Taylor emphasizes communication for successful landlord tenant relations
Manhattan, Kan. – “Using the excuse that a landlord just doesn’t understand agriculture, is just that – an excuse,” says Kansas State University Agriculture Economist Mykel Taylor.
Taylor conducts research and consults farmers with managing the often-complicated relation they have with their landlord.
“Anyone in Extension will say one of the most frequently asked questions we come across surround landlord relations,” says Taylor. “Unfortunately, they usually aren’t about how much the farmer loves their landlord.”
Taylor explains even though a vast majority of producers are men, up to 40 percent of landowners are female.
“When we polled farmers as to whether gender mattered, most of them said it shouldn’t but did anyway,” says Taylor. “Some female landowners report their tenants only want to deal with their husbands, even though the wife owns the land.”
Taylor explains how excluding the wife in this scenario can be harmful to the tenant/farmer relationship and ultimately makes the wife less likely to understand the needs of the farmer in poor economic years.
“Another big issue we run into with the farmer/tenant relationship is age,” says Taylor. “The average farmer in Kansas is 59, but the average landowner is 73.”
“Farmers have to be willing to meet in the middle with their landowners when it comes to means of communication,” Taylor stresses. “A lot of older people may prefer a phone call or physical letter over an e-mail or text message.”
She says many farmers also run into issues with landowners not being involved with agriculture and not understanding the business as a whole.
“We see a lot of situations where landowners inherit land as opposed to purchasing it,” says Taylor. “Some of these owners may be children or grandchildren of farmers but have never farmed themselves.”
“A large percentage of landowners reside outside of the county or state in which they own land,” she explains. “Keeping them updated is extremely important, so there is a channel of open communication, and they are able to effectively manage their asset.”
“Writing off landowners just because they don’t understand agriculture is no way to have an effective business relationship,” says Taylor.
Types of leases
“The type of lease can really effect how we communicate and the regularity in which we communicate,” says Taylor.
She explains, in the past, shared crop leases were extremely popular. Today, this popularity has given way to cash leases due to the high volume of paper work involved in share crop leases.
“Some farmers may have inherited their leases and decided to continue doing a share crop lease without giving it much second thought,” Taylor says. “Sometimes these leases work out great, and other times they may need to be rethought to fit the farm’s current needs.”
She explained the main issue with share crop leases lie with landlords who are unfamiliar with agriculture or inherited the land and lease agreement.
“If the landowner doesn’t really understand the share crop lease, they may be really confused by receiving input bills in the mail,” Taylor explains. “Communication is absolutely not optional in this type of lease.”
Taylor mentions, even though cash leases can be simpler, they present their own set of issues regarding communication.
“When we get into a cash lease, we get in a bad habit of putting the check in a Christmas card and not communicating after,” Taylor says. “This might be effective in years that are successful, but there is always a possibility of the economy falling, and the need to renegotiate rental rates arises. In this situation, existing communication is crucial.”
Why the relationship
“The relationship between tenant and landowner has to be a functioning business relationship,” says Taylor. “Without land, we can’t farm.”
Taylor explains farmers can benefit from long-term leasing agreements because they provide stability in their operation. It is especially important to have open lines of communication in case the need for renegotiation arises.
“The fact of the matter is, agriculture has a lot of ups and downs,” says Taylor. “When the farm economy is down, it is in farmers’ best interests to have existing lines of communication in place if the discussion of lowering rent comes up.”
“If we have landowners who aren’t necessarily involved in agriculture or educated on the topic, send them pictures,” Taylor suggests. “These pictures speak 1,000 words and will help the landowner understand agriculture a little better.”
In her research, Taylor found some farmers have upwards of 50 landowners to correspond with. In these cases, there can be other means of communication such as websites, newsletters or social media pages.
Taylor was featured on Kansas State University’s “Agriculture Today with Erik Atkinson” radio program on Feb. 19.
Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.