As we head into the final stretch of August, farmers are already looking ahead to harvest. While they focus on putting pivots to rest in the near future and begin pulling out the harvest equipment, it’s a good idea for farmers and landowners in rental agreements to remember that September 1st marks the date by which lease agreements must be terminated or terms and conditions changed, if it is so desired by either party.
In Nebraska and most surrounding states, an oral farmland lease begins on March 1st. Farm lease agreements are automatically continued year by year unless one party serves a termination notice or requests a renegotiation of the terms, and Nebraska law requires that this notice be served six months in advance of that date. Many rental agreements are oral agreements, and while it is always recommended that the terms of leasing agreements be on paper, it’s important for those without one to keep in mind that September 1st is fast approaching, should one desire to terminate or change a lease agreement. One of the most common disputes among parties with primarily oral farm rental agreements involve differing recollections of the terms of the lease; as such, farm managers strongly encourage that an agreement be put down in writing, even among family members, to avoid such disputes.
With that in mind, farmers and landowners each have an interest in ensuring that rental agreements are fair and mutually beneficial to both parties. Determining a fair price for farmland can be complicated, as many variables come into play, including farmland location, soil quality, land values, crop yields, personal goals, and the relationship between owner and tenant. Naturally, the factors that have the greatest effect on rental price are land values and crop yields. As these vary—sometimes quite a bit—from year to year, it can be difficult for owners and the farmers who rent the farmland to agree on a fair rental price.
To add to this difficulty, it’s interesting to note that a common way of determining a fair rental price—by comparing them with average county rents—isn’t always the best way. Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey found that, while the reported state and county land rent averages are accurate, they also mask a lot of variability among rents. From his findings, Schnitkey reports, “Only 35% of farm cash rents are within $20 of the average rent. This leaves many cash rents that vary significantly from averages.”
How then can farmers and landowners best determine a fair rental price for their farmland? Many are turning to professional land managers. Land managers deal with these types of situations on a daily basis, and are knowledgeable about all the tools available—such a flexible lease agreements—to farmers and landowners. They take into account each party’s unique circumstances and work with them to form a mutually agreeable arrangement, that best allocates risk and return for each. In situations involving family members, they are able to serve as an objective liaison who can effectively work out the rental agreement in a fair-minded way.
Are you wondering if your land leasing agreement is serving your best interests? Contact a UFARM land manager—they are happy to offer you sound advice regarding farmland rental agreements.
United Farm and Ranch Management (UFARM) is a Nebraska-based company devoted to meeting landowners’ needs. UFARM offers a full range of Nebraska land management services, including real estate sales, rural property appraisals, consultations and crop insurance. UFARM has operated in Nebraska since the early 1930’s.Contact Us.
Caldwell, Jeff. “What’s ‘fair’ cash rent for your land?” Agriculture.com. 15 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.
Edwards, William. “Computing a Cropland Cash Rental Rate.” Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. May 2014. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.