The information in this site is intended for use as educational material to assist landowners, farmers, and their advisors in understanding various laws, regulations, and lease provisions.  It is not intended, and should not be used, as a substitute or replacement for individual legal advice.  Landowners and farm operators should consult a lawyer and other relevant professionals prior to entering a lease agreement.  Reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein; however, the content and interpretation of laws and regulations are subject to change.  The effect of future legislative, administrative, and judicial developments cannot be predicted.  For these reasons, the utilization of these materials by any person represents an agreement to hold harmless the author, the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University and the Law School, the Leopold Center, and Iowa State University for any liability, claims, damages, or expenses that may be incurred by any person as a result of reference to or reliance on the information contained in this site.

The purpose of this tool is to lead interested landowners and others through information that can be used to  encourage tenants to conserve the land’s natural resources and promote long-term productivity.  The questions and answers are meant to direct landowners to certain topics and considerations based on their particular circumstances and priorities.

This tool focuses on conservation of on-farm resources.  There are other areas of concern a landowner can address that promote the sustainability of the overall agricultural system, such as protecting the off-farm environment, providing access to land for new farmers, promoting public access to natural resources and agriculture, and assisting in improving the quality and diversity of the local economy.  These are important topics and concerned parties can review The Landowner’s Guide to Sustainable Farm Leases for more information on how landowners can address these topics in the lease agreement.

The long-term productivity of a farm is, of course, dependent on the farm’s natural resources.  There are a variety of ways to encourage your tenant to conserve the farm’s resources.  It should be noted that these methods can be used in conjunction with one another.  For instance, using provisions that require specific conservation practices may require greater cost-sharing in order to make the lease arrangement economically feasible for the tenant.

The goal is to address the nature of the issue of concern to the landowner, the relevant laws relating to the issue, what provisions might address the issue in a written lease agreement, and how the issue and relevant lease provisions impact other considerations in a farm lease arrangement.

What methods are you willing to use to encourage conservation of on-farm resources?

1. Increasing Tenure Confidence and Long-Term Leases

A tenant’s decision to adopt conservation and other sustainable practices depends on a variety of factors; but perhaps most significant, especially in relation to long-term improvements, is land tenure security.  A tenant that is confident in their ability to farm the land for an extended period of time has a greater stake in the long-term productivity of the land.  This option is ideal for those seeking to establish a long-term relationship with a tenant.  However, there are provisions that can make long-term leases more appealing to landonwer’s that are hesistant in entering a long-term lease.

2.  Risk-Sharing

Farming has always contained a certain amount of risk.  However, competition for increasingly expensive farmland and rising costs for farm inputs, such as fuel and seed, can make it difficult for farmers to take on more risk.  And, many sustainable practices, while beneficial to the long-term production of the land, do contain or are at least perceived to contain an additional amount of risk, especially in the first years of adoption.  But, there are ways you, as the landowner, can reduce the tenant’s risk.  This will mean, of course, that you might increase your own risks regarding income from the farm.  This makes for an appealing option for those less reliant on steady income from their land.

3.  Cost-Sharing

Sharing the costs of certain practices can go a long way to enable your tenant to conserve farm resources.  There are a number of ways this can be done, but it might require at least a temporary reduction in the income you receive from the farm.

4.  Conservation Provisions

The previous three answers dealt with measures that encourage the tenant to conserve the farm’s resources and long-term productivity.  Conservation provisions, however, describe the terms of a lease arrangement that are used to require specific conservation practices or establish threshold requirements relating to soil nutrients or soil loss limits.