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Verbal contract is still a contract

I agreed to my landowner’s request for $15 per acre more cash rent next year when it was raining and markets were up. Now they’re down, and I should have offered less, not more. Am I stuck?

Gas leasing: what landowners need to know

Farmers and landowners in southern tier New York and across much of Pennsylvania will be impacted by natural gas development — one way or another. While windfall checks are bringing smiles to the fortunate, the economic and environmental concerns are almost as deep as the 7,000-foot-deep Marcellus Shale gas formation.

Store fuel in dike, under roof

Cost savings are possible for fuel if you’re flexible on when you buy, and how much you can buy at once. That was just one of the factors that convinced Bryan Kirkpatrick, Greentown, that an on-farm dike and storage center made sense.

Lease to hunters on your terms

Hunting leases in Ohio have seen a dramatic increase in popularity during the past few years. The catalyst that started a move toward hunting leases was the Ohio Tort Reform Act of 2005.

Pros and cons of wind turbines

Driving across Iowa you see more wind farms. What benefits and detriments do you see with wind turbines on your land? Is there a lot of difference in sale price of a farm because of the turbines? The benefit to the landowner is they have the additional income from a turbine, and I hear it’s $4,000 to $5,000 an acre. You could never rent those acres out for crops and get the kind of income you can from wind turbines.

Need a different lender?

My lending officer at the financial institution where I do business recently left for another firm, and I’m not comfortable with the new loan officer. Should I move my accounts to another lender? What would be involved?

Liability with hunting leases

Each fall as pheasant and deer season approach, people ask us if they can hunt on our property. We let them hunt for free if we know them. Others we just say no. Maybe we should start charging a fee. This year a group of hunters wants to lease the hunting rights. My son says this is an opportunity for additional income for us with very little downside for liability. He says we can word the hunting lease so we aren’t liable for anything. What do you think?

How to challenge a will

Your will is your last expression of gratitude and benevolence to your loved ones surviving you. The vast majority of the time, heirs are grateful for any inheritance they get. However, sometimes heirs do not believe the intentions expressed in the will accurately reflect the intentions of the deceased. Other times heirs simply are upset with what is left to them and feel entitled to more. Both of these scenarios can lead to an heir or heirs challenging the validity

Estate planning in transition

Many farm families are breathing a sigh of relief — at least for two years — on the issues of income tax and the Federal Estate Tax. Late in 2010, Congress passed and the president signed into law major tax legislation by way of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (signed into law Dec. 17). The bill reinstated the Bush-era income tax breaks and included several provisions pertinent to farm families.

Farm liability a growing concern

Farm liability issues: What rights and responsibilities do landowners have with respect to their land and protecting the farming operation?

Is it legal to raise rent twice?

Last fall, I signed a cash-rent lease for this year. In February, the landowner sent a new lease at a higher rate, citing high cash-grain prices. The letter said I didn’t have to sign the lease, but if I didn’t I’d get a termination notice in August. Is that legal, let alone ethical?

Land investment issues

Is Iowa’s anti-corporate farming rule strong enough to prevent Wall Street investment firms or institutional investors (such as pension or hedge funds) from acquiring Iowa farmland? What protection from such competition does Iowa law provide to family farmers, young and old, who are thinking about acquiring additional farmland in this era of rising farmland prices?

Plan your farm’s legacy

Northeast Iowa farmers Tom and Irene Frantzen have so many questions to consider about their farm legacy: Should the farm pass to their children? What if they don’t have lineal descendants in the future? What will happen if one of them gets a major illness next year? Is more life insurance needed? How do they ensure that their farm continues as a conservation farm in perpetuity?

Iowa’s lien laws impact farmers, raise questions

What are some of the legal issues farmers deal with when borrowing money from creditors, purchasing inputs and understanding ag financing arrangements? We often answer questions on this topic, as agricultural finance is very important in today’s farm industry.

Seven keys to measuring progress in family business transfer

What is it that keeps a family from successfully navigating a generational farm transfer? If the answer were simple, more people would complete a successful transfer.

Fence, boundary issues abound

Does a landowner have a duty to build a fence in Iowa?

Gifts of land support community

One of your most valuable personal and financial assets provides the opportunity to leave a legacy in your community and support charities you care about most. More farmers are considering the opportunity to donate their land to charitable organizations.

How to meet fuel containment regs

Mike Gartner, Mandan, N.D., has placed his fuel tanks in an 8-by-20-foot fiberglass cattle-watering tank that’s 3 feet deep to comply with new U.S. EPA oil spill containment regulations.

Indiana’s fence code can cut both ways

You’ve got a neighbor who moved to the country, built a house and has kids. You’re sure horses will be next. So you’re going to call your township trustee to force them to build a fence.

Drainage law questions

If you are contemplating hiring a contractor to install grass waterways, drainage tile, terraces, levies or other drainage projects on your farm in 2012, there are several practical legal considerations you may want to take into account.

Bill would bar hidden cameras

A reader recently posed a question regarding the status of hidden
camera laws in Iowa. Many livestock producers are concerned about animal rights groups bringing undercover cameras onto the farm.

Changes coming in new farm bill

We’ve received questions recently from readers about the USDA farm program and how possible changes in it brought about by the new farm bill may affect farmers.

What Indiana law says about prenups

The state of Indiana views marriage as a contractual agreement. Therefore, there are rules governing distribution of assets if the couple divorces or one spouse dies.

Ag protection bill now law

Iowa is the first state to make it a crime for a person to fraudulently gain access to a farm with intent to cause harm. The law is aimed at individuals and animal rights groups who lie to get inside a farming operation or livestock facility.

Lawmakers pass new ag laws

With each “Legal Issues” column, we try to update readers on issues affecting agriculture, including changes to state and federal laws and important court cases. On Jan. 9, state lawmakers banged the gavel in Des Moines, beginning the second half of Iowa’s 84th General Assembly. Although not as lengthy as the 2011 session, lawmakers passed some new laws and amended some existing ones.

Pros and cons of forming LLC

My brother and I farm together and split the net profit. We don’t have a corporation or partnership. My uncle suggests my brother and I form an LLC to provide liability protection in the event of an accident. What about LLCs — the pros and cons? What do we need to know about running a limited liability company?

Welcome mat can bring liability

A farmer sent us this question: “Several people have asked for permission to hunt for mushrooms and wildlife on my property. I told them they could, but now I’m worried. What happens if one of them gets hurt? Also, what happens if other people come onto my property without my permission? Am I responsible if those people get hurt?”

Herbicide drift — who’s liable?

Recently, a situation came to my attention. A landlord cash-rents farmland to a tenant. The tenant sprayed his crops with a glyphosate herbicide on a windy day. Some glyphosate drifted onto the neighbor’s property and killed the neighbor’s tomato plants and damaged his lawn. The neighbor was quite upset and demanded the landlord provide compensation for the tenant’s actions.

Good fences really do make good neighbors

On Feb. 1, bill SF 2102 was introduced in the Iowa Senate in an attempt to amend Iowa’s long-established fence laws found in Iowa Code Ch. 359A. The bill provided that if only one landowner keeps livestock on an adjoining tract of land, that landowner would bear sole responsibility for the construction or maintenance of a partition fence upon written demand of the adjacent landowner.

Terminating a lease? Do it right

This month we focus on farm lease termination. This is a timely topic because, in Iowa, if a landlord wants to terminate a farm lease, state law requires the landlord issue a written notice of termination to the tenant by Sept. 1 for the following crop year.

Wisconsin ruling gets Iowa’s ear

The Wisconsin Supreme Court was recently asked to interpret that state’s Siting Law, which was enacted in 2004 to regulate livestock facility siting and expansion. At issue was whether local governments could condition approval of an application by requiring stricter regulations than under state law. Wisconsin laws give significant power to agricultural operations.

Prenups are a sensitive subject

How do you talk with loved ones about a prenuptial agreement? This is the most challenging part of the process, says Angela Gloy, Purdue University Extension ag economist. “A prenup is often looked at as a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the upcoming marriage, and invites emotional stress and anxiety,” Gloy says.

What should liability agreement include?

To protect yourself if you operate an agritourism operation, whether you charge a fee or not, adhere to the requirements of a new code, IC 34-21-9.

How to gift assets without incurring penalty

Gifting assets is a powerful planning tool. It not only reduces the value of your estate for taxes, but as land and other assets appreciate, the appreciation occurs outside the estate.

Prenups can help preserve family farm

Are you marrying into a multigenerational farming operation? Is your nonfarming fiance just learning to appreciate the sweat and commitment that goes into farming? Do you have personal assets coming into a marriage that you want protected in case there are marital issues later? Creating a prenuptial agreement together may be the solution that would best serve all of these situations.

Cash leases can help both parties

Landowners and their tenants both want to make a profit. For farmers like Tom and Lori Pfeifer of Madison, profitability depends on many variables, including cash rental rates.

Plan for transfer of farm machinery

Frequently, I receive questions regarding the sale or transfer of farm machinery between one generation and the next. The rules for taxation of depreciable assets are complicated.

Know Nebraska’s ‘noxious 11’

Warm weather and summer storms aren’t just favorable for growing corn. Weeds flourish as well in this state. Although Nebraska has 11 designated noxious weeds, landowners have a variety of resources that they can use to distinguish friend from foe.

A livestock legal update

There have been several important court cases in the past year or two involving Iowa livestock producers. This column will focus on a few of those situations and, hopefully, shed some light on how livestock producers can avoid similar legal issues and subsequent litigation.

How social is your media?

Social media is the way to tell a tale, or “show a tail,” if not careful. And more and more, it’s a tool farmers can use to inform consumers on what it takes to make food, to squash rumors and to have their say, all without leaving the farm. But even more important, social media is a way farmers can hear back from consumers.