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It is not too early to consider sending notice to terminate the land owner tenant relationship, but it will be if it is not taken care of by 1 Sept.

When terminating a lease, Iowa Code requires adherence to proper notice, and failure to follow Iowa laws regarding notice to a farm tenant may result in a renewal of the lease under the current terms:

  • If you lease ground you have to provide notice of termination to the tenant by September 1, or the lease automatically renews for the following year;
  • Farm tenants who are leasing crop parcels of less than 40 acres the rules have changed and they also have the right to notice by 1 September. This is a change from the prior law.

Tenants with crops still in the ground may not be able to harvest until after March 1. Each respective party (and their legal counsel) most likely has different beliefs about what the result should be there:

  • Landowners believe tenants must abandon the crop left (which the landowner most likely plans to harvest and keep); 
  • Tenants believe they have as much time as they like (perhaps even after spring planting on the acres that the tenant DID renew on).

Neither side is entirely correct. This issue has been before the Iowa Supreme Court already, in a case where weather prevented the tenant from making a timely harvest. He did not renew the lease. That spring, the landowner refused access to the tenant's harvest attempts and instead, turned cattle and hogs out on the ground to consume the crop.

The Iowa Supreme Court declared that a matured crop belongs to the tenant, subject to the landowner's lien (if filed correctly). Maturity doesn't matter if the crop is severed from the ground, but the question turns on whether or not the crop still draws sustenance from the soil. However, abandoned crops are not treated the same. Abandoned crops become the property of the landowner and can be disposed of however they like.

No clear guidance from the court is available to distinguish matured, non-severed crops from abandoned crops. However, common sense can help. A couple of stalks of corn in the corner of the field left, or maybe even a partial row left to help with snow drifting, can likely be declared abandoned by the tenant and taken by the landowner.  Some would call that a "blonde corn maze". Conversely, 20 acres left in the field is still property of the tenant, who has a reasonable right to harvest in peace. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020
  • Patrick B. Dillon
  • Jill Dillon
Dillon Law PC
Patrick B. Dillon enjoys finding solutions to legal issues and catching problems for clients. Pat practices in the Sumner office regularly represents clients in district, associate district and magistrate courts for agricultural, real estate, criminal and collection issues. He drafts wills and trusts, creates estate plans and helps clients through the probate process.
Dillon Law PC
Jill Dillon focuses on family law, estate planning and IRS matters. Jill is a University of Northern Iowa undergraduate (Political Science Cum Laude) and a Drake University Law School graduate. Jill spent extensive time advocating for low income tax payers in front of the IRS and the State of Iowa Department of Revenue while at Drake.

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