The Problem with Farmland Leasing Agreement Templates

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While templates can be a good place to start, it's worth it to make sure the lease fairly represents both landowners and farmers.

If you’ve ever considered renting out your farmland, you’re probably familiar with the free farmland leasing agreement templates available on university agricultural extension websites. These PDF forms are easy to fill out, they seem to cover most of the areas you’d want to discuss, and they have the official look that you want in a contract.

But should you use them? Certainly not without first reading through the template with a critical eye and thinking through how each line applies to your property. Whatever the source of your farmland lease agreement, you should have one in writing that’s vetted and reviewed by an expert.

Here’s what you need to know about using free farmland leasing agreement templates and why they often need adjustments to provide terms to protect landowners and their interests.

What’s included in farmland leasing agreement templates

Farmland lease templates are easy-to-complete forms intended to help farmland owners and farmers reach a legally binding agreement to exchange money for temporary land use.

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.

Most farmland agreement templates are geared toward short terms, defined as one to three years in length, although this isn’t always the case. Short-term leases are a great way to have a “trial period” in which you can determine whether or not the relationship is a good fit.

Long-term farmland leases go beyond three years, but they may be limited by state law, as in Minnesota where the limit is 21 years and in Wisconsin, where leases may not extend beyond 15 years.

However long your lease agreement term, don’t lose sight of the fact that leases are legally binding documents intended to ensure correct payment and manage risk. To this end, include a statement around liability and insurance requirements for both parties. A strong farmland rental agreement should also contain language that considers:

  • Compliance with local, state and federal environmental laws.
  • Who is responsible for satisfying local zoning ordinances.
  • Any requirements of the tenant, if the land is enrolled in a conservation or preservation program.

For your own reporting purposes, note that most free farmland leasing agreement templates you’ll find online do not include requirements around data sharing and delivery. It’s wise to clearly state what data around fertility and yields you’ll need from your farmer to stay on top of your soil’s health.

Free farmland leasing agreement templates are, in short, a great place to start. If you haven’t seen one before, Iowa State University’s lease template is a great example of what these documents typically include.

Why do farmland leasing templates tend to focus on the farmer?

Because free farmland leasing agreement templates come from the agricultural departments of universities, they tend to look at things from the farmer’s point of view. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that landowners should be aware of. It may be of benefit to both parties to add components to the lease that address the landowner’s needs and perspective as well.

The departments that draw up these leasing agreements are focused on efficiency and improving yields for row crop farmers because that’s where their research is focused. It follows that their leasing templates also keep this at their center.

Your farmland lease agreement should be thoroughly vetted

Your farmland is likely one of your most valuable assets. Would you use a template off the internet to rent your million-dollar house? No. So, why would you use a free farmland agreement template as-is off the internet?

The other side of this is risk management: If you have a problem with your million-dollar asset, it could turn out to be a million-dollar problem. This is why you should make sure your lease has been vetted by a lawyer familiar with farmland leasing agreements.

Having any written lease is better than nothing, but a qualified lawyer can also advise you and assist you in negotiating your farmland lease to make sure you’re comfortable with its terms.

If you’re not quite ready to call an attorney and you don’t know where to begin, you can always start by contacting Tillable. Our Hassle-Free Lease aims to cut down on the uncertainty that comes with other leasing templates by providing certainty that landowners will receive a fair lease payment and eliminate the risks like market volatility, destructive weather, or a weak rental contract.

Don’t go into the next growing season without a written farmland lease agreement

If you’re a landowner, you should be protecting your interests and the value of your land by signing a written lease. The cost of hiring an attorney to draw up or review your leasing agreement is far less than the amount you’ll spend if anything goes wrong.

As the saying goes, handshake deals work until they don’t. The free farmland leasing agreement templates you find online have some issues and loopholes, but a document that might not be completely balanced for both parties is likely better than nothing at all.

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