Report identifies opportunities with non-operator landowners

A new report from American Farmland Trust is challenging misconceptions about non-operator landowners and identifying ways to improve conservation on lands owned by those who don’t farm it.

Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, director of AFT’s women for the land initiative, says the report challenges the idea that non-operator landowners only care about the bottom line and don’t care about the land.

“Our study does show that landowners have a great deal of trust in their renter and there’s a wiliness on behalf of the landowner to be engaged in conversation around conservation,” she says.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. farmland is rented or leased, and in some counties that number is closer to 80 percent.

She says the survey highlights the need for more communication between farmers and landowners about conservation practices.

“Non-operator landowners are sort of waiting for the farmer to initiate the conversation, in particular about conservation,” she says. “Our results suggest there is less awareness on about government conservation programs or maybe less aware of the need for those programs.”

The report also had five key actions for engaging with non-operator landowners: creating greater awareness about conservation programs, amplifying landowners’ wiliness to support conservation, reaching out to both female and male operators, communicating more with landowners, and emphasizing the need for succession planning among landowners.

The Understanding and Activating Non-Operator Landowner Survey is the first national report of its kind by AFT. The survey focused on individually or partnership-owned lands, not institutions or trusts.

Audio: Gabrielle Roesch-McNally

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