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Landowner-Tenant Soil Health

More than half of all cropland in the United States is rented. This means the person who owns the land is often separate from the farmer making daily management decisions that can have long-term impacts on the land. Both want good production, but they may not be on the same page when it comes to improving water quality, reducing soil loss, and building soil health.

J. Gordon Arbuckle is an Extension sociologist at Iowa State University. He says there are several reasons for the disconnect, including the lack of communication.

"Landlords and tenants both are unwilling to talk about conservation. Women landowners often times feel like they’re not taken seriously, they feel disempowered, the systems are kind of set up for men. A huge issue, and I think this is an increasing one, is that non-operator landowners just lack a lot of basic knowledge about farming," says Arbuckle. "They’re increasingly removed geographically, socially, and culturally from farming."

Arbuckle says his research also shows there is fear of talking about this on both sides – which he calls a “double-excuse”.

"The landowner says that they don’t want rock the boat because they don’t want to lose their tenant and then the tenant says I don’t want to mention this to my landlord because my landlord will say, “well that’s a great idea you should do that”, but then not be willing to pay for it," he says. "It’s pretty complex, but I think we have to get past the kind of double-excuse thing, and I think landowners need to know more about soil health and the long-term quality of their land."

More than half of all cropland in the United States is rented. This means the person who owns the land is often separate from the farmer making daily management decisions that can have long-term impacts on the land. Both want good production, but they may not be on the same page when it comes to improving water quality, reducing soil loss, and building soil health.