Purpose: This study examines the heterogeneous correlations between rural farmers' land renting behavior and their grain production when they experienced a significant price decline. Design/methodology/approach: We used well-timed panel data obtained from a two-round survey held in 2013 and 2017 among 621 households in the North China Plain. The empirical analyses were conducted by using the pooled ordinary least squares (OLS) and fixed effects models. Findings: Rural tenants were having heterogeneous responses in land renting behavior and agricultural production when there was a price decline. A group of optimistic tenants (as professional farmers) were more likely to enlarge the farm scale for grain production through land rental markets but decrease variable investment levels (and subsequently decreased productivity) to cope with price decline. In contrast, nonprofessional farmers (the other rural tenants) were rather pessimistic about market performance, and they significantly decreased their grain production area to cope the price decline, but there was no decrease in grain productivity through reducing variable inputs. Originality/value: This study contributes to the extant literature on the relationship between farmers' land renting-in behavior and agricultural production. By dividing the tenants into professional and nonprofessional farmers, we argue that there is a significant heterogeneous correlation between rural tenants' land renting behavior and grain production when farmers experience a price decline.