Recently, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service published findings from its Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey. Conducted during 2014, the survey involved gathering data from the 48 contiguous states. The survey found that agricultural producers had rented 353.8 million acres of land from landlords during 2014.
Of the 353.8 million total rented acres, land rented from operator landlords totaled 20 percent of the acreage, and land rented from non-operator landlords represented the other 80 percent of total rented acreage. USDA considers operator landlords to be farmers and ranchers, whereas non-operator landlords are others who rent land individually or through other ownership structures, such as partnerships, trusts, corporations, municipalities or limited liability companies. Click here to learn more about the study and its findings.
Considering that farmland acreage in the surveyed states totaled 911 million acres, 39 percent of those total farmland acres are accessed through rental agreements. This highlights the importance of maintaining good landowner-renter relationships. The following five tips aim to help producers to create and preserve such relationships.
1. Write a clear, fair lease agreement. Rental agreements should include several components. Those include identifying the lease’s duration or term; the parties involved; a property description; a fair rental rate; the farming practices to be used throughout the agreement period; expectations for improvement and repair responsibilities; recordkeeping requirements; and mineral rights assignment. Agreements should also have signatures from the parties involved, and ideally, they’d be in writing. This guide from New Mexico State University provides more detail.
2. Customize leases as appropriate. Land tracts and landowners vary in their needs and lease agreement expectations. As a result, Iowa State University recommends that agreements be customized to reflect the specific conditions. Iowa State provides this guide that offers ideas about improving farm lease agreements.
3. Regularly update landowners throughout the season. AgWeb suggests that renters learn about a landowner’s preferred form of communication — mail, email or phone calls — and give relevant updates about field and farm performance. Conversation starters include the weather, crop conditions and farm maintenance and improvements.
4. Make land improvements on rented acreage. Keeping a farm in good shape may convey to landowners that you care about the farm’s appearance and respect your relationship with the landowner. By cleaning fencerows and mowing ditches or waterways, you may foster a good relationship with landowners, based on AgWeb recommendations.
5. Act in a timely manner. Responding quickly to landowner questions or concerns may encourage a positive relationship. AgWeb explains that providing rental payments on time will also be important.