Agricultural Law for Iowa and Missouri

farm leaseLike many states, Missouri law provides different rules in terminating a lease of agricultural land.  Farming operations require planning several months or more in advance. Recognizing this fact, state laws often require greater notice before a landlord cannot terminate the farm tenancy. The notice requirements in Missouri will, however, depend on the specific characteristics of the lease arrangement.

Year to Year or At Will Tenancies

Farm tenancies in Missouri that are renewed year to year require notice of termination at least 60 days prior to the end of the lease year.  Year to year tenancies typically result from a tenant holding over with the landlords consent after the expiration of an initial lease term of a year or more. The end of the “agricultural year” in Missouri is customarily March 1, although it is most likely that Missouri law allows for the parties to agree to a different ending date.

Missouri law provides that oral farm leases and tenancies at will for agricultural purposes shall not be construed as month to month tenancies, but rather year to year. Thus, any oral farm lease and any tenancy created by a farm tenant holding over with the landlord’s consent requires sixty days notice for termination.  According to Missouri statute this notice must be provided in writing.

Farm Lease With a Specific Term or Duration

A written agreement establishing a set term does not require any notice of termination. The lease will end on the date designated in the agreement without any notice required of either party.  Further, in other types of leases the parties may mutually agree that no notice is necessary. The parties are also free to alter the notice requirements.  However, this must be done in writing and dated prior to any notice delivered in order to be admissible as evidence demonstrating the alteration of notice requirements.

In order to avoid having to provide notice of termination, the lease agreement must be in writing and for a specific term, or the parties must have a written agreement that no notice is required.  Significantly, a tenancy under an expired written lease without a written renewal or extension is a year to year tenancy subject to the sixty day notice requirement.

It should also be noted that the farm lease termination statutes apply to both landlord and tenant.

Effects of Missouri Notice Statutes

Missouri’s courts have indicated that the protections are primarily in place to protect a tenant’s rights in the crop.  While sixty days notice does give some security it is a short enough period of time to still allow for situations in which notice is given after the crop is planted but the lease will terminate before harvest.  The tenant in such circumstances must resort to protections provided by the doctrine of emblements. This legal doctrine allows the tenant to enter the farm land after the lease has ended in order to care for and harvest crops planted prior to notice of termination.

It is important to keep in mind that state law governs lease arrangements and may be significantly different from one state to the next. This is particularly true for agricultural leases.

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