Two agriculture organizations at Drake University and Iowa State University have put together a website that is designed to give landowners a source of information on how to use leases to encourage soil conservation.

Ed Cox of the Drake Agricultural Law Center says more than half of the farmland in Iowa is now rented and 55-percent of the land is owned by people over the age of 65. Cox says that leads to a lot of turnover which creates all different types of owners.

Cox says some continue to live on the land or close by, or in the next county, the next state, or thousands of miles away. Some have a knowledge of agriculture, while others have never farmed, and some rely on the rental income, while others see the farm rental income as secondary.

Neil Hamilton, the director of the Drake Ag Law Center says that’s why the created “SALT” or the Sustainable Agricultural Land Stewardship program. Hamilton says the site is not just for landowners, but it can also be helpful for those who want to rent and farm the land.

Hamilton says he believes the importance of land stewardship where someone can demonstrate their commitment to carry for the land would make them more attractive or competitive as a tenant. Hamilton says they hope the site starts landowners and renters talking about conservation practices and hope that talk leads to more agreements.

Hamilton says there’s a misperceiving by people about how much land in the state has to have a conservation plant. He says you are required to have a conservation plan only for “highly erodable” land, and only one third of the land is the state falls in that category.

And he says there’s no reason to ever have had a conservation plan unless your land fell in that category. But he says they want people to see the importance of conservation and the options available so they can take the step.

Hamilton says the soil conservation law was designed to make conservation plans a voluntary decision, and he says this site is designed to support the nature of that voluntary communication. The Iowa State Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture help produce the information on the website.

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