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Non-operating landowners own a significant amount of farmland across the U.S., yet many of them are unaware of the conservation practices being implemented on their land. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working alongside state commodity organizations to facilitate and champion more conversations between non-operating landowners and farmers to identify opportunities in soil health efforts.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is an inverse correlation between highly rented farmland and adoption of no till practices. There are many different ownership structures that influences how management decisions are made, how the land is valued and how it is taken care of.

There is a strong level of trust between non-operating landowners and their farmer. Many operate on verbal leases or year to year leases, which present challenges and introduces uncertainty for both parties. The social dynamics in the non-operating landowner-farmer relationship are strong, and typically span through multiple generations. Non-operating landowners trust their farmer, value soil health and are looking to their farmer to guide them in making conservation recommendations.

Because of the long-standing relationship, both parties are sensitive not to disrupt the agreement by suggesting major changes to management practices.

According to a survey completed by American Farmland Trust and Utah State University, non-operating landowners are largely retired, a fair number of them still live on the farm, previously farmed or are from an agricultural background. They understand agriculture. Many active farmers utilize soil health practices on their land, but that transfer is not being seen on rented farmland. 

  • 80% of non-operating landowners said their farmer is the most important source for conservation information
  • 84% indicated that maintaining soil productivity is a very important quality for a farm
  • 87% indicate that they are committed to their farmer continuing to farm their land
  • 16 is the average number of years non-operating landowners have been working with their farmers

TNC continues utilizing collaborative relationships to increase conversations between non-operating landowners and their farmers in regards to implementing conservation practices on more U.S. farmland.

View the full Soil Sessions webinar where TNC discusses opportunities with non-operating landowners here.