A flexible cash lease is a contractual arrangement between a landowner and operator in which the final rent payment is determined after the crop has been harvested. Unlike a fixed cash lease contract, where the per acre rent amount is agreed upon well before field work begins, the rent amount with a flexible lease adjusts depending on final yield, commodity prices, cost of production, or some combination of all three. Flexible leases may offer limited financial protection to producers should growing conditions or market prices deteriorate, or production costs escalate. Flex lease arrangements also offer opportunities for landowners to benefit should commodity prices rise or better than expected yields occur. In recent years, gains in commodity prices and increasing yields have increased the popularity of flex leases among landowners, and flex leases that allow the sharing of market and production risk are popular with some producers.

Advantages of Flex Lease Contracts

The general advantage of a flex lease is the avoidance of committing to a fixed rent amount at a time when many production and market variables remain unknown. Depending on circumstances, flex leases offer advantages over fixed cash lease contracts and crop-share leases.

Some of these advantages include:

  • For the landowner, an opportunity to benefit financially from higher yields and favorable commodity prices.
  • For the operator, some level of risk protection should costs rise or revenue disappoint.

Disadvantages of Flex Lease Contracts

Flexible lease arrangements also present some risks to both landowners and operators.

  • For the landowner, a flex lease can increase their exposure to risk (compared to a fixed cash lease agreement).
  • For the operator, higher revenue from increased yields and/or prices is shared with owner.
  • For both parties, flex leasing greatly increases the contract’s complexity.

Share of Gross Revenue

A relatively easy way to flex lease is to share the gross revenue (total crop value) between landowner and operator. With this method the owner receives cash rent equal to a specific share of gross revenue (yield multiplied by price). With this type of lease, price and yield risks are shared between owner and operator (similar to a crop-share lease). Flex leases of this type will typically specify shares of between 25 and 40% of gross crop revenue. Contracts can be worded to include USDA commodity program payments and crop insurance indemnity payments (if any).

Corn Example

  • Assume grain yield is 170 bushels per acre.
  • Assume average price per bushel following harvest is $3.50.
  • Then, gross revenue per acre is $595 (170 x $3.50).
  • A land owner receiving a 30% share will receive an annual rent payment of $178.50 per acre ($595 x 0.30).

Note: this type of flex lease requires specific mechanisms for determining the crop price and yield.

Different Methods for Flexing Rent

There are many different ways for flexing rent, including yield, price, cost, or some combination of each. All of these are accompanied by some degree of risk and landowners and producers are encouraged to carefully consider each type before making a final decision. Also, because a flex lease specifies a rent payment amount that is determined after the contract is signed, these arrangements require that both parties fully agree to, and understand completely, the exact mechanisms for calculating payment.