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Fight or Flight? Land Lease Decisions Loom

Fight or Flight? Land Lease Decisions Loom
What to do when a neighbor tries to rent land out from under you

Some farmers have had to make tough farmland lease decisions in the last few weeks. I had to deal with it the week of Thanksgiving.

Often it's a tip off when the landlord wants to meet before Dec. 1. This is the magical date in Indiana for most farm rental contracts unless there is a specific date in a written contract.

The current state of grain markets makes it a tougher decision this year. How much do you fight to keep land, in a losing scenario? I disagree with this consensus in print media that grain farmers should operate in a deficit the next few years. I've been so disgusted lately, many periodicals have hit the trash can before the back cover was closed.

What to do when a neighbor tries to rent farm land out from under you

Many of us did the right thing and shared profits in the good years. Let us survive these lean ones without going into the red!

A "neighbor" to one of my rented farms contacted the landlord and threw out an offer to rent the farm. Emotions flip back and forth between frustration and flattery. It is flattering because the farm must have looked good and is desirable because of our practices. Frustration comes as the offer was thrown out there without knowing the caveats of the farm, such as a 50/50 rotation requirement and lime/fertility responsibilities, to mention a few.

Related: 4 Ideas for Managing Farmland Rents

I decided to fight for this one. I had to work through the process with the landowner. Fortunately, we have nearly a 10-year relationship. As we do every year, we sat down to review the past year and look forward to next year. Over the course of a couple of meetings we compared apples to apples and hashed out the details once again.

I understand trying to grow a business. We've all targeted and contacted owners. When I was younger, I commonly sent letters. I never threw out numbers, but I introduced myself, and expressed interest if a change was being considered.I know this upset some, but that was never my intention.

In light of recent actions, I'm reconsidering my stance. Maybe I should be more aggressive and forthright, especially when dealing with those who have targeted my operation.

This is part of today's agriculture. I have had to fend off others before, and I will again. I do admit, I wonder how some farmers slip through paying the rents of the early 2000s (or before). I've heard the logic: "The owner never asked for more," or, "The owner must be content."

Related: Addressing the 5 Myths of Ag Landlord Rights

I couldn't in good conscience, however, pay one landowner twice as much as another simply because one didn't ask for more. I must not be a good enough businessman.

Farming is more than turning a profit. There are sound farming practices, and even greater is the human element: treating people properly.

The opinions of Kyle Stackhouse are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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