Do Your Land Leases Help You Or the Owner?

A change to no-till annual cropping changes the math for the landowner and can be a windfall. So what are fair numbers?

Are you still facing wariness from landowners who would rather not rent fields to a no-tiller? Or are you no-tilling leased land but suspect you’re getting the short end of the deal?

No-tillers sometimes face an uphill struggle for acres even as the landscape levels out due to the widespread growth of conservation tillage. But as the land devoted to no-tilling has passed 20 percent of the total farming acreage in the United States, no-tillers are sharing their insights and tips for gaining an even larger share of the available land.

No-tiller Steve Riggers of Craigmont, Idaho, notes that no-tillers must look for economies of scale — bigger farms — because staying in business requires working more land to make up for shrinking per-acre profits.

“The importance of acquiring new leases and maintaining existing ones is critical in developing a successful farming business,” he says. He suggests that no-tillers start by understanding the mindset of the landowners.

A USDA survey indicates that 418.5 million acres are rented for farming, or 46 percent of all farmland in the U.S. That’s up 11 percent since 1988. More than half of the owners of that rented farmland are 65 years or older.

Resisting Change

“An astonishing 47 percent of the rented farmland in the U.S. is owned by people over 70 years of age,” Riggers says. “More are females than males, but most rented land is held in joint ownership. About 30 percent are retired farmers, and a large percentage grew up on…

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