Kansas is primarily an agriculture state with about 87% of all Kansas land contributing to some form of agriculture production. More than 21 million acres in Kansas is harvested for crops and over 14 million is pastureland for grazing animals.
Most agriculture producers (tenants) lease ground from multiple landlords. In Kansas the average number of landlords that tenants have is approximately seven. The last time farmers and ranchers in Kansas were surveyed, over two thirds of all crop and pasture land was leased. You can imagine the struggles that tenants and landlords alike can experience in trying to communicate effectively with each other. Especially given the fact that one, two or more generations of families may be removed from the farm or ranch and live a few hours away or out of state but still own the land and thus lease it to others.
One of the best ways to create a better understanding between tenant and landlord in most cases is to have a written lease. Having a written lease can lead to many topics for discussion that otherwise might not be considered. These, would include but are not limited to: hunting/fishing rights; recreation access; payment due dates; termination procedures.
In addition to the previously mentioned items, a written pasture lease for example can spell out responsibilities of both parties in regards to: care of fences; noxious weed control; water supply maintenance; grazing capacity restrictions and beginning and ending date of grazing season.
A bonus of a written lease is that it documents the terms of the business relationship in case the contract is questioned. This can be especially important if the land changes hands.
Obviously, it is not necessary to have a written lease in order to have good communication between tenant and landlord but it can be helpful in spelling things out and avoiding misunderstandings and hard feelings. This is especially true when there is a death of either party, and the spouse or relatives are uninformed as to any details about the lease, particularly if it is an oral lease. If there is a written lease, have it filed away and let your family know where it is.
There may be some cases when introducing the possibility of implementing a written lease might damage the business relationship. Whether you have a written lease or not, make sure those lines of communication are kept open, visit with each other at least a few times a year.
Lastly if you are thinking about terminating a lease, for all leases, except written leases signed by the parties that provide otherwise, Kansas law provides that notice to terminate farm and pastureland leases must be given as follows: 1. In writing. 2. At least 30 days prior to March 1, and 3. Must fix March 1 as the termination date of the tenancy. If you want more specifics on Kansas Agricultural Lease Law refer to a publication at https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/c668.pdf or stop by your Extension Office for a copy.
K-State Research & Extension Agricultural Economics Department has a plethora of information on Kansas Agricultural Land Leasing at www.agmanager.info then hold your mouse/cursor on the Farm Management tab and a drop-down menu will appear.
If you have any questions you can contact your local County or District Extension Office.
Stacy Campbell is an Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Cottonwood Extension District. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Hays office, 785-628-9430.