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Drake, Leopold Center launch land tenure study


Sustainable agriculture and land tenure are the focus of a new research and outreach collaboration between Drake University and Iowa State University.

The two-year jointly funded program — the Iowa Landowner and Sustainable Agricultural Land Stewardship project — will be carried out through a partnership between the Agricultural Law Center at Drake and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU.

The project has a budget of $250,000 and is funded in part by a grant from the Leopold Center. Established by the 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act, the center supports the development of profitable farming systems that conserve natural resources.

“Many of Iowa’s key land use decisions are not necessarily being made by producers living on their farms,” Leopold Center Director Jerry DeWitt said in a press release. “We have absentee landlords, tenant farmers or joint owners in one family making choices about production, land maintenance and conservation. We wanted better information about how to help them make the best determinations that will sustain their land for the future.”

The project will explore trends in Iowa farmland ownership and the transition of land to a new generation of owners, many of whom will rent or lease farmland to others. A second trend the study will examine is the proliferation of other legal agreements affecting farmland, such as wind-right leases, manure contracts and conservation easements.

Drake will use the project’s findings to draft a model sustainable agricultural leasing guide. It will explore the impact of traditional farm leasing agreements and practices on agricultural sustainability and land stewardship and offer alternative provisions and practices.

A recent study, “Farmland Ownership and Tenure in Iowa 2007” by Michael Duffy, director of the Beginning Farmer Center at ISU, confirmed that more than half of Iowa farmland (55 percent) is owned by people over 65 years old and 28 percent by people over 75. The data also reveal that more than half of Iowa’s farmland is farmed under some form of a lease.

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