The PRF (Pasture, Rangeland and Forage Insurance) policy is an area-based insurance plan that covers perennial pasture, rangeland, or forage used to feed livestock. It provides producers a risk management tool to cover the precipitation needed to produce forage for their operation. This policy is available for all counties in Iowa.
RMA offers seven livestock plans and an annual forage insurance plan. Talk to your crop insurance agent to help you decide the option that is right for your operation, or use the Agent Locator to find one near you.
Ag Decision Maker offers resources to assist landowners and producers with determining fair pasture rent arrangements.
Contributed by Melissa O’Rourke, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Farm and Agribusiness Management Specialist, email@example.com
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”
“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 (2022): 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 suggestedform 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 2022 ISU Cash Rental Rate Survey was recently released (May 2022). 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.
Several states provide farm financial summary data each year. The information available varies by state and the following is an updated summary of what states include farm family living expense data. The original source of this information can be found in the February 2017 Ag Decision Maker newsletter article, Why have farm family living expenses been identified as a problem?.
Iowa Farm Business Association (IFBA)
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach reports summarized Iowa Farm Business Association data in AgDM File C1-10, Farm Costs and Returns. However, family living expenses are no longer broken into a unique category in revisions dated after 2009.
Illinois Farm Business Farm Management Association (Illinois FBFM)
The Illinois FBFM uses the Owner Withdrawal approach. FarmDocDaily’s When Creating 2021Budgets, Keep In Mind Family Living Costs include a summary separating family living expendables, capital purchases for family living, and income and social security tax payments. The 2019 averages were $78,894 for noncapital, $5,446 for capital items “such as the personal share of the family automobile, furniture, and household equipment,” and $24,525 for income and social security taxes. The 2017 averages were $79,798 for noncapital, $5,744 for capital items “such as the personal share of the family automobile, furniture, and household equipment,” and $28,435 for income and social security taxes. The totals are useful, but the single category of noncapital does not provide much detail on categories of spending.
Farm and Family Living Income andExpenditures reports high and low third costs of living for a family of three to five in 2019 on the final page. Expendables is expanded to four categories. The categories are Contributions, Medical, Insurance (life and disability), and Expendables. Summing the noncapital and capital living expenses, the low third had a total cost of living of $57,337 and the high third was more than twice as much at $143,785 before income and social security taxes.
In this report, three categories are added. The same categories are used in the full report. Twenty-three percent of the 5,500 Illinois FBFM members provide the information necessary to report Owner Withdrawals with the additional detail.
Thirty-seven percent, of the 898 KFMA members analyzed, reported family living expenditures in 17 categories. Figure 2 gives the family living expense categories from that report and provides a visual realization of the changes in expenditure for the nine largest categories. A farm family looking at the graph may be able to think about changes in their own expenditures, and areas where costs could be cut. Home repairs, contributions, recreation, and household all increased dramatically beginning in 2006 through 2014, and have declined or remained steady since. Total family living expenses have remained fairly flat since 2015, with an average change of just 0.3% over the past 6 years. Large increases in the category of health insurance have been off-set by declines in categories such as home repairs and recreation (categories also strongly impacted by COVID-19 in 2020).
In An Analysis of Family Living ExpenseCategories, the correlation between net farm income and family living expenses is explored. Greg Ibendahl writes, “Family living is correlated to net farm income (correlation 0.62) but it appears to have a lag as the jump in family living expenses happened after the jump in net farm income. In publication GI-2016.7, we hypothesized family living was based on a four- year average of net farm income. Also, while net farm income in 2015 declined to near zero, family living is only starting to show a decline. Although total family living expenses declined slightly… some expense categories showed steeper declines…home repairs, contributions, medical, gifts and auto all showed declines in 2015.” This hypothesis is supported by the flat total family living expenses from 2015 to 2020 while net income rose substantially (26% average increase each year).
Southwest Minnesota Farm Business Association, Missouri Farm Business Management Association, and Nebraska Farm Business Incorporated
The Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska associations use the same family living expense categories. Page 22 of the Southwestern Minnesota Farm Business Management Association Annual Report and page 15 of the Missouri Farm Business Management Analysis Record Summary show the allocation of Owner Withdrawals. Nine percent of the 109 Missouri FBMA members reported family living expenditures in detail and 32% of the 108 Southwest Minnesota FBMA members reported family living expenditures in detail.
The 28 categories used by the Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska associations may be a sweet spot between the 17 categories used by the Kansas Farm Management Association, and the 103 categories used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Table 1). If the Kansas Farm Management Association categories are used, be sure to add personal taxes, purchases of personal assets, and other non-business expenditures to get to the total Owner Withdrawals.
Melissa O’Rourke, ISU Extension Farm and Agribusiness Management Specialist, shares tips for agricultural employers
The average farm operation does not have an HR (human resources) department. And likewise, many smaller Iowa agricultural service and supply businesses are not able to support an HR management position. Most farm and small ag businesses start as a family operation – but as they grow, it becomes necessary to hire non-family employees. All business owners should have a team of professionals – legal, tax, accounting and insurance – that can provide advice applicable to business HR needs. But to get the farm business owner started, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach provides a resource to guide Iowa farmers and other agricultural employers to key policies and procedures to be considered when hiring employees.
The Checklist for Iowa Agricultural Employers on the Ag Decision Maker website is an overview of points to consider in preparation for hiring one or more employees for a farm or other agricultural operation.
The checklist is organized into categories of factors to check from the start to finish of the hiring process. References for more information are provided throughout the checklist, most of which come from either ISU Extension or other research-based university extension sources. State and federal government agency resources and contacts are included.
The links to resources have been revised and updated recently. We know that website links and resources can quickly become outdated, so we’ve tried to go through the document and bring those connections up to date. Several new resources have been added since the previous version of the checklist.
Worker misclassification has been recognized as a key issue by state and federal regulators. Too many businesses have taken a route to save expenses by wrongly classifying workers as independent contractors rather than correctly recognizing them as employees – so we’ve included resources to guide employers in that regard.
Additional information on job analysis and job descriptions is also included in the checklist. It’s important that farm and ag business employers think about the business needs, and clearly define what skills and qualifications are needed in the operation. Well-written job descriptions can be the key to guiding an effective hiring and employee retention strategy.
Employers should not consider the Checklist for Iowa Agricultural Employers to be exhaustive, or consider it as legal advice. Consult with personal qualified tax, accounting, insurance and legal advisers as they will be familiar with the farm business, and can provide expert advice on specific needs.