Wallaces Farmer

Communication and innovation are needed as landowners and tenants work out cropland rental rates.

July 19, 2016

4 Min Read

Editor’s note: Plastina is an Iowa State University Extension economist and assistant professor of economics.

After a peak in the statewide average for cash rents on cropland acres of $270 in 2013, cash rents have been slowly declining. The latest survey, released by Iowa State University Extension in May, shows a $230 per acre statewide average for 2016.


Although cash rent per acre has declined, an estimated $3.6 billion exchanged hands under rental agreements in 2015. The decline in cash rents has not decreased to the same degree that ag revenues have. Due to this situation, there is increased financial pressure on farm operations that have a large portion of their acres under a rental agreement. As landowners become further removed from the land they own, they look to ISU Extension for an unbiased look at the current farm rental situation.

Get answers to your farmland leasing questions

Attend a local farmland leasing meeting this summer

This July and August, a number of farmland leasing meetings are being held locally across Iowa. ISU Extension farm management specialists will be on-hand to make presentations and answer your questions about land rental agreements.

In partnership with county staff and private partners, over 80 meetings were held focused on farmland leasing in July, August and September of 2015. ISU Extension and Outreach specialists had an attendance of over 1,845 participants at these 2015 leasing meetings.

Online resources that are focused on farmland leasing are heavily downloaded from ISU’s website. The ISU Cash Rent Survey was downloaded 164,234 times in 2015. Example cash lease forms were downloaded 138,820 times. Table 1, which accompanies this article, shows the primary occupation of the leasing audience in 2015.

Survey shows farmers want these ISU farm leasing meetings

When asked why participants attend ISU Extension farmland leasing meetings, a follow-up survey found almost one-third of the people participated to gain knowledge specifically on rental markets and trends. And 21% indicated they wanted to learn information for communicating with the other parties involved in the rental agreement.

Of the participants surveyed, 95% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the effectiveness of ISU’s education program on farm leases.

Last year’s program evaluations also asked farmers and others who were surveyed about intended changes in their lease for 2016. Figure 1 (accompanying this article) shows the changes the participants indicated they would make to their cropland leasing agreements for the 2016 lease year, as a result of attending an ISU farmland leasing meeting.

Get answers to your farmland leasing questions

Most popular questions at farmland leasing meetings

The feedback provided in the 2015 follow-up survey was used in determining the focus of the 2016 ISU farm leasing program. When asked what topics participants would like to have covered in 2016, cost of production, determining fair rates and taking care of the land were the top three issues requested. Also, 44% of the survey respondents stated they attend the ISU leasing meetings year after year to hear current information from ISU Extension farm management specialists.

Of course, not every unique situation can be covered in the two- to three-hour leasing meeting. However, online videos and resources on the ISU Ag Decision Maker website’s “Leasing Page” are available to help provide further information. And as always, the ISU Extension farm management specialists are available to help Iowan’s with further questions on farmland leasing.

Attend a local meeting near you this July and August

The leasing meetings held across Iowa are facilitated by farm management specialists with ISU Extension and Outreach. A listing of county offices hosting the 2016 meetings is available through the Ag Decision Maker website during July and August.

For registration information for any of these meetings, contact your local ISU Extension county office. Preregistration is encouraged, as an additional fee may be added if registering less than two calendar days prior to the meeting date. The ISU Ag Decision Maker website’s leasing section also provides useful materials for negotiating leases, information on various types of leases, lease forms, and newly updated Decision Tools.

For farm management information and analysis visit ISU's Ag Decision Maker site extension.iastate.edu/agdm; ISU Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson's site is at extension.iastate.edu/polk/farm-management.

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