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Extension schedules land rent meeting for farmers, landowners

Farmers and landowners will once again come together to talk about the cost of land rent during two sessions on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the Douglas County Public Works Building at 526 Willow Drive in Alexandria.

The first session, at 9:30 a.m., and the second, at 1:30 p.m., will cover the same material. The University of Minnesota Extension Service hosts meetings about cash rent each fall in cities around the state.

In Douglas County, farmers paid an average of $129 per acre in 2017, according to the USDA National Agriculture Statistical Service, as reported in a University of Minnesota publication. That's up from $107 last year and $112 in 2012. Land rental prices depend on location, commodity prices and soil quality.

Land rent rose during giddily high corn prices five to seven years ago and has stayed relatively high even as commodity prices have tumbled.

"Corn and soybean budgets are tight again this year, corn especially," said extension educator Brenda Miller. "It is hard to be profitable even before paying land rent."

She added, "From what the numbers are telling us, I feel like there's a lot more negotiating going on. Probably more year-by-year leases or a two-three year lease versus longer ones."

The fall meetings draw both farmers and landowners, leaning more toward landowners, said Nathan Hulinsky, an extension educator scheduled to lead the meeting.

"We get some good conversations in the room," he said.

Rental costs can stay high because often, when one farmer perhaps saddled with debt backs away from rented land, another farmer with cash in the bank will step up, he said. In a time when farmers are either breaking even or losing money, they'll cut back on family living expenses or rely more on off-farm jobs to make ends meet, rather than give up land, Hulinsky said.

"It is important that both parties have an idea of what's really going on in the area, what crop budgets are, and what the futures look like," Miller said. "They also need to be flexible in order to benefit both parties."

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