A State-by-State Guide to Midwest Farm Lease Termination Deadlines

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While it’s really never too early to be thinking about next year’s lease, if you’re not careful, it can be too late. Do you know the important dates for your state?

As an owner of farmland, it’s hard to imagine that less than six months after your farmer gets their crops in the ground, it’s time to act on your plan for the next year. In most states there are established farm lease termination dates by which you must address your lease, or risk losing the opportunity to make any changes for the following year. While many landowners are savvy about these dates and what they mean for their farmland, others might be surprised to learn that they don’t have as much flexibility in the timing of lease negotiation and renewal as they might have expected.

What is a farm lease termination date?

In its simplest terms, this is the date by which either party—you or your farmer—must move to terminate your lease agreement; otherwise, the lease automatically renews with the same terms. This applies to written and verbal leases in most cases.

Why is the farm lease termination date important?

Lease termination laws vary from state to state, and missing a deadline can be costly. Because leases automatically renew if not terminated by the date, you’ve missed a major opportunity to discuss important topics like rent adjustments, farm performance, necessary land improvements, and other factors with your farmer. And that means you’ve lost the opportunity not only to be more informed about your farmland, but also to determine if the terms of your lease need to change for the coming year to account for those factors.

I’m not planning to change my lease or my farmer. Why should I care?

Whether or not you’re planning to make any changes to your lease or your tenant, staying on top of termination deadlines ensures you’re having critical conversations about your farmland. Having a grower you like, respect and trust is the goal for most landowners, because that builds a strong, long-term relationship. But long-term relationships don’t necessarily rely on long-term leases. Regular termination, review, and renewal or renegotiation of your lease provide the mechanism to make sure you’re taking a proactive approach to your farmland investment.

What’s the farm lease termination date for my state?

Every state is a little bit different, and it can be difficult to keep track of the requirements for each—especially if you own land in multiple states. To help you avoid missing the date that applies to your land, we’ve compiled the deadlines and methods that meet termination requirements in the states we’re most often asked about. If your state isn’t listed here, just ask us and we can help. (You can also check with your local land grant university, which will often publish this information.)

Illinois

  • Deadline: 4 months before the end of the lease

Tip: Because the majority of farmland leases run from March 1 to the last day of the following February, the most common termination date is October 31.

  • Requirement: Written notice in the form of a hand-delivered letter or a similar document sent by certified or registered mail.

Tip: Because the deadline is often in the middle of harvest, it is usually wise to deliver the letter earlier to ensure that the tenant is easily located for delivery.

Indiana

  • Deadline: 3 months before the end of the lease

Tip: That would translate to roughly a November 30 deadline, which leaves a very short time period to set the terms for the next year. Allow yourself more negotiating time by terminating earlier.

  • Requirement: A termination letter must be served in writing.

Tip: Certified mail is ideal for confirming the letter was delivered. If you choose to hand-deliver your notice, getting a signature from your tenant is a good way to confirm the termination was served.

Iowa

  • Deadline: September 1

Tip: This is a specific date that must be met in Iowa, which gives plenty of time to negotiate before the next year. It allows for notice to be served by either you or your tenant before the hectic harvest season begins.

  • Requirement: Written notice is required.

Tip: Always get a signature, whether in person or via certified mail.

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Michigan

  • Deadline: It’s up to you!

Tip: Michigan law allows you to dictate the termination date of a lease in the lease document, along with any renewal terms. This is very convenient particularly if you plan to negotiate terms every year.

  • Requirement: Written notice is required if you don’t choose to include the termination date in the lease.

Tip: Always get a signature, whether in person or via certified mail.

Minnesota

  • Deadline: 3 months before the end of the lease, or you have the option of including a definitive termination date in the lease document
  • Requirement: Written notice is required if you don’t choose to include the termination date in the lease.

Tip: Always get a signature, whether in person or via certified mail.

Missouri

  • Deadline: It’s up to you—or 60 days before the end of the lease

Tip: Missouri allows for a specified termination date in the lease. If no date is included in the lease documents, it is called a “periodic lease” and it must be terminated with 60 days’ notice.

  • Requirement: Written notice is required if you don’t choose to include the termination date in the lease.

Tip: Always get a signature, whether in person or via certified mail.

Wisconsin

  • Deadline: 90 days before the end of the lease

Tip: Notice that some states list their notification periods in months, and others in days. This can be an important difference.

  • Requirement: Written notice is required.

Tip: Always get a signature, whether in person or via certified mail.

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Things to remember

While “termination” sounds final, it’s best to think of it as a beginning. It doesn’t have to be a tense time; it’s more like the starting point for negotiations about the terms for next year. Your farmer will hopefully have the same view, particularly if you already have a strong relationship. Even if you arrive at the same terms as the year before, terminating every year allows you to have a meaningful discussion with your farmer and re-establish expectations on both sides. And if for any reason you do need to make a change with your tenant, this is the best time to do it.

If you have questions about any of this information, or if the state you’re interested in isn’t listed here, we’re happy to help. Just contact us to get started.

Related questions

The farm lease termination date is the date by which either party—the landowner or the farmer—must move to terminate your lease agreement. Otherwise, the lease automatically renews with the same terms. This applies to written and verbal leases in most cases. Staying on top of this date ensures landowners and farmers are having critical conversations about rent adjustments, farm performance, necessary land improvements and other factors—and provides the flexibility to address them in the next lease agreement.

At a minimum, lease agreements include five things:

  1. The names of the landlord and tenant.
  2. A description of the property to be rented.
  3. The rent amount.
  4. The lease term with start and end dates.
  5. The signatures of both parties.

Additionally, landowners and farmers should consider adding more detail around expectations for data delivery, commitment to sustainable farming practices and soil health, proof of insurance, and frequency and types of communication regarding the farm and your agreement.

Whether you’re a local landowner, remote farmland owner, or a farmer, you can arrive at a fair land rental agreement by leveraging a little data, defined goals, and clear communication. Plan the conversation carefully, and make farm performance and stewardship data a central part of the negotiations. Landowners and farmers should work diligently in their negotiations to understand what’s fair to each party (“fair” can mean different things to different people) and collaboratively determine how to reach that point. You can find more tips in our article, “How to Negotiate a Fair Land Rental Agreement.”

Great farmers need the support of great landowners. You need to be receptive to the advice your farmer gives you about land improvements and property repairs. Additionally, your lease needs to make it clear that necessary repairs not caused by the farmer will be covered by you. Also, stay curious about your farm and its operations. Even if you don’t live near your farmland, you should want to know about the new things your farmer is trying and implementing in their operation to increase production and reduce input expense. Be open and engaged in conversations about your farm, and use data to support the relationship and the agreement you have with your farmer. This will help ensure your rent stays fair to both parties—which could mean, depending on market conditions and other factors, you need to be open to the idea that your rent could need to go up OR down. Finally, as a landowner, if you’ve been able to identify your farmer as a great farmer, make sure you let them know it!

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