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Conservation change-ups

CHERYL TEVIS 07/02/2012 @ 2:43pm Cheryl has been an editor at Successful Farming since 1979.

More focus is shifting to landowners today, as we approach a massive changeover in land ownership that is likely to involve more non-farm heirs. Today more than 50% of the agricultural land owned in Iowa is owned by individuals who either don’t live on their land, or don’t operate their farmland. It’s as high as 70% in parts of northern Iowa. Other states show similar trends.

Recent surveys show that 27% of absentee landowners rely solely on their farm operator or farm manager to make conservation decision. But a growing number of landowners are open to conversations about conservation. For instance, "This Land Is Your Land" was the title of the recent one-day workshop in West Des Moines held by Mark Gannon of Gannon Real Estate & Consulting and US Farm Lease in Ames, Iowa. Participants had many questions about tiling, soil erosion, and fertility.

Other businesses are catering to absentee and non-operator landowner concerns. Agren, Inc. in Carroll, Iowa is holding a series of four teleconference calls to discuss tenants, leases, waterways and nutrients. It is partnering with three county soil and water conservation districts on this project. The goal is to improve landowner access to available federal and state resources. Agren also is offering conservation assessments to absentee landowners, thanks to a grant program.

Farmers need to be aware of these efforts, and anticipate that landowners may be asking more questions, and requesting more data, such as soil maps and other technology-generated information. It may provide them a competitive edge if they are more proactive.

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