Most farmers want to keep the land and its operation in the family, but often that doesn’t work satisfactorily. In this article I offer important considerations in the land transfer process.
I defer legal and business matters to other succession planners who have more expertise than me in those specific areas.
Much emotion is tied up in the transfer process. Transferring the farm involves what one generation has worked for much of their lives to build and what another generation plans their hopes on.
People involved in production agriculture have strong attachments to the land and resources needed to produce food and fiber because of an inherited drive, the “agrarian imperative,” that is part of everyone’s genetic make-up to some degree, but is exhibited most clearly by people who work the land as their chosen way of life.
Often the following generation wants to do things differently. The current land-holders and the upstarts both cling tenaciously to well-intended points of view about what is the best way to produce the fruits of their labors.
Map of My Kingdom is a recently developed play, commissioned by Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and authored by Iowa’s Poet Laureate, Mary Swander, which aptly deals with the emotion-packed challenges to land transitions.
The play addresses particularly the land holders’ pangs involved in transferring their land. To learn where the play is being performed or to schedule community events, contact PFI at 515 232-5661.
Steps that facilitate the succession process often seem straight-forward and reasonable, but they are seldom achieved without outside help, which is why many land succession-planning programs have arrived on the scene. An October 2013 article in the Journal of Extension explains useful steps in succession planning and common barriers identified by both generations in the Oregon State University project.
Project staff developed a curriculum called “Ties to the Land,” that mirrors many of the activities I undertake with families in farm transitions. Succession planning activities I try to help farm families implement include the following:
Barriers. The Oregon State University investigators found many barriers to easy completion of a succession plan. The land owners identified the following as the most important barriers: lack of time, disinterest from one or more of the heirs, fairness issues, and lack of perceived cooperation of the heirs.
The potential heirs identified the following major barriers: reluctance of the owners to give up control, communication issues with the owner and other heirs, and conflict or change in the heirs.
In the end, overcoming the hurdles to achieve a satisfactory plan brings much emotional peace to everyone.