Information on Conservation in Leases and Setting Rent

“I know I should use a lease with my farmer, but I don’t know what to include in it.”

“How do I set a fair rental rate for my farmer(s)?”

Many landowners request information at Women Caring for the LandSM meetings about leases and rental rates. Especially for women who are new to managing their farmland, these are crucial topics. Here are some resources that can help you as you work through them.

farm-lease-tips-how-to-negotiate-farmland-leasesLeasing resources

Ag Lease 101 helps both landowners and farmers learn about alternative lease arrangements and includes sample written lease agreements for several alternatives. Ag Lease 101 is a project of the North Central Farm Management Extension Committee. Visit the website at You’ll find information, worksheets and sample leases including: cash rent and crop share, and leases for pasture, farm building or livestock facility, farm machinery (non-commercial) and livestock.

Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure (SALT) Initiative. This site is intended to help landowners and farmers develop farm lease arrangements that are profitable and sustainable for the landowner, the farmer, the community, and the land. Visit

The site is created and maintained by the Drake University Agricultural Law Center, Des Moines, IA. It offers various resources and tools, including The Landowners Guide to Sustainable Farm Leasing, available as a free PDF download at Chapters include The Basics, Determining Priorities, and the very helpful Talking To Your Tenant, as well as how to assist a beginning farmer.

Here is a recent blog post from attorney Ed Cox, who created the SALT guide, about conservation in farm leases:

Setting rental rates

One important piece of the puzzle in setting rental rates is knowing the going rate in your area. In Iowa, the Ag Decision Maker website at provides annual survey data on rental rates by county, along with leasing forms, worksheets and articles on a variety of whole-farm management topics. Many state extension services offer leasing and rental rate workshops in the summer, as landlords put together their leases for the following year. In Iowa, leases must be revised or terminated in writing no later than September 1, or they continue in effect for another year.

Contact your local Extension staff for information on your county and dates of upcoming workshops. You can also consult the National Agricultural Statistics Center’s website for land values and cash rental rates by county for all states at

Other things to think about in setting rental rates include:

  • Use of the land (crops? recreation? grazing?)
  • How much risk you want to share with your farmer
  • Current or future enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program or other programs
  • Your desire to help a new farmer get started
  • Use of a house or buildings on the property

You can use the decision tree at this link to help you evaluate your options: