Nearly 40% of the 911 million acres of farmland in the contiguous 48 states are rented, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service.
And because agriculture is a leading contributor to water pollution, the opportunity for landowners to partner with tenant farmers to promote healthy soils and improve water quality is therefore great.
But that opportunity is often missed.
“Conservation practices are less prevalent on leased acres,” said Sarah Everhart, senior legal specialist with the University of Maryland Agriculture Law Education Initiative. “When tenants don’t have a formal lease, or maybe they have only a short-term lease, they don’t have the security or the incentive to invest in conservation practices that take time to yield returns.”
Designed specifically for landowners, the new website provides free educational resources and planning tools to create better landowner-tenant relationships that incentivize long-term results.
Among the resources is a series of webinars supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Stroud Water Research Center. Hosted by Everhart, along with Steve Groff of Cover Crop Coaching, these webinars cover key topics related to land ownership, leasing and long-term soil health.
“There is a direct link between soil health and the long-term viability of farmland,” said Lamonte Garber, watershed restoration coordinator at the Stroud Center. “Farming methods that promote soil health can enhance production, reduce water consumption and soil erosion, and benefit the surrounding community by improving water quality in nearby streams and rivers.”
In some cases, landowners can even take advantage of financial incentives.
“When a landowner signs up for more information on the website, we can connect them with the agencies and grant programs available,” Garber said.
Connecting farmers to such resources is something the Stroud Center’s Robin L. Vannote Watershed Restoration Program has been doing for years throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, with particular emphasis on the Chesapeake Bay. With the launch of the new website, Garber hopes the nonprofit’s impact on farm management and water quality will grow across the nation.
“The goal,” he said, “is for landowners to be able to rent confidently and grow a legacy of farm stewardship and environmental health.”
New resources will continue to be added to the website, including a new webinar on June 30, from noon-1 p.m., hosted by Everhart, Groff, and the Stroud Center’s soil health coordinator, Lisa Blazure. RSVP at LandownerHelp.com.
Landowner Help is a service of Stroud Water Research Center, the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and the University of Maryland Agriculture Law Education Initiative.