Conservation Lease Project

How can you reflect your conservation ethic in your farm lease?

Have a written lease

There are many simple things you can do to meet this goal. The first step is to have a written lease. Written leases are valuable for many reasons, but the most important reason is that it documents the terms that the landlord and tenant agree to follow. None of us have perfect memory and written leases serve as a simple way to preserve our decisions in writing. They also are beneficial to heirs should something happen to either lease party during the term of the lease.

There are many lease templates available online.

ISU short-form lease – a 3-page lease that covers the basics

Ag Lease 101 – Cash rent for crop

Cash rent for pasture

Include conservation provisions in your lease

The Allamakee SWCD currently has funding through the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture for a staff person to help landowners/tenants address conservation in their leases.  The District’s Conservation Lease Specialist, Sara Berges, will work with interested landowners, and hopefully operators as well, to create a lease addendum that specifies conservation practices to be implemented on specific fields.  As easy way to accomplish this is to revise the NRCS conservation plan and attach it to the lease as an addendum. The plan can include topics such as specific crop rotations, required conservation practices, residue management, and nutrient management.  In addition to the conservation plan, the lease can include stipulations for non-compliance and shared costs for conservation practice installation as well as many other topics.  The goal would be to have the landowner and renter work with the conservation lease specialist to determine their priorities for the farm and work together to come to an agreement about how to address those priorities.  The landowner could choose how detailed they want the plan to be and, at a minimum, could include a map showing the location of required practices.  We will not negotiate rent, but can give the landowner information about different ways to calculate rent.

The Drake Agricultural Law Center assisted with the development of several lease provisions. If you have recently updated your conservation plan and would like to include it in your lease, you can use the following provision.  Make sure both the landowner and renter have signed the plan before you attach it to your lease.

The tenant shall adhere to a Conservation Plan for the leased premises developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and attached hereto and by this reference made a part of this lease agreement.

Additional information about conservation provisions and information about how to develop a “sustainable” lease can be found in the Landowner’s Guide to Sustainable Farm Leasing and at sustainablefarmlease.org.

Start a conservation conversation

In order to achieve your conservation goals for the land, there needs to be an open conversation between landowner and tenant. The Conservation Lease Addendum Discussion Topics List can be used to document some of the existing resource concerns and management practices and provide ideas for discussion about future conservation measures.

If you are interested in learning more about how conservation can be included in your farm lease, please read this brochure and contact Sara with questions at 563-568-2246 ext. 3 or email Sara.Berges@ia.nacdnet.net.

Additional Resources

ISU Extension Ag Decision Maker – Leasing – example leases, information on how to calculate rent, terminating leases

Lease supplement for obtaining conservation practices – ISU Extension publication

AgLease101 – Guides and leases for landowners and tenants that were written, reviewed, and edited by the North Central Farm Management Extension Committee

Land Stewardship Project – Minnesota-based organization that promotes sustainable agriculture