If you’re like most farmers, renting farmland is your
largest expense. It’s where you make a lot of important decisions that affect
your farm’s profitability.
We’re seeing some historically high rents now. But I think
it’s becoming more likely that high rents will have to change — perhaps in the
Remember when most land was farmed under crop share
agreements? That usually went well for farmers because it didn’t place all of
the risk on them.
Then things moved more toward cash rent. You started having
to pay a higher premium for rental ground. I talked recently with an ag banker
who said that rents seem to be very market-driven today, perhaps based more on
the market than on actual economics.
Should your cash rent be lower in the future? So far, rents
always have been negotiated upward.
Farmers haven’t needed to talk with their landlords about
negotiating rents downward. I think this is something we’re going to need to
learn to do — and we may need to learn fast.
Start planting seeds of these ideas now with your landlords.
You’ve got to warm them up to the reality that grain prices could return to
lower levels. Talk with them about taking another look at your cash rent.
Ask them if they think commodity prices could go down to
lower levels. Show them what that would look like from a financial standpoint in
your operation. One day it may no longer be profitable for you to farm that land
at your current level of cash rent.
If you wait until prices are at lower levels, it will be too
late. Someone else already will have talked with your landlord and he’ll pay
whatever the landlord wants.
That farmer probably has no idea where his numbers are or
what it will take for him to be profitable. He’s just thinking about trying to
get ground, at any cost, with any landlord. And you’ll lose that land to
Preparing the landlord should go hand in hand with
continuing to build the relationship and reminding him of the value that you
have brought in the past.
How are you taking care of the ground to create value for
the owner? What other things do you do for the landlord because of your
Strong employee relationships also help build farm success.
As the farm leader, you know that leading and managing employees can bring some
new stress into your role.
Have you ever asked an employee to do a task that you always
used to do? You tell them how to do it.
You answer any questions they have. You feel like they have
a good handle on what to do, so you leave them to do the job.
Later, when you see the results of their work, it isn’t
anything like what you had intended or how you used to do it. You ask yourself:
“What were they thinking? Were they listening to me at all?”
Personality differences can throw a curveball into the mix
when we’re trying to get things done on the farm. This happens because we’re all
What we say means different things to different people. Your
employees hear your information differently, depending on whether their brains
typically think in an abstract or concrete way.
Here’s an example. Did you have a meeting with your
employees to prepare them for planting season? Afterward, you probably felt that
you were very clear with them about your expectations and how you want things to
But we all perceive things differently, and our perception
becomes our reality. Your employees come out of the meeting each hearing your
message slightly different because of the way their brain perceives it.
Knowing about the different personalities that are out there
can give us an advantage as we work with employees. It can show us how we need
to talk to each employee, depending on how that person processes
Being aware of these differences also shows us how to best
motivate each employee. It makes the whole team on the farm work together
better, becoming a more well-oiled machine.
The operation runs at its best when different personalities
— with their different strengths — work together.
You probably cannot accomplish everything that you need to
on the farm if you fly solo all the time. Working together, your team achieves
much more than you could if you were working on your own.
Especially if you’re growing your farm, think about how to
build strong leaders around you. Embrace the idea of building your team.