Considering Sustainable Agriculture on Your Rented Land

Created with SARE support
Diane Mayerfeld, Rick Exner, Margaret Smith | 2003 | 4 pages
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Using sustainable agriculture practices on your rented land can help protect soil and water quality, increase income over the long term, and satisfy personal values for the landowner and/or the tenant.

Renting agricultural land can be a difficult process. Landowners are concerned about taking care of the land, being good neighbors, and meeting their financial goals. Tenants are concerned about farming in a way that is consistent with their values, maintaining access to the land, and meeting their financial goals. In some cases, negotiations about the basic financial arrangements can be so tense that both sides are reluctant to raise other issues that may lead to disagreement. Even when landowner-tenant relations are good, the parties may hesitate to introduce ideas that could cause conflict. As a result, the majority of rented crop land is farmed in a conventional manner, even when the tenant or landowner may be interested in trying sustainable practices.

One important reason for using sustainable agriculture is to protect soil and water quality. The conventional corn-soybean rotation can result in soil erosion, runoff and leaching of fertilizers and pesticides, and loss of soil organic matter. Practices such as adding small grains or hay to the crop rotation, using conservation tillage, reducing herbicide use, and creating grassed waterways and riparian buffers can protect both the soil and the water.

Another reason for using sustainable agriculture may be to increase income over the long term. Diverse rotations and improved soil condition can boost yields over time and prevent costly pest problems. Certain practices such as organic agriculture can bring premium prices for crops and livestock.

Finally, sustainable farming practices may satisfy personal values for the landowner and/or the tenant, such as providing habitat for wildlife or minimizing exposure to dangerous chemicals.

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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.