Communication strategies and resources: Tools to improve relationships between farmland owners and producers
Trends in farmland leasing impact the need for improved communication. Iowa has about 30 million acres of farmland. Fifty-five percent of Iowa farmland is owned by someone who does not currently farm, including 20% which is owned by someone who is not an Iowa resident. Fifty-three percent of the non-farming owners do not have farming experience. A substantial number of Iowa farmland acres are farmed by producers who do not own the land – as much as 70% in some counties. This muddles interactions between owners and farm producers who rent the land.
Effective communication between farmland owners and producer-tenants is vital to reduce frustrations and build healthy relationships. Fortunately, strategies and resources can enhance interaction between the parties.
Written lease agreements heighten communication between the parties. While about one-third of leased acres have no written lease agreement, even those who utilize some sort of written agreement could use more discussion.
Farm Newsletters: Farm tenants in past years typically had just one or two landowners. As farmland is increasingly passed through generations and farm size increases, producers have multiple landowners and could benefit from developing a farm newsletter. A quarterly newsletter informs landowners of farm developments. The newsletter could provide a synopsis or suggestions of a tenant’s future plans. The newsletter need not be overly-technical, and can be a tool to keep the communication doors open.
Annual Report: Many farmland leases require that the tenant provide an annual report to the landowner. A framework can be found on ISU’s Ag Decision Maker website. Parties can adjust the framework based on their needs and use the tool for better communication.
Regular Conversation: Some landowners and tenants meet just once a year to discuss plans for the following crop year leasing agreement. Trying to fit all discussion into one meeting can be frustrating. Instead, have conversations on a regular basis, at least semi-annually, if not quarterly. These meetings can take place in-person, by phone, or via video calling or other on-line platform.
Webinar on communication
- Importance of Using a Written Lease
- Building Your Professional Team
- Keeping the Ground Covered
- August 9: Landowner-Tenant Communications
- October 11: End-of-Life Taxes and Expenses
- December 13: Slowing Water Down
Additional details can be found on the ISU Women in Ag website.
Importance of Using A Written Lease-Trends and Resource
Survey of Iowa Leasing Practices, 2022
Developing a Farm Newsletter for Landlords
Farm Lease Annual Report - A Tool for Communications
Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey 1982-2022: A Forty-Year Perspective
After years of service to ISU Extension and Outreach, this is Melissa O’Rourke’s final article for our Ag Decision Maker newsletter. We are grateful for her dedication to education and intend to carry on the great work she has done.
Melissa O'Rourke, former extension farm and agribusiness management specialist