I have been reading a number of articles on contracts entered into by farmers for their produce, crops, and/or livestock at the same time I was writing last Thursday’s post about leasing land. It got me to thinking that perhaps a blog post about the elements required to form a contract was in order.
First, what are the elements of a contract? A contract requires:
- Acceptance; and
An offer is an intention to be contractually bound upon the acceptance of another party. In other words, Person A offers certain terms to Person B as an offer. Person B can then accept the offer. Consideration is when Person A makes a promise, Person B makes a promise in return. The promise must be something of value and can take the form of money, action, abstaining from action, services, and other valuable consideration.
Lets use some examples to illustrate offer, acceptance, and consideration.
Person A approaches Person B and states, “I’d like to rent your 300 acres to plant corn and I will pay 40% of the input costs and receive 40% of the profits.” Person B agrees to Person A’s terms.
In Example 1, the Person A makes the offer and Person B accepts the offer. Person A’s consideration is that she will pay 40% of the input costs and 60% of the profits to Person B. Person B’s consideration is agreeing to Person A renting his land and paying 60% of the input costs.
Person A approaches Person B and states, “I will not grow crops on my land for ten years if I receive $100 per acre per year.” Person B agrees to Person A’s terms.
In Example 2, Person A makes the offer and Person B accepts the offer. Person A’s consideration is that he will abstain from using his land for ten years to grow crops. Person B’s consideration is that she will pay $100 per acre per year for Person A not to grow crops.
Person A approaches Person B and suggests renting 80 acres for cow/calf grazing from May 1, 2013 to October 31, 2013. Person B replies that she is willing to rent 50 acres from May 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013. Person A agrees to Person B’s proposal.
Here, Person A makes an offer to Person B. Person B, however, rejects Person A’s offer and instead, issues a counter-offer. Person A then accepts Person B’s counter-offer. The consideration by Person A is the payment of rent. The consideration by Person B is permitting the use of her land.
Person A contracts with Person B to custom harvest hay for $2,000. When Person B has partially completed the custom harvest, she approaches Person A and says she will only complete the custom harvest for an additional $2,000, for a total price of $4,000.
Here, Person A is obligated only to pay $2,000, the price originally agreed because a contract existed (as there was offer, acceptance, and consideration) and thus, Person B was under a contractual obligation to perform the custom harvesting for $2,000. In other words, Person B had a pre-existing obligation to perform the work in exchange for $2,000.
Lets change the facts of Example 3 a little bit. Person A contracts with Person B to custom harvest hay on a quarter section for $2,000. When Person B has partially completed the custom harvest, Person A approaches Person A and suggests that Person B custom harvest hay on a second quarter section. Person B responds that to do so will require an additional $2,000. Person A agrees to pay the additional $2,000.
Unlike Example 3, Person A and Person B entered into a new, second contract. The offer from Person A is to custom hay the second quarter section. Person B counter-offers that to do will require $2,000. Person A accepts. The consideration from Person A is $2,000 and the consideration from Person B is completing the custom hay work.
Offer, acceptance, and consideration are bedrock elements of contract law but the specifics of contract law varies by state. Thursday we will discuss implications of the Uniform Commercial Code and the statute of frauds for contracts. If you are from Nebraska or South Dakota, feel free to contact us if you have questions. If you are from a different state, contact a licensed attorney should you have questions.