Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey 1982–2017: A Thirty-five Year Perspective

Wendong Zhang, Alejandro Plastina, Wendiam Sawadgo
June 2018  [18-WP 580]

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Zhang, W., A. Plastina, and W. Sawadgo. 2018. "Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey 1982–2017: A Thirty-five Year Perspective." Working paper 18-WP 580. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Farmland is arguably often a farmer’s single largest investment item, a major source of collateral, and a key component of the farmer’s debt portfolio. At the macro level, the value of land and buildings represent over 80 percent of all U.S. farm assets. As a result, changes in the farmland market and the implications for farmland owners, tenants, and beginning farmers are of perennial interest to policymakers, landowners, producers, and researchers. Using a statistically representative sample of Iowa landowners in July 2017, this study provides a critical update to the Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure survey series and a thirty-five year perspective (1982 to present) on many aspects of land ownership, land tenure, land transitions, and characteristics of landowners, including non-operator landowners, farmland rental agreements, the financing of farmland, the acquisition and transfer of land, and demographics of landowners. The 2017 survey also added the use of conservation practices and cooperative services on Iowa farmland. This survey carries out an Iowa legislative mandate, and represents a nationally unique study that has been conducted every five years since the 1980s to better understand agricultural land ownership, tenure, and transfer.