Landowners matter too: Accelerating adoption of in-field and edge-of-field nutrient reduction practices through better-engaged landowners
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy calls for vast increases in conservation practice use to reduce nutrient loads from non-point sources. Funding for working lands programs has exceeded that for land retirement programs and currently exceeds $30 billion. However, the majority of Iowa’s waterways continue to have water quality impairments.
Non-operating landowners (NOLs) are a critical link to the implementation of conservation practices. From 1982 to 2017, the percentage of Iowa farmland owned by full-time Iowa residents declined from 94% to 80%, hindering conservation practices as short-term tenants may be less willing to invest in conservation practices. Additionally, 53% of Iowa farmland is rented, and NOLs own 57% of rented land, which magnifies the knowledge gap about conservation practice benefits and importance.
This project will provide a comprehensive assessment of Iowa landowners’ views on and barriers to adopting key in-field and edge-of-field practices to achieve nutrient reduction goals. Researchers will study the potential for economic incentives to enhance adoption of nutrient management practices and result in win-win situations for landowners and tenants.
More specifically, the project's four major objectives are to:
- quantify actual nutrient reduction practice adoption levels and changes over time using a statistically representative survey of Iowa landowners;
- identify the most effective and preferred ways to reach operating landowners and NOLs to incentivize nutrient reduction practice implementation;
- gauge landowner reactions to and interest in policy proposals such as climate-smart agriculture, carbon credits and the Conservation Easement Tax Credit; and
- evaluate the effects of social learning and wildlife co-benefits of nutrient reduction practices on landowner attitudes and behavior.
The 2022 Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey will provide evidence on nutrient reduction practices, carbon credits programs, proposed tax credit for conservation easements, conservation information needs and respondents' preferred ways to receive information and knowledge of conservation efforts.
Note: Project reports published on the INRC website are often revised from researchers' original reports to increase consistency.
The bulk of the work this semester was directed at writing and finalizing the 2022 Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey. The Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey has been conducted by Iowa State University over the past 60 years. The study is now conducted every five years, using an area sample designed to identify characteristics of Iowa farmland owners as well as changes in the size of agricultural land holdings, land use and types of ownership.
For the 2022 survey, specific questions were added to address four objectives:
- Quantifying actual nutrient reduction practice adoption levels and changes over time using a statistically representative survey of Iowa landowners;
- Identifying the most effective and preferred ways to reach operating landowners and non-operating landowners to incentivize nutrient reduction practice implementation;
- Gauging landowner reactions to and interest in policy proposals such as climate-smart agriculture, carbon credits and the Conservation Easement Tax Credit; and
- Evaluating the effects of social learning and wildlife co-benefits of nutrient reduction practices on landowner attitudes and behavior.
The 2022 survey is being conducted by telephone by the Iowa State University Center for Statistics and Methodology. Following the methodology of earlier versions of the survey. Telephone interviews began in late October and will continue into the new year. The target for this study is Iowa land that was used for agricultural purposes as of July 1, 2022. Since no complete list of owners of Iowa farmland is available, landowners are sampled through a two-stage area sampling design. The survey sample is a scientifically drawn random sample of all landowners in Iowa, and the results of this report are statistically representative for all farmland and all landowners in Iowa. Survey questionnaires were completed by trained telephone interviewers who edit and check the responses for consistency. Once the data collection period ends (likely February 2023), analysis will be performed to summarize and describe the data during the spring semester. A survey report, along with extension fact sheets, information bulletins, and presentation slides, will be created and published over the summer of 2023.