Flood damaged crops, crop insurance payments, and lease contracts

William Edwards, retired extension economist, on issues from flooding regarding crop insurance, rented acres and looking ahead to 2017.

edwardswm_finalSome Iowa corn and soybean producers are facing substantial if not complete crop losses due to flooding. Fortunately, nearly 90 percent of Iowa’s corn and soybean acres are protected by Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI).

Crop insurance

Most Iowa producers purchase crop insurance policies with a 75 to 85 percent level of coverage. This means that if crops are a total loss, the producer must withstand the first 15 to 25 percent of the loss. However, in 2016 nearly 90 percent of the crop acres insured in Iowa were covered under Revenue Protection policies, which offer an increasing guarantee if prices increase between February and October. So far, this has added about $.80 per bushel to soybean guarantees, while the current corn futures price is actually below the February average. Moreover, since Revenue Protection (RP) policies are settled at the average nearby futures price during the month of October, rather than local cash prices, farmers receive a bonus equal to the fall grain basis in their area.

Producers with crops that have been totally destroyed by flooding will not have to incur the variable costs of harvesting. This could save around $20 per acre for soybeans and perhaps $50 per acre for corn, depending on potential yields and drying costs. Nevertheless, even producers who carried insurance at a high coverage level could be looking at net revenues near or below those obtained from normal yields this year.

2016 flooded bean field

Potential losses

For example, assume an insured tract has an expected corn yield and insurance proven yield of 175 bushels per acre. A normal crop marketed at $3.00 per bushel would bring $525 per acre. The insurance indemnity payment for an 80 percent RP guarantee, zero yield, and a February futures price of $3.86 would equal 175 bu. x $3.86 x 80% = $540. Saving $50 in harvest costs would give an equivalent of $590 per acre, or $65 above the value of a normal crop.

For soybeans, assume both the expected yield and the proven yield are 60 bushels per acre, and the crop could be marketed at $9.00 per bushel. Gross income for a normal crop would be $540 per acre. The insurance payment for a complete crop failure and a $9.65 October futures price would be 60 bu. x $9.65 x 80% = $463. Savings of $20 in harvesting costs brings the equivalent of $483 per acre, or $57 below the value of a normal crop.

In many cases, of course, flooded acres will make up only a portion of the insured unit, so production from non-flooded acres will be averaged in with the zero yields from the flooded acres.

The real question is how much will it cost to clean up fields and bring them back into production next year? Most Iowa farmers have not had experience with fields being under water for extended periods of time, so effects are difficult to estimate. Problems will range from physically removing debris to leveling eroded areas to restoring fertility.

Flooded field, 2016

Rental contracts

What do these questions imply for rental contracts? A great deal of uncertainty, for one thing. Lease agreements in Iowa continue in effect for another year under the same terms if they were not terminated on or before September 1.

Landowners will have to bear the burden of mitigating flood damages – that goes with owning property. But, a better solution may be for renters and owners to work together to repair the damage and bring the land back into production. Farm operators may have access to machinery that can help accomplish the job that owners do not. In return, tenants should be compensated for their efforts, either directly, through a significant discount on the 2017 rent, or with a long-term lease.

Next year

In some cases there may be doubt as to whether land flooded this year can even be planted next year. Risk Management Agency rules state that land must be physically available for planting to be insurable. Land that cannot be planted due to weather events that occurred before the sales closing date (March 15 in Iowa) is not eligible for prevented planting payments. When operators report their 2016 production, they can request that their 2016 yield histories reflect a value equal to 60 percent of the county “T-yield” rather than a zero or very low yield.

Close communication and cooperation between owners, crop insurance agents and renters can be a “win-win” strategy in the long run, but recovery may take several years.

Additional information about managing flood damaged cropland will be available from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as the waters recede and the situation is assessed. Keep in mind, dealing with issues from flooding can be stressful. Reach out to resources such as the Iowa Concern Hotline, with trained staff who are available to listen.

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 Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) 

An agricultural economics and business website.

How accurate and useful is the ISU Cash Rent Survey?

Alejandro Plastina, extension economist, explores results of a follow-up survey on the accuracy and usefulness of the ISU Cash Rental Rate Survey.

plastina_alejandro_photoCash rents, land values, and rates for custom work in Iowa are topics that usually attract lots of attention from a number of stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Even more so when the economic outlook for the sector is particularly promising or particularly discouraging. So it comes as no surprise that the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey is received with different degrees of acceptance by different groups depending on the economic outlook. This year we requested feedback from the online respondents to the Cash Rent Survey about the accuracy and usefulness of the survey results.

Who responded?

The Cash Rental Rates for Iowa 2016 Survey had 1,585 responses, of which 320 responses were submitted through the online questionnaire (the rest were mailed using USPS). All online respondents were invited to participate in a short follow up survey about their perceptions of the Cash Rent Survey. One hundred and forty-five respondents completed the follow up survey. All of them reported being familiar with the survey (figure 1).

Comparing the participation of different categories of participants in this opinion poll versus the corresponding participation of the same categories in the Cash Rent Survey (figure 2), farm operators accounted for the same share (47%); but agricultural lenders, professional farm managers and Realtors had a greater share (21% vs. 14%, and 16% vs. 12%, respectively); while landowners had a smaller share (15% vs. 25%).

Figure 1. How familiar are you with the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey?Figure 2. How would you classify yourself?

How accurate are survey results?

Ninety-one percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county moderately, very, or extremely accurately (figure 3). Forty-seven percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county very or extremely accurately.

The most prevalent response among farm operators, landowners, and agricultural lenders was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county very accurately, followed closely by moderately accurately (figure 4). The most prevalent response among professional farm managers and Realtors was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county moderately accurately.

Figure 3. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect typical cash rents by county?Figure 4. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect typical cash rents by county, by type of respondent?

The accuracy of the Cash Rent Survey in reflecting annual changes in typical cash rents by county was perceived to be better than the accuracy in reflecting their levels. Ninety-six percent of the respondent indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county moderately, very, or extremely accurately (figure 5). Fifty-seven percent indicated that the Cash Rent Survey reflects year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county very or extremely accurately.

The most prevalent response among farm operators, landowners, and agricultural lenders was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county very accurately, followed by moderately accurately (figure 6). The most prevalent response among professional farm managers and Realtors was that the Cash Rent Survey reflects typical cash rents by county moderately accurately, followed by very accurately as a close second.

Figure 5. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county?Figure 6. How accurately does the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey reflect year-over-year changes in typical cash rents by county, by type of respondent?

How useful are survey results?

Ninety-seven percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey was at least moderately useful to them (figure 7). Seventy-six percent of the respondents indicated that the Cash Rent Survey was very or extremely useful to them.

The most frequent answer among farm operators and agricultural lenders was that the Cash Rent Survey was extremely useful, followed by very useful and in a distant third place moderately useful (figure 8).

The most frequent answer among landowners was that the Cash Rent Survey was very useful, followed by extremely and moderately useful.

Professional managers and Realtors indicated most frequently that the Cash Rent Survey was moderately useful, followed by very and extremely useful.

Figure 7. How useful is the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey to you? Figure 8. How useful is the ISU Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey to you, by type of respondent?

Summary  

Although this opinion poll about the usefulness and accuracy of the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa Survey was not designed to be representative of all stakeholders in Iowa, it shows that most farmers, landowners, agricultural lenders, professional farm managers and Realtors, and other agricultural professionals that participate in the survey find it useful and accurate.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) 

An agricultural economics and business website.

Survey Shows Farmland Rental Rates Down

A second year of declining rates for renting land in Iowa

Alejandro PlastinaRental rates for Iowa farmland decreased by 5 percent in 2015, according to results from the Cash Rental Rates for Iowa – 2015 Survey conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This is the second consecutive year of declining rates after a 15-year streak of increasing rental rates, accumulating a 9 percent loss since 2013.

“Average rents were lower in all nine crop reporting districts,” according to Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor and extension economist with Iowa State University. “The average estimated cash rent for corn and soybean land in the state for 2015 was $246 per acre, a decrease of $14 per acre or nearly 5 percent from last year. Low crop prices for the 2014 crop and small- to negative-profit margin forecasts for this year’s crop put downward pressure on rental rates,” Plastina said.

The largest decreases in land rental occurred in central and west central Iowa, at $24 and $23 per acre, respectively. Those districts had the highest rents among all crop reporting districts in 2014. Northeast Iowa reported the highest average in 2015 at $273, and the lowest district value was $187 in south central Iowa. Grundy County had the highest average rent in the state, at $316 per acre.

“It isn’t a trend yet, but it certainly is a reversal of the 15-year trend we’ve seen of land rental rate increases,” said Plastina. “Land rates and other input costs take time to adjust to lower levels of crop revenue; so if corn and soybean prices don’t improve soon, we can expect land rental rates to continue to decline.”

Plastina indicated the typical rental rates per bushel of corn yield, soybean yield and the average Corn Suitability Rating 2 points were computed for each county. In addition, typical charges for land growing oats and hay, for grazing pasture and corn stalks, and renting for hunting rights were reported.

Rental values were estimated by asking people familiar with land rental markets what they thought were typical rates in their county. Of the 1,437 total responses received, 49 percent came from farmers, 27 percent from landowners, 12 percent from agricultural lenders, 10 percent from professional farm managers and 2 percent from other professionals.

The Cash Rental Rates for Iowa – 2015 Survey is available online as a downloadable document from the ISU Extension and Outreach Store and Ag Decision Maker website.

Other resources available for estimating a fair cash rental rate include the Ag Decision Maker information files Computing a Cropland Cash Rental Rate (C2-20), Computing a Pasture Rental Rate (C2-23), and Flexible Farm Lease Agreements (C2-21). All documents include decision file electronic worksheets to help analyze leasing questions.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) 

An agricultural economics and business website.

Farmland Leasing Resources

Farmland leasing is a popular topic of conversation right now due to the historical changes in cropland cash rental rates, September 1st lease termination date, and volatility in grain markets. Ag Decision Maker has a multitude of information relating to leasing arrangements under the Whole Farm – Leasing section, http://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 ISUEO and USDA, the Iowa Farm Building Rental Rate survey, 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; Roger A. McEowen 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.

 

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

 

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM)

An agricultural economics and business website.

Communicating with Landlords, Lenders, and Grain Dealers

Leibold_K03-LContributed by Kelvin Leibold, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, kleibold@iastate.edu.

If you haven’t already started to talk to your landlords, lenders and grain dealers you may want to take some time to bring them up to date with what is going on with your farming practices. Plans that were put in place months ago are being revised due to events beyond anyone’s control.

Keeping them up to date with what is going on with your farm operation is critical. Some farmers are going to take “Prevented Planting” option for corn and possible for soybeans. Many of the landowners will not understand why tenants took that option. The idea of not planting may seem unreasonable. Producers are trying to maximize returns considering unpredictable outcomes such as yields, prices, and input costs such as drying costs or cover crops. You need to communicate this to your landlords. Negotiation of rental rates for 2014 will soon be underway so providing information such as satellite pictures of the farm can help “tell the story”.

Lenders, for the most part, understand the challenges you face. Most of the producers have some level of crop insurance. However, if the timing of the payments for claims or the total income available to service debt is going to be an issue you need to visit with your lender about restructuring or adjusting the timing of payments. You may also have some issue regarding your income tax liabilities and may need to spend some time with your tax advisors on how to deal with the change of timing of your income. There may be options if you need to defer income if you may end up with two years of income in one tax year.

Many producers have forward contracted grain to end users. These end users need the commodity to operate their plants, make feed, or meet their export contracts. The sooner these people are aware of challenges you may have in meeting these contracts the sooner that both of you can start to work on ways to mitigate the impact. Defaulting on these contracts is not a viable option.

Communicating early and often will go a long ways to deal with these issues. The Ag Decision Maker has several articles on improving your communication skills.  File C5-116 Improving Business Communication Skills https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/pdf/c5-116.pdf gives some suggestions. In addition to landlords and lenders you may face challenges with your own family or co-workers in these stressful times. File C6-56 Good Communication Can Help Solve Problems http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/pdf/c6-56.pdf can help with communication with family.

If you feel overwhelmed or are looking for some answers check out the Iowa Concern website    http://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/ or call the HOTLINE at 1-800-447-1985.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM)

An agricultural economics and business website.

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