A big deadline is looming between farmers, hurt by falling grain prices, and the land owners who own a large chunk of America's farmland. Bobbi Rebell reports.
American farmers are getting a pay cut this year. Farm income, which peaked at $129 billion in 2013, could slide by almost a third this year to $74 billion. Grain prices have been plunging, hitting four-year lows thanks to better-than-expected crop yields. The stronger dollar has also made U.S. farm products more expensive for overseas buyers. And with oil prices plunging, corn used in ethanol is less in demand. Farmers aren't the only ones who stand to lose... so do the landowners. About 40 percent of the Midwest Corn Belt and the grain-growing plains is leased. And now the rent is coming due. Steve Bruere is President of People's Company, which manages farmland for owners: SOUNDBITE: STEVE BRUERE, PRESIDENT, PEOPLE'S COMPANY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "With the collapse in commodity prices, we are just at a lot different economic environment than we were even a year ago, especially two or three years ago. We are coming off three years of $6 corn, and now we are at a $3 or $3.50 corn environment, and farmers are having a tough time so lot of rents being re-negotiated" Rents vary from a few thousand, to millions for larger operations. And, for many most of the year's rent is due March 1. Reuters' Jo Winterbottom: SOUNDBITE: JO WINTERBOTTOM, CHICAGO DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, COMMODITIES EDITOR-IN-CHARGE, THOMSON REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "A lot of land owners, who have got these higher rents, are not surprisingly pretty unwilling to lower them, just because corn prices have gone down, grain prices have gone down. They are relying on these grain prices, sometimes they are retirees, and they are relying on it to supplement pensions. Sometimes, you've got investors, fund managers, that kind of thing, where they obviously want to maintiain their returns." As the situation plays out, Iowa and other farm dependent states are bracing for economic challenges: SOUNDBITE: STEVE BRUERE, PRESIDENT, PEOPLE'S COMPANY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We've had a very solid economy here in Iowa when the national economy has struggled, and, now, that we are seeing stronger dollar, layoffs at John Deere, Dupont, that sort of thing. It will have a broader impact for some of the Midwest economies for sure. " But grain production probably wont be affected, because land owners will always rather have someone working the land, even if it's at a lower rate, than let it go unused.