Agricultural Law for Iowa and Missouri

Property Law

Resources for Farm Lease Conservation

A new resource is available for landlord’s looking to incorporate cover crops and other conservation practices into their farm lease.  Iowa Learning Farms, a part of Iowa State University Extension, just published a series of videos and print material that provide information about how landlords can begin conversations with their tenants about conservation practices.

Iowa State University Professor and Iowa Learning Farms advisor, Mark Licht, states, Continue reading

County Road Bridge

As increasingly large farm equipment exceeds the capacity of county roads, disputes over easements increase.

Missouri Courts recently addressed issues relating to the increase in size and weight of farm equipment and resulting problems accessing farmland. As equipment gets larger and heavier, existing easements and roads that have been used for decades often become inadequate to allow farmer’s access to fields.

In Westrich Farms, LLC v. East Prairie Farm, LLC, a landowner’s tenant could no longer use a county road to access the farm because his large equipment exceeded the weight limits for a bridge on the county road that ran to the farm and had previously been used.  The issue for the court to decide was whether the landowner could establish a private road across his neighbor’s farm due to the county road becoming inadequate. Continue reading

A fence line shows a boundary in Iowa.

Fence lines can establish legal boundaries even when a survey reveals its in the wrong place.

Boundary disputes are not uncommon. They often occur when someone purchases land and then learns that a fence or other boundary marker is not quite where it should be according to the survey. These disputes are often settled through a legal doctrine referred to as boundary by acquiescence. The Iowa Court of Appeals recently addressed this doctrine in Nafziger vs. Pender and Smith.

The Nafzigers purchased land, conducted a survey, and found that the boundary is actually about 30 feet north of where the current fence is that divides their land from that of the Smith’s. The Nafziger’s felt the survey should be followed and the fence removed and relocated north. Continue reading

Land contracts for farmland, in which a farm is sold by an owner in exchange for payments over a set period of time, appear to once again be gaining popularity with beginning farmers. Purchasing farmland with an installment contract can be beneficial for farmers with poor or no credit, but it also comes with risks that should be evaluated and for which planning is essential.

What Are Land Contracts

Land contracts, commonly called installment land contracts, contracts for deed, or land sale contracts, are real estate transactions where the buyer, or vendee, makes a down payment followed by periodic payments and the seller, or vendor, retains title to the property until all of the payments have been made.  Continue reading

farm sustainable practices

Conservation practices can be addressed in a written farm lease.

Whether you’re a farmer or a landowner, addressing conservation and sustainability in a farm lease can be a tricky subject. Tenants and landlords sometimes choose to ignore issues that they believe may create conflicts in the landlord-tenant relationship. This is particularly true with farm leases, which are often between neighbors, family members, and long-time friends. However, both parties do have an interest in ensuring the sustainability of the land, and discussing and including conservation provisions in a farm lease can be beneficial for both parties and the land.

This post is intended to provide an introduction to some key factors to consider when addressing conservation concerns, or sustainability, in a farm lease arrangement. Continue reading

Hog CAFOIn 2011, Missouri adopted a “right to farm” law (Missouri Revised Statute 537.296), which precludes recovery of non-economic damages caused by a nuisance that emanates from property used primarily for agriculture. This law effectively means that neighboring landowners are limited to recover the reduction in the fair market value for their property and any expenses for medical conditions resulting from the nuisance. Neighbors may not recover for non-economic damages, such as loss of use and enjoyment, inconvenience, or discomfort caused by a nuisance. Nuisances commonly associated with agricultural uses stem from confined animal feeding operations, or CAFO’s. Continue reading

Iowa Corn Residue

Iowa law gives farm lease tenants the right to remove crop residue, unless otherwise agreed to in writing.

Farm leases are a special creature with several unique requirements that don’t apply to other leases. This is particularly true in Iowa.  A farm lease is a contract, but it is also a conveyance of a real property interest that transfer rights of possession and use. The extent of these rights, however, depends on the terms of the lease contract and on state law. In 2010, the Iowa legislature adopted Iowa Code Section 562.5A, a statute betowing ownership of any above-ground portion of a plant to farm tenants, unless the parties agreed to a different arrangement in writing. This includes corn-stalks, stover, or any other residue from the plant. The details of the Iowa crop residue law are examined in an earlier post. Continue reading

Farm AccessEasements allowing access for farm equipment are common in Missouri and Iowa. However, as farm equipment and machinery become larger, the dimensions of existing easements may no longer be adequate to provide access. This often creates disagreements between landowners and easement holders that wind up in court. The result from the court varies depending on how the easement was established, and, if written, on the language of the easement.

In a case recently heard by the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District, a party sought to expand an existing written easement for a 16 foot wide road by claiming additional property adjacent to an easement road had been acquired by prescription. Continue reading