Bristol County seeks timber/ag fund for $30m commitment

The $713m pension’s search is being led by Segal Macro Advisors, which advised the Cambridge Retirement Board on a similar 2017 search resulting in a $15m commitment to the Hancock Timberland and Farmland Fund.

The Bristol County Employees Retirement System plans to allocate $30 million to a fund, or funds, offering exposure to a diversified mix of timberland and farmland investments.

The $713 million pension, which services public employees in Taunton, Massachusetts, wrote in a request for proposals posted on the website of its actuary and consultant, Segal Macro Advisors, that the decision to add timber and farmland comes after a comprehensive review of its asset allocation and investment goals.

“The board is focused on open-ended fund vehicles to provide ongoing exposure and proper diversification, in combination with other strategies employed by the system,” said the RFP, which was posted earlier this month. Interested managers must respond by February 24.

Bristol County wrote in the RFP that any contractual commitment cannot exceed five years and any manager applying should have an at least five-year track record of identifying, executing and monitoring timber and farmland transactions, among other requirements.

Segal and Bristol County did not reply to requests seeking further detail by press time.

Segal similarly served as advisor on a March 2017 RFP for the $1.4 billion Cambridge Retirement Board’s search for a $25 million timber commitment, which came to include consideration of vehicles also offering farmland exposure.

That search ultimately resulted in a $15 million commitment to the Hancock Timberland and Farmland Fund, which is an open-ended vehicle active in both assets that was launched in 2018.

At a December Cambridge Retirement Board meeting, Hancock Timber Resources Group senior portfolio manager John Perda said HTFF had to that point drawn $6.5 million, and expected to have drawn 90 percent of the capital by the end of the first quarter.

HTFF was to be reopened to new investors in January before a second closing scheduled for June, Perda said.

The vehicle acquired a hardwood timber plantation in Australia, a California almond orchard and an undisclosed number of Midwest row crop farms last year, according to the meeting minutes, which also cited Perda as saying Hancock had several additional acquisitions pending.

Perda said potential acquisitions included an almond orchard in Australia, a cherry farm in Chile and additional apple orchards, produce from which could be processed in a facility the firm already owns.

“Tariffs imposed by the current [US] administration have been a drag on performance, but Perda stated that he hoped a quick resolution would limit losses,” according to the meeting minutes.