Importance of using a written lease: trends and resources
Women are an increasingly important group of Iowa farmland owners. According the last comprehensive study of Iowa farmland tenure trends, 47% of Iowa farmland is owned by women – and women own 55% of the leased farmland acres in Iowa. A 2021 study of women farmland owners indicated that about 60% of these women utilize a written lease, while 40% do not. Especially as farmland owners age and transitions continue, it is increasingly important that leasing agreements be in writing.
There are multiple advantages for farmland owners and operators to have a written lease agreement. When agreements are in writing, the parties are much more likely to cover all the provisions intended, from the financial terms to respective duties of the parties. Terminology and related details can be addressed, such as what is meant by hunting rights or fence maintenance.
Parties sometimes resist putting the agreement in writing due to a misplaced notion that this implies a lack of trust in the other party. Rather, parties to a farmland leasing agreement should put their terms in writing because they value the relationship. It is entirely human for people to forget or misunderstand perceptions of a verbal agreement, and written agreements are much less likely to be the subject of later misunderstandings or disputes. A written lease agreement is invaluable in circumstances where one of the parties becomes disabled, ill, dead or otherwise unavailable and someone else must take over.
Whether farmland owners and operators currently have a written lease, or are contemplating a future written farmland lease, these agreements should be reviewed and discussed by the parties on a regular basis. Conversations regarding goals and changes in circumstances lead to better relationships and outcomes for both farmland owners and producers. ISU Extension and Outreach provides suggested forms for basic cash leases as well as longer forms that provide guidance for cash, flexible, and crop share leases. There are focused resources to add conservation supplements to written leases. These suggested lease forms provide both owner and operator with a guide for developing agreements to fit the circumstances. And remember, these forms should not be used as a substitute for legal advice applicable to the parties’ agreement.
2022 Iowa Women Farmland Owners Survey
Do I Need A Written Lease?
Improving Your Farm Lease Contract
Iowa Farm Leases: A Legal Review
Survey of Iowa Leasing Practices, 2017
Iowa Cash Rent Farm Lease (Short Form)
Iowa Farm Lease Form (Long Form, for cash, flexible or crop share)
Lease Supplement for Obtaining Conservation Practices
Women Managing Farmland programs and resources are financially supported by a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture - Critical Agriculture Research and Education grant (2021-68008-34180) and a Farm Credit Services of America gift.
For information on Women Managing Farmland courses, visit the Women in Ag website
For information on upcoming Women Managing Farmland webinars
Melissa O'Rourke, former extension farm and agribusiness management specialist