Thursday, February 09, 2017

Most Iowa farmland is leased, usually for a year, so soil and water conservation get short shrift

Iowa farmer Steve Berger has been a
practitioner of no-till farming for 40 years.

(Gazette photo by Cliff Jette)
With more than half of all Iowa farmland being leased, typically for one year, farmers don't see the point in engaging in long-term conservation practices that can be expensive, Orlan Love reports for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids. Wendong Zhang, an economist who heads Iowa State University’s annual land-values survey, said that leads to "land insecurity," with farmers having no idea how long they will have the land. Mark Licht, an assistant professor of agronomy at ISU, said that insecurity makes "it easier for conservation decisions to be postponed or ignored."

U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that in 2014, Iowa’s 105,194 landlords rented out 16.33 million acres—53.4 percent of the state’s farmland, Love writes. "About 21 percent of leased Iowa farmland is owned by nonresidents, and more than 43 percent is owned by trusts (23.9 percent), partnerships (14.4 percent) and corporations (5.3 percent)."

"Low commodity prices, slim profit margins and falling land rental rates—all prevalent in recent years—tend to lower conservation priorities for both landlords and tenants, said Sara Berges, a water quality coordinator for the Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District, which four years ago started a program to encourage landowners and tenants to develop conservation plans and incorporate them into lease agreements," Love writes.

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