Farms Are Staying More and More in the Family

A new Iowa State University Extension survey finds much of Iowa’s 30 million acres of farmland doesn’t change hands very often. Iowa State University economist Wendong Zhang conducted the 2017 survey.

He says the co-ownership is often among siblings. Twenty percent of the farmland is owned by a trust, with many of them what are called revocable trusts, which means the ownership can be changed.

He says 10% of the farmland is held in corporations that include families and are also used for tax planning purposes. Zhang says the use of trusts has increased since 1982 when only one percent of the farmland was structured that way.

Another key finding in the survey is that 82% of the owners have paid off the land. Zhang says the amount of debt-free farmland impacts values.

The survey found 20% of farmland was owned by the same person for at least 40 years and 55% of the land was owned by the same person for more than 20 years. That stability also helps land values.

The state started requiring a survey of who owns Iowa farmland every five years beginning in 1949.