Oral Crop Share Lease Not Established

The plaintiff farmed until 2007 when he leased his property to the defendant under a written cash lease.  In the early fall of the next year, the defendant paid a "bonus" of over $60,000 to the plaintiff with a detailed accounting of how the bonus was calculated.  The bonus was paid to help ensure that the plaintiff would continue to lease the ground to the defendant.  A new written lease was signed later that fall with nearly identical provisions, but higher per acre rent.  Again, a bonus payment was paid to the plaintiff under an alleged oral agreement that the parties had that the defendant would share profits with the plaintiff.  Another new lease was signed for the next year, but no bonus was paid that year because the crop did not generate a profit.  The defendant continued to farm the property for two more years under an oral arrangement.  In August of 2011, the plaintiff gave notice of lease termination to the tenant effective March 1, 2012.  In the fall of 2011, the defendant did an accounting for the 2010 crop year and offered to pay a bonus of $19,218.  The plaintiff refused.  In November of 2011, the plaintiff gave written notice to the defendant not to market the plaintiff's grain without permission, and filed a financing statement perfecting a landlord's lien.  The plaintiff also chopped and chiseled corn stalks.  The defendant paid all remaining cash rent obligations and paid for crop storage.  The checks were returned with the plaintiff claiming that the parties were farming on a 50/50 crop share basis with a minimum of $200/acre.  The plaintiff sued for a declaratory judgment and accounting, claiming that the written lease was not the full agreement between the parties and that the defendant owed rent under the 50/50 crop share lease.  The defendant denied the existence of an oral agreement and sought damages for lost value of the unharvested corn stover.  The trial court ruled for the plaintiff, determining that an oral crop share agreement supplemented the written lease, and entered judgment of $204,072.08 for the plaintiff.  On appeal, the court reversed.  The court held that the additional payments were simply discretionary bonus payments and that the defendant was entitled to the corn stover.  Also, the court noted that the written lease provided for full payment of some expenses by the defendant which contradicted the existence of a profit-sharing agreement.  In addition, a crop-share lease would have violated FSA rules.  The plaintiff's net judgment was reduced to $80,548.70.  Peck v. Four-Acre Farms, Inc., No. 14-1482, 2015 Iowa App. LEXIS 696 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 5, 2015).