Rental Relationships with Non-Operating Landowners

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January 22, 2020

A collaboration  with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to empower landowners and their tenants to collaborate more effectively on conservation activities. 

THE ISSUE: Farm rental relationships are a barrier to conservation

A significant amount of farmland in the U.S. is rented by a farmer rom a non-operating landowner. In the Midwest 62% of farmland is rented, with up to 80% in some counties. When a farmer does not own the land they farm, it can lead to serious barriers in the adoption of conservation practices, especially in cases where the landowner and the farmer are not collaborating effectively around conservation. 

OUR SOLUTION: Empower both sides to bridge the gap

We collaborated with The Nature COnservancy (TNC) to provide deeper insights into the nuance of the landowner/tenant relationship, and to empower tenants and landowners alike to collaborate more effectively around conservation. The project team surveyed and interviewed hundreds of landowners alongside hundreds of their tenants across the Midwest and Chesapeake Bay regions to better understand the nuances of the relationship. By learning about each party’s attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs regarding the rental relationship – we were able to provide recommendations for empowering each side to work with the other to implement conservation practices. We developed a suite of “Conversation Guides” – talking points, key facts, and questions to ask – to help farmers discuss conservation issues with their landowners in order to gain their buy-in to co-invest alongside them in soil health.  

WHAT’S NEXT?: Make collaboration easier 

Our research shows that both landowners and tenants are keen to work together and have largely overlapping goals; but due to the tradition and power dynamics inherent in the farmland rental space, it is difficult for them to get started. By empowering each side to work with the other through providing them with the tools they need to do so, we can scale conservation adoption on rented land. Ensuring they feel equipped to discuss conservation partnerships with the other party is a critical first step.   


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