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Questions landowners should consider when renting farmland
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Many landowners and farmers are considering renegotiating land rental rates in light of lower grain prices.  Dollar amounts are important, of course, but should not be the only consideration when negotiating rent.

Landowners may want to consider taking lower rent if the farmer is willing to do practices that improve the soil and the long-term productivity and value of your land. It is also worth considering offering a multi-year lease to the farmer that is willing to do more to improve your land. Other questions to consider include:

Is the farmer developing a Nutrient Management Plan? Is the farmer soil testing, following a conservation plan, and improving the soil fertility? If the answer to this is “no” or “I do not know,” you may want to require your renter to develop and follow a plan.  How else will you know if your farm is becoming more productive, or if nutrients are being taken off without being replaced?

What is happening to the soil fertility? Soil testing is the only way to really know if fertility is being improved or degraded. Some agreements require renters to “maintain or improve current soil fertility levels” for the duration of the lease agreement.

Am I eligible for tax credits? Particularly in the Vernon County townships of Coon, Christiana, Stark, and Harmony, landowners can get a significant tax credit if the farm operator is following a Nutrient Management Plan and meeting basic farm conservation.

Are they growing any hay? Growing hay in a rotation has many benefits to soil health and to soil erosion control.  Contour strips are still a very effective conservation practice in Vernon County.

Are grassed waterways maintained? Whether farmed as no-till or contour strips, grassed waterways are absolutely critical to keeping the value of your soil and farmland high.

Landowners should remember that they are in charge of making sure their farm is treated in a way that will help maintain the value on the land by reducing erosion and keeping the soils productive.  It is often mutually beneficial to offer multi-year leases (three-four years) to farmers who are going to protect your interests.  It is also best to specifically include what is important to you directly in the rental agreement. And finally, be sure the acreage amount is agreed to beforehand in order to avoid conflict.

For more information on soil conservation options and programs, contact Sam Skemp with NRCS at 608-637-2183 or Ben Wojahn with Land & Water at 608-637-5482