Impact of the Loss of USDA NASS County Level Reports

County level reports are often used in farm level decisions, for example, many flexible lease agreements utilize the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) county average yields. If NASS reported county yields are used in flexible leases or other farm decisions, start discussions early on alternative options, such as farm level yields reported to crop insurance or county level yields reported by USDA Risk Management Agency. Using yield estimates as reported by USDA avoids the question of how to measure the actual production and removed the influence that above or below average management ability has on yields. USDA NASS yields were not announced until March following the crop year, but were well ahead of yields released by USDA RMA in June following the crop year. With the impact these changes will have, a secondary yield should be discussed in the event the original chosen source isn’t reported.

Full news release: NASS discontinues select 2024 data collection programs and reports

Issued April 9, 2024, by the Agricultural Statistics Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is canceling the July Cattle report and discontinuing the Cotton Objective Yield Survey, as well as all County Estimates for Crops and Livestock beginning with the 2024 production year. The decision to discontinue these surveys and reports was not made lightly, but was necessary, given appropriated budget levels.
NASS has and will continue to review its estimating programs using criteria focused on the needs of its mission and customers to prioritize budget decisions. Information about all NASS surveys and reports is available online at nass.usda.gov.

USDA NASS Newsroom, https://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/Notices/2024/04-09-2024.php
Ag Decision Maker

An agricultural economics and business website.

Women Managing Farmland webinar series wraps up with Slowing Water Down

This 2023 webinar series addressed several topics where women farmland owners indicated an interest. The final episode focused on the use of buffers to slow water down, best practices and long-term impacts with Catherine DeLong, ISU Water Quality Program Manager. Learn more on this and other programs from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag website.

February 8 | Importance of Using a Written Lease | Melissa O’Rourke
April 12 | Building Your Professional Team | Kitt Tovar Jensen
June 14 | Keeping the Ground Covered | Catherine DeLong
August 9 | Landowner-Tenant Communications | Ann Johanns
October 11 | End-of-Life Taxes and Expenses | Kitt Tovar Jensen
December 13 | Slowing Water Down | Catherine DeLong

Ag Decision Maker

An agricultural economics and business website.

Farmland Leasing Resources

Farmland leasing is a popular topic of conversation year round in Iowa with much of Iowa farmland under a rental agreement. Ag Decision Maker has a multitude of information relating to leasing arrangements under the Whole Farm – Leasing section, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wdleasing.html .

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) includes rental rate surveys, forms, and information on agreements and types of leases. Survey information includes farmland cash rental rate surveys from ISU Extension and Outreach and USDA, and historical county cropland cash rental rates. Forms are available for lease agreements; lease supplements for farm, conservation, and drainage improvements; and farm lease termination notice. Information on types of leases covers cash, flexible cash, crop share, pasture, building, storage, or beef cow leases. Additional information related to leasing arrangements is available on improving a farm lease contract, legal considerations, farm resumes or newsletters, and self-employment tax.

Ag Decision Maker Resources:

Resources that are commonly requested related to farmland leasing include the following publications.

ISU Farmland Cash Rental Rate Survey includes cash rental rates for the listed year by state, region, and county. Rates are represented for tillable farm ground, hay, oats, corn stalk grazing, and hunting rights.

Computing a Cropland Cash Rental Rate explains ways to compute to a farmland cash rental rate.

Flexible cash leases a topic that has brought about an increase of questions and interest over the past few years. The publication Flexible Farm Lease Agreements  lays the groundwork for these types of leases. The publication Flexible Cash Rent Lease Examples  gives additional examples of flexible cash lease agreements.

A farmland lease contract is an agreement between two or more individuals; the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation provides insight to the legal and taxation issues surrounding farmland leases in the publication Iowa Farm Leases – Legal, Economic, and Tax Considerations.

Other Resources:

Ag Lease 101 a product of the North Central Farm Management Extension Committee which is represented by several universities across the Mid-West. On Ag Lease 101 under the documents tab, individuals can find lease publications and forms for fixed and flexible cash, crop share, pasture, and beef cow rental arrangements.

Web Soil Survey (WSS) is a resource that provides soil data and information. Individuals can use WSS to find the soil types and related information for their farm. Assistance for using Web Soil Survey to map and find Iowa Corn Suitability Ratings is also available on the Ag Decision Maker website.

These documents and the information on AgDM can get an individual started on setting a farmland cash rental rate for the following lease year. Your local ISU Extension and Outreach Farm Management Field Specialist can assist with individual questions; you can find the specialist in your area by clicking on the respective county or area on the map on the following webpage, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/ag/farm-business-management-0.

Ag Decision Maker

An agricultural economics and business website.

Pasture Rental Concerns?

Melissa O'Rourke

Ag Decision Maker offers resources to assist landowners and producers with determining fair pasture rent arrangements.

Contributed by Melissa O’Rourke, retired Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Farm and Agribusiness Management Specialist

As cattle producers move cattle off winter feedlots, discussions are taking place regarding pasture rental rates for the grazing season. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Ag Decision Maker – along with other university extension services – offer guidelines and resources to help Iowa landowners and producers discuss methods to determine appropriate pasture rental arrangements. Especially during these times of increasing land prices and input costs, parties want to be sure that they are having open discussions to arrive at fair agreements for pasture rents.

There is no quick answer to what is the right rent for a given piece of pasture. Parties must discuss and agree on costs and responsibilities such as real estate taxes, maintenance of infrastructure (fence, barns, water), insurance and fertilization. These issues and more are important factors in calculating a fair rental rate.

One key publication is found on the Ag Decision Maker website: Computing a Pasture Rental Rate. When visiting Ag Decision Maker, notice that the publication is available on screen or via download of a PDF document. There is also a Decision Tool spreadsheet that can be used to try out different calculations. The publication starts out by noting:

“Is there a simple and uniform method of figuring a rental rate for pasture and hay land? Probably not, but guidelines are available. There are several methods for computing a pasture rental rate, and several factors that influence the rental rate. Pasture rental rates vary according to the quality of stand, type of forage species, amount of timber, condition of the fences, availability of water, and previous fertility practices on the pasture. A pasture rental rate can be based on [the following]:

current market rates
a return on investment in pastureland
forage value
rent per head per month (AUM)
carrying capacity
– rent per pound of gain”

Colleagues at the Iowa Beef Center post a good discussion of Pasture Rental and Lease Agreements from the Midwest Perennial Forage & Grazing Working Group. Commentary in this discussion explains that the

“right” amount to charge for pasture rent is highly variable: “Both land owners (lessors) and grazers (lessees or renters) need to determine a fair rental or lease rate. What is a fair amount to charge for rent? The answer is always: “It depends”. The devil is in the details and there can be many details to work out.”

Related to the conversation between pasture landowners and tenants is consideration of fertilization alternatives and guidelines. Parties may wish to review information on pasture improvement alternatives (and costs) at two different ISU publications:

Estimated Costs of Crop Production in Iowa: This publication summarizes crop production costs of multiple rotations. In particular, Annual Production Costs for Established Alfalfa or Alfalfa-Grass Hay are provided on page 10; and Annual Costs per Acre to Maintain Grass Pastures are provided on page 11 of the publication.

Fertilizing Pasture: This publication address grass pasture fertilization rates, timing, and soil quality, including: types of nitrogen; nitrogen rates, response, and profits; and phosphorous and potassium (P-K) rates for legume-grass pastures.

Our colleagues at North Carolina State University Extension (NCSU) have a suggested form for a pasture lease agreement. As with all such templates, this is only a suggested form that the parties can use to start conversation and make decisions about responsibilities. This NCSU lease agreement indicates some of the details to be worked out between a landowner and a livestock producer – such as improvements, seeding, fertilizer, repair of fences or buildings (if any) or water supply improvements. There is not a single “right way” to do things.

The ISU Cash Rental Rate Survey released each May. Landowners and producers should read the first two pages of the publication describing this opinion survey and definitions of terms used within the report. On the last past of the survey data, readers will find (see bottom of page 12) a summary of typical cash rents from survey respondents on rents for pastures by Crop Reporting District. Remember—these are only the responses of those who completed the survey, and the results can be highly variable and dependent on conditions and the agreement on various items between the landowner and the livestock producer. Note that on page one of the survey, there is a list of variables that may justify a higher or lower than average rent – and one of these is “Other services provided by the tenant.” Again, such services can include stewardship practices (weed control, fertilizer) and repairs (e.g., fencing) – depending on what terms are agreed upon by the parties. It is important for a tenant (livestock producer) to keep track of the costs of services and improvements to the pasture (including labor), and provide that information to the landowner – otherwise, the landowner cannot have a good understanding of these costs.

Overall, communication is key to determining a fair pasture rental rate that works for both the producer and the landowner.

These materials are intended to assist landowners and tenants to understand methods and determine a fair rental rate. After reviewing these resources, contact a member of the ISU Extension and Outreach Farm Management Team with questions.

Ag Decision Maker

An agricultural economics and business website.

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