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CONSERVATION NEGOTIATION: Adding conservation practices into a land lease will be more successful when built on a trusting relationship between all parties.

Structure your land lease around conservation practices

There are no set rules on how to write your lease to support conservation goals.

When there’s interest in implementing conservation practices on rented ground, renters and owners will need to come to an agreement.

Since conservation practices promote long-term benefits and require multiple seasons to implement, it may also be a good time to consider a longer-term, written lease rather than an informal one-year agreement.

For a renter to qualify for multiyear conservation programs with the Natural Resources Conservation District or Soil and Water Conservation District, they’ll need to show they have a lease for that length of time and consent from the landlord.

Lease language should support specific conservation goals. There are no hard and fast rules on how to write it.

Here are a few examples of ways to structure leases for conservation:

  • Specify exactly what crops will be planted each year of a multi-year rotation. 
  • Practices could be tied to cost-sharing with the landowner or reduced rent if significant investment is required from the operator. 
  • Working with local SWCDs on cost-sharing for conservation practices like cover crops can help alleviate the financial burden on both the operator or the landowner. 
  • Payments back to the renter could be tied to soil test improvements. 

This may be a difficult conversation. Go in with questions, not demands. Maybe the goal for the first meeting is as simple as learning what your renter or landowner’s perspective is on cover crops or vertical tillage. The long-term goal may be a change in farming practices, but that will be more successful if it’s built on a trusting relationship.

Cates is the State Soil Health Specialist in the Minnesota Office for Soil Health.
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