Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land survey

If you are farmland owner, you may soon receive the Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (“TOTAL”) survey from the USDA.

TOTAL is, per the USDA, like the landowner version of the Census of Agriculture.  It will cover land ownership income, debt, assets, demographic, and other landlord characteristics, as well as information on those renting the land.

The survey results will be released in August 2015.  The results will allow both landowners and tenants to negotiate fair rental prices as well as gain a deeper understanding of the market and its trends.

If you receive a survey, please take the time to fill it out.  Information such as this is important for all individuals interested in agriculture.  So let your voice be heard!

What if I Have An Absentee Landlord?

It is no longer highly unusual for landowners to be an absentee landowner.  More and more beginning farmers (and farmers in general) and renting land from absentee landlords.  Are there any particular pitfalls or issues to be aware when working with an absentee landlord?

First, communication, while always important, is critical in situations with an absentee landlord.  Communication is how trust is built.  With an absentee landlord, communication becomes even more paramount because it is more difficult to be at the same place at the same time.  Non-verbal cues, such as body language and that “gut feeling” you get, may be missing.  If you communicate via the written word, tone, volume, and inflection are much harder to express.  Misunderstandings may occur much quicker and escalate quickly without a commitment to communication.  In the end, communicate with each other and then communicate some more.

An absentee landlord is also an ideal circumstance for a written lease and/or contract.  With a written lease, each party knows the exact terms and conditions of the agreement at a glance.  It also allows each party to know at a glance what they can or cannot do in regards to the lease.  A written lease also provides more legal protection and certainty than a verbal lease.

In the end, a relationship with an absentee landlord does not have to be markedly different than a local landlord.  It just may require a different approach.  Take the time to communicate and resolve differences, just like in any landlord/tenant relationship.  And if that requires conference calls, Skype, email, or other communicative aids, try to embrace the change in the method of communication.

Emblements, Not Implements.

Trust me on this, the doctrine of emblements is relevant to the transfer on death deed we discussed earlier this week.  To explain why, it is necessary to discuss what the doctrine of emblements is.

An emblement is defined as annual crops produced by cultivation.  Thus, an emblement is corn, soybeans, or the like.  The doctrine of emblements is important because it addresses ownership of annual crops between the time they are planted and the time of harvest. 

The doctrine arises most often during life estate issues because the doctrine is applicable when a tenancy is of an uncertain duration.  A life estate is of an uncertain duration as the life estate terminates at death.  As a result of the doctrine, when a life estate tenant dies between the time annual crops are planted and harvested, the crops and resulting profit belong to the estate of the life estate tenant.  The crops and resulting profit do not belong to the person or entity who inherits the land where the crops are growing.

How is this relevant to TOD deeds?  Nebraska has a special provision in its statutes which allows a transferor in a TOD deed to designate whether crops growing at the time of the transferor’s death are transferred to the transferor’s estate or to one or more of the designated beneficiaries listed on the TOD deed.  This statutory provision is because the doctrine of emblements.

Confusing?  Or just have questions about other beginning farmer or succession planning issues?  You are welcome to contact us because we’re here to help.