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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?

Swanson: Hunting rights have become quite popular in some areas, particularly in the Western states. There may be some models available to pattern a lease after. The Extension service of those states might be a place to find information about their programs. It may be difficult to determine what the fee should be. If you sign a lease with a group, does that give them the exclusive hunting privilege? You should probably consult your attorney to draw up a lease that answers these and other questions.

Duffy: Some people do use leasing of hunting rights as a source of extra income. The liability issues are not as limiting as they were when I first started. But I disagree with your son in that I don’t think it is possible to word a lease so that you aren’t liable for anything. There is some liability that will be assumed. There are insurance programs available and sound legal advice will be necessary to ensure that the lease is properly worded.

Gassett: Leasing land to responsible hunters has the benefit of adding income to the farm and limiting the people that may hunt on the land. Working with an attorney to develop a well-written agreement with hunters can improve the safety of visitors. Rules and requirements can be detailed in the agreement, and the agreement can serve as proof of informing the hunters of safety and hazards. It is also important to work with an insurance agent to secure proper liability insurance for a farm recreational business. This would be in addition to your farm liability policy.

Have corn custom-dried?

My neighbor put up a huge grain drying facility in response to last year’s wet corn harvest. He figures he built enough capacity to meet his expansion needs for 15 years. He has offered to custom-dry my corn for me. How do I figure a fair drying charge? I’d haul my grain to his wet holding bin and haul my dry corn back to my place in my truck.

Swanson: The approach to this depends on whether your corn will be segregated during the drying process or commingled with his. If your corn identity is preserved, then the cost of drying can be easily determined, and therefore, a fair charge can be established based on the actual costs, plus a return in his investment. However, if it’s commingled and dried with his, then accurate moisture and shrink are going to have to be determined in addition to the actual cost of drying. You may have to follow commercial drying charges and shrink factors if this is the case.

Edwards: ISU Extension publishes a survey of custom rates in Iowa each year. The average rate for drying corn was about 5 cents per bushel per point of moisture removed in 2010. Fuel accounts for 60% to 75% of this cost, so you could settle on 2 cents per point, plus fuel. The ISU Ag Decision Maker has a spreadsheet called “Comparison of Drying Systems” that will help calculate a more accurate estimate for this particular system. Another option is to check commercial rates at local elevators.

Gassett: The Iowa State University Extension Ag Decision Maker does an annual custom rate survey. The 2010 survey indicates a range for corn drying of 3 cents per point per bushel to 6 cents per point per bushel with an average of 4.7 cents per point per bushel. The drying charge includes fuel, electricity and labor for a continuous-flow dryer. The custom operator may have a minimum charge for running the corn through the dryer if very little moisture needs to be taken out of the corn. This would be a place to begin negotiations.

This article published in the September, 2010 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.