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Rights and Duties of Entity Ownership of Iowa Farm Land

Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure (SALT) Initiative research has focused on the impact of private legal arrangements and documents on sustainable and resilient land use. Research and interviews with farmers, landowners, and their advisors shows a strong inclination to transfer land to family members, regardless of whether they’re farming and regardless of their knowledge of agriculture. This project, therefore, addressed two critical issues in relation to this trend. First, the challenges and opportunities presented by increased entity ownership of Iowa farmland. Second, increasing off-farm landowner knowledge and appreciation of the land and resilient farm practices.

Iowa has a strong legal precedent for establishing soil conservation and stewardship as a fundamental duty of all landowners. However, the duty of stewardship relating to soil assets of those with decision-making authority within farm land owning entities is not clearly established by Iowa’s statutes or case law. There are statutes in place requiring a duty of care for the managers of entities capable of owning land in Iowa. Our research revealed significant variations in this duty, depending on the type of entity.

The project has revealed valuable information relevant to current owners, managers, and beneficiaries of land-owning entities in Iowa. Continued outreach is essential to inform current owners involved in such entities of their duties and rights, as well as remedies available to them for the breach of care in relation to soil assets. It is also essential for those pondering entity ownership. Those establishing the use of entities should be informed of the impact of the laws governing the different duties required of various entities as well as the potential impact of the legal documents establishing these entities. A firm foundation has been laid for this outreach through the project’s publications and initial presentation and workshops with key stakeholders.