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— When asked, "What's the going rate for renting land?" I decide that it may well be one of the Top 10 most difficult questions to answer. More recently the caller is usually a landowner with no rural rental acreage experience.

Although I can't begin to cover all variables used to determine the going rate, let me address a few.

Most rental or potential rental acreage in this area is predominantly foragebased and has no similarities at all to renting a house, apartment, vehicle or even row cropland. Each piece of property, though adjacent to other rented land, still has its own set of variables.

Currently, thousands of acres that were either inherited or initially purchased for speculation or retirement plans now sit idle. Time and again we witness once neatly mowed acreage quickly revert back to scrub oak and briars for want of maintenance. This natural tendency for nature to reclaim the land can quickly cause the glow to fade on a once picturesque pastoral scene.

That prospect prompted a recent call about the going rate for renting property. I soon decided the caller had very little grasp of what his property had to offer a potential renter. To alleviate that gap, I posed a series of questions that land owners should be able to answer:

Is the acreage composed of usable forage, woodland, tillable land or a mix of the three? Is the acreage completely fenced? Is there a water source?

Does it have facilities for working cattle, storing hay, feed or equipment?

Is the forage acreage suitable for pasture only or can it be hayed?

Is the acreage easily accessible or will equipment and cattle, etc. need to be hauled through aggravating traffic?

Is there adjacent and similar property already being rented?

Will a rental agreement be short of long term?

Answers to these and other questions are necessary for a landowner to position him or herself for developing a satisfactory relationship with a potential renter. Perhaps a final question to consider, "Is there a predetermined value that must be received from rental of the property?"

It may sound off-the-wall but some landowners lease property at no upfront cost. However, the written and signed agreement notes that all facilities, fences and forage are to be maintained in the same condition as on the first day. After considering the cost of maintaining these three items in today's economy, I believe the landowner got the best of the deal.

It should come as no surprise that, as with renting other properties, the relationship between partners, regardless of the final determined value, serves to establish whether it will be a long- or short-term deal.

News, Pages 11 on 09/09/2009

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