Land Tenure and Conservation in Agriculture


Why Our Work is Needed

Agricultural land management decisions are situated within a complex and interconnected system, influenced by a suite of social and economic factors, many of which are difficult to control. Landowners are in a unique position to drive stewardship of their land via proactive land management focused on soil health and other conservation-oriented productivity indicators. Funded by the Walton Family Foundation, Delta Institute has focused on land ownership and tenure as levers to increase conservation and rebuild soil health throughout the Midwest, where over 50 percent of the agricultural land is leased. 


Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

Delta Institute released our report, Land Tenure and Conservation in Agriculture: Creating Incentives for Landowners. This report, which includes related tools and resources geared toward the unique needs of owners/operators of working lands, explores the network of stakeholders, policies, and institutions through which soil health can be linked to the value of the land and ultimately serve as an incentive to change management of that land.

Although soil health and management practices are not currently explicitly integrated into the land valuation system, we identify opportunities where such linkages can be created and utilized to rebuild soil health. 

Project Materials and Resources

The additional resources below contain additional resources related to land valuation through the lens of soil health and directly related health- and conservation-focused land management:

Soil Health

Using tools that test soil health and applying what we learn presents an opportunity to restore soil health and improve land management. The resources in this section help to plan and implement soil health testing practices.

Quick Guide: Soil Health Testing | Click to Expand

An action-oriented overview of the soil health testing process; click and scroll to explore.Quick Guide: Soil Health Testing

Soil Health Testing Guide | Click to Expand

A complete guide to conducting soil health testing on farmland and evaluating the results

Memo: Land Value & Soil Health in Cropland Appraisals | Click to Expand

A memo describing considerations to be made when incorporating soil health data into farmland valuations

Conservation Leasing

As a binding contract, the lease agreement is the key instrument that land managers and owners can use to ensure that their land is managed in a certain way. The resources in this section provide key information to make decisions about lease agreements.

Adjustable Rate Analysis Tool | Click to Expand

A tool to inform landowners and farmers of the costs and benefits of using various lease structures to encourage conservation practices on agricultural land holdings.

Fact Sheet: Using the Adjustable Rate Analysis Tool | Click to Expand

Use this fact sheet to decide which adjustable lease rate structures would work best for your agricultural system. It identifies the information you’ll need to estimate annual costs and benefits as well as net revenue during a lease term.

Leasing Framework | Click to Expand

A framework to develop a farm lease agreement that encourages conservation through various types of provisions

Leasing Template | Click to Expand

Conservation farm lease provision templates for use in a lease agreement

Data Tracking Model | Click to Expand

A system that helps track management data and assess progress toward conservation leasing goals on farmland

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