Des Moines Register reports:
Nearly 60 percent of Iowa farmland owners don’t actively farm, a new Iowa State University survey shows, and about one-third of owners have no farming experience at all.
Twenty-four percent of those owners are retired farmers, according to the ISU Farmland Ownership Tenure Survey that looked at trends from 2012 to 2017.
Iowa has about 30 million farm acres, or nearly 90 percent of the state.
Here are some other statistics from the survey, which is required under state law every five years:
RECESSION BUFFER: Eighty-two percent of Iowa farmland is owned debt-free, which represents a significant increase from 62 percent in 1982 and 78 percent in 2012.
It helps explain why Iowa farmland prices have only fallen about 16 percent since hitting a high in 2013, while farm profits have fallen 75 percent, ISU economists said.
“About 55 percent of all land in Iowa has been owned by the same owner for over 20 years,” said Wendong Zhang, an ISU economics assistant professor. “With low turnover, and with limited supplies, it supports higher land values.
“That’s provided a buffer in this current farm downturn,” said Zhang, who led the survey with Alejandro Plastina, also an assistant ISU economics professor.
TOUGH FOR YOUNG FARMERS: People 65 years or older own 60 percent of farmland, 5 percentage points higher than in 2007, and twice the level in 1982.
People 75 years and older owned a record 35 percent of all acres in Iowa. At the other end, those younger than 35 own less than 2 percent of the state’s farm acres.
OUTSIDE OWNERSHIP? Full-time Iowa residents own 80 percent of the state’s farmland; people living outside the state own 13 percent; and part-time Iowa residents own 7 percent of the land.
GENDER DIFFERENCES: Women own 47 percent of Iowa farms, but they’re less likely than men to grow crops. Fifty-five percent of male owners are likely to farm, while only 39 percent of women farm.
RENTED LAND: Fifty-three percent of Iowa farmland is rented, with 83 percent of the agreements for cash. “Leased farmland was equally divided between cash rent and crop-share leases in 1982,” the survey says.
Under a crop-share agreement, the landowner and farmer share the costs to raise corn, soybeans or other crops, and share the profits or losses. One reason for the crop-share decline: fewer profits in farming.
IT’S NOT APPLE: Trusts accounted for 20 percent of all acres owned in Iowa, while three decades ago, there were few, the survey said.
Farmland owned by individuals and farm couples or family members declined from 80 percent in 1982 to only half in 2017.
Corporate ownership has remained relatively stable since 1982, coming in at 10 percent last year. “These corporations aren’t Apple or Microsoft,” Zhang said.
Fifty-five percent of corporations are owner-operators, the survey shows.
GIVE IT AWAY: Willing or giving the land to family remained the most popular method of intended land transfer, accounting for more than half of all acres of Iowa farmland, the economists said.
The second-most popular intended method of land transfer, at 26 percent, was putting it into a trust. Only 7 percent of Iowa farmland was intended to be sold to a nonfamily member.
FOR MONEY OR LOVE: Half of landowners own the property to create income. Nineteen percent owned it as a long-term investment, and 29 percent is owned for family or sentimental reasons.
In 2012, 22 percent of Iowa farmland owners held onto land for sentimental or family reasons.