Pastures Leases and Drought

With spring around the corner (and greening of pastures in South Dakota but rain still needed in western Nebraska), there are many questions from landowners and tenants concerning pastures leases.  These questions generally concern leases that are already entered into and the pastures are not producing enough forage/feed.  Landowners are concerned about further stressing pastures while tenants are concerned about finding feed and pasturing cattle for the spring and summer.  What can be done from a legal perspective in this situation?

Well, legally speaking, the pasture lease is a contract.  This means landowners and tenants have agreed to certain obligations (e.g. providing pasture for rent).  If there are no provisions in the lease regarding natural conditions such as drought and the obligations of the landowner and tenant in such a situation, it is difficult to revise or amend the lease.

However, communication is key.  Communication between landowners and tenants means that each discuss their concerns with each other prior to an emergency situation.  This means each party has to be open to the concerns of the other.  Open communication can lead to proactive solutions and cooperation.

In the past, NRCS has provided information and assistance to those ranchers suffering due to the drought.  Feel free to contact your local NRCS office to determine if any information and/or assistance is available.

When it comes time to negotiate your leases, it is highly advisable to include provisions for natural conditions, such as drought, fire, or flooding.  Because each ranching operation and lease is different, each requires individual considerations.  As such, Legal Aid of Nebraska is happy to help.  Feel free to contact us with any questions or request for assistance you may have!

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