Report on 20 Years of Iowa Farmland Ownership Released

August 18th, 2004

A recent Iowa State University study shows that in 2002, more than 48 percent of Iowa farmland was owned by persons 65 years and older. That's up from 42 percent in 1992 and 29 percent in 1982.

These and other facts emerge in the report "Farmland Ownership and Tenure in Iowa 1982-2002: A Twenty-Year Perspective." It was written by Michael Duffy, professor of economics.

The report is based on telephone surveys of 633 landowners. Similar surveys were done in 1982, 1992 and 1997. The purpose of the study is to identify new directions and compare old trends using data from the earlier surveys.

Other major conclusions from the 2002 study are:In 2002, 41 percent of Iowa farmland was owner-operated. And in the 20-year period between 1982 and 2002, there was a 30 percent decrease in owner-operated farmland in the state.Ownership structure has shifted away from sole ownership and towards tenants-in-common and trusts.In 2002, about 74 percent of Iowa farmland was free of debt, which is a higher percentage than both 1992 and 1982.Anticipated methods of farmland transfer include less bequeathing land to family members and more giving or selling land to family members.Duffy said the study demonstrates the dynamic changes occurring in Iowa farmland ownership.
"Land turnover is increasing and different ownership structures are being used by new owners," Duffy said. "There is a rapid shift toward tenant control of production agriculture and diminished owner involvement. And the move towards an older population of landholders continues."

Single copies of the report are available at no cost. Request publication PM1983 through county extension offices or by calling the ISU Extension Distribution Center at (515) 294-5247.

The full report also is available online under the "Land" link at:


Michael Duffy, Economics, (515) 294-6160,
Susan Thompson, Communications Service, (515) 294-0705,