduled for Aug. 30, while the Ogden auction is set for Aug. 31.

The sale is the first since the Western Farm Credit Bank was formed last July through the congressionally mandated merger of the Federal Land Bank of Sacramento and the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank of Sacramento, said Ernie Hodges, bank senior vice president.

A similar auction in Utah last year resulted in 30 or 31 properties being sold, said Pierre Ratte, president of Ratte and Company, which is handling the auction.

"We've had more inquiries about this auction already than we had during the total auction that we had in 1987," Hodges said. "So the level of interest seems to be higher; we're very encouraged about that. Farmers are showing some interest in getting back in the market."

He said farm land values in Utah appear to have stabilized, but it's too early to tell if a dramatic improvement is on the way.

"We still are uncertain about the impact of the drought, and it's too early to tell what impact, if any, that will have on land values in Utah," Hodges said.

"We still have many accounts that are in some sort of litigation, either foreclosure or bankruptcy, that we're working with," he said. "I couldn't say right now that we're out of the cycle of acquiring properties."

The Sacramento-based Western Farm Credit Bank has $6 billion in outstanding agricultural loans in Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California and Hawaii, accounting for 40 percent of the agricultural mortgage market and 30 percent of the commercial agriculture market, Hodges said. The bank is chartered and regulated by the federal Farm Credit Administration.