However, modern farming techniques, market forces, and variables that arise on an individual basis have added new dimensions to this age-old practice. Chemicals, fertilizers, pest control, and grain handling all need to be carefully considered. Who will stand the expense Who will maintain responsibility for management decisions For the landowner, these are important questions that need to be answered and agreed upon before entering into a 50/50 agreement with a tenant farmer.
The primary responsibility of the landowner is to provide the land necessary to produce a crop. Cropsharing is used in the Midwest United States primarily for small grains such as corn and soybeans where the grains are rotated to maintain soil quality and reduce the threat of pests (Sadoulet, de Janvry and Fukui, 1997). In these cases, the landowner provides the land and the tenant provides the necessary equipment and labor needed to plant, care for, and properly maintain the fields of grain. Along with the land that the landowner provides, it is usually assumed that the owner has the responsibility to provide the tenant with unlimited access to the land as seen necessary by the tenant.
The provision of the land, and access, is only the most basic responsibility that the landowner has. ...
The most common complaint aired by landowners in a sharecropping arrangement is that the tenant does not involve the landowner in the ongoing process and fails to update the owner on the ongoing operation of the farm. Likewise, the major complaint from tenants is that the owner fails to involve themselves in the ongoing responsibility of making management decisions. The owner has the responsibility to himself, as well as the tenant farmer, to be pro-active in reaching out and continuing a dialogue. It is vital that the landowner spells out the exact terms and conditions of the agreement and attempt to foresee any problems or unexpected situations that may arise.
The best and most binding agreements are done in writing. Although laws vary from state to state, oral agreements are usually only valid for a limited amount of time and often there is a conflict about what was originally said should a disagreement arise. Yet, with all the vulnerabilities that an oral agreement subjects the landowner to, a recent study at the University of Missouri showed that fewer than 35% of all sharecropping agreements are done in writing (Sadoulet et al., 1997). In a setting where trust has always been held in high esteem, it is sometimes awkward to initiate a written agreement. Landowners who are used to doing a deal on no more than a handshake should carefully consider all aspects of their responsibility and assure that it is fully understood by the tenant farmer.
One aspect of the agreement is the responsibility for fertilizing the crop. In today's market, some farmers believe their land is more valuable than the machinery and labor provided by the tenant and insist on a yield ratio higher than 50/50. The landowner may be tempted to shift some of the operation's expenses to