Conservation Leases Toolkit

The Introduction to LSP's Farm Transition Program is an overview of the information, workshops, and services LSP offers on developing leases that include conservation practices and transitioning a farm to the next generation.

Farming and Soil Health General Information

Acronyms are provided for agencies, organizations and selected conservation incentive programs.

Why Do Farmers Do What They Do? LSP developed this fact sheet to help people understand some of the basics of how and why farming practices are what they are today. It can be used to inform the conversation with your renter as you begin talking about ways to build soil health on your land.

Soil Health, Water and Climate Change: A Pocket Guide to What You Need to Know: Produced by LSP, this primer on the science of building soil health also includes stories of farmers who are making it work in their operations. Available as a separate PDF or as an app here.

Conservation Lease Information & Examples

Including Stewardship in Lease Agreements: LSP Fact Sheet #27 provides examples of practices and other considerations when thinking about leases.Image

Frequently Asked Questions on Sustainable and Long-Term Leases in Minnesota. Produced by Farmers' Legal Action Group, this resource outlines important considerations and optional approaches to leases

Grazing For Landowners: Livestock as a tool for Land Management. LSP, in partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, developed this fact sheet to outline the benefits for landowners of grazing cropland, some first steps in establishing grazing on your rental acres, and some basics to include in a grazing lease.

-Green Lands Blue Waters Perennial Forage Group: This website has a lot of information for agreements/leases concerning grazing. For sample leases and fact sheets around valuing pasture land, see the "Contract Grazing" subheading on the landing page.

-Iowa Farm Leases - A Legal Review - Although Iowa focused, this website covers some of the basic building blocks of a good lease of any type, as well as links to more templates and articles

-Here is U of Iowa's complete listing of "whole farm lease" resources.\

-Practical Farmers of Iowa: Landowner resource page: contains articles and resources for non-operating landowners

Cash Rent Farm Lease Template. Prepared by LSP with legal review, this long-term lease template includes sections on the intent of the landowner, crop rotations that integrate continuous living cover (CLC) and related rental rates, a rent-to-buy provision, and sharing of infrastructure costs for adding in a managed rotational grazing system. (In WORD format.)

Crop-Share Lease. The North Central Farm Management Extension Committee generated this lease and has others at

Grazing Farm Lease. Generated by an LSP member/farmer/landowner when renting to graziers in 2017, this lease is designed for a landowner living on the farm who is renting part of the acreage and providing for use of their equipment, water, electricity, fencing, and other infrastructure. (In WORD format.)

Organic Vegetable Crops Farm Lease. Generated by an LSP member/farmer/landowner when renting to vegetable farmers in 2017, this template is designed for a landowner living on the farm, renting part of the acreage, and providing for use of their equipment, water, electricity, and other infrastructure. (In WORD format.)

Conversations with Renters

Owner/Renter Discussion Tips. Developed by LSP with suggestions from the first workshop for engaging in productive conversations with a renter. (In WORD format.)

Farmer (renter) Interview. Produced by LSP members and staff, these questions are based on experiences interviewing prospective new renters. (In WORD format.)

Courageous Conversation Tips. Prepared by Tracy Sides to help imagine conversations between farmland owners and renters.

Goal Setting for Your Land. A resource from the Farm Transitions Toolkit, which was developed by LSP and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.

Setting a Rental Rate for Soil Health-Building Practices

Minnesota Cropland and Pasture Rental Rates. Prepared by David Bau of the University of Minnesota Extension Service, rental rates are estimated over multiple years using the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service Annual Rental Rate Survey for row cropland and pasture. It is followed by a Landowner’s Cash Rent Worksheet, also prepared by David Bau, that can be used to estimate cash rent. For Iowa Farmland Rental Rates, click here.

The Cropping Systems Calculator. LSP Fact Sheet #28 describes a tool that will help you and/or a renter compare costs and returns for converting a standard row crop mix to longer crop rotations, as well as use of cover crops or different options for grazing by ruminants of cover crops or pastures. It has built in defaults or can be used with Schedule F information. This will require a separate sign-up so updates can be provided:

Valuing Sustainable Practices (from the Farm Transitions Toolkit). Developed by LSP, the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, Farmers' Legal Action Group, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, this resource can be useful for figuring rental rates for cover crops and other conservation practices.

Minnesota Beginning Farmer Tax Credit. This is a newer option available to Minnesota taxpayers who rent or sell to a beginning farmer.

Additional Resources

Resource Guide. Assembled by LSP, this lists specific resources on LSP's website as well as other websites that cover lease and rental information.

The above Toolkit items can be downloaded as one PDF.

More on Soil Health

Farming to Capture Carbon & Address Climate Change Through Building Soil Health is an LSP white paper outlining how agriculture can play a key role in addressing climate; it includes state and federal policy proposals.

"Unlocking the Secrets of the Soil" is a presentation on soil health given by Kristin Brennan, the assistant state soil scientist for the Minnesota USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

• An LSP Ear to the Ground podcast (episode 202) features a conversation with a landowner and a soil health expert on how to develop a good relationship with renters based on farmland stewardship.

• Episode 230 of LSP's Ear to the Ground podcast features Robin Moore talking about how LSP is using soil health to forge stewardship partnerships between non-operating landowners and the farmers who rent from them.

• In Episode 232 of LSP's Ear to the Ground podcast, a landowner describes how excessive erosion prompted her to have a difficult discussion with a renter.