Out-of-State, Out of Mind? Non-Operating Farmland Owners and Conservation Decision Making

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Land Use Policy

Publication Date



Elsevier Ltd



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Although non-operating landowners control a growing percentage of farmland in the U.S., not enough is known about them. Modern agricultural practices have increased the global food supply, yet they have also contributed to environmental degradation, meaning more information about all stakeholders involved in farmland decision making is necessary. Using data from a 2014 survey in Indiana, this paper provides needed information about the characteristics of out-of-state non-operating farmland owners (e.g., absentee), their views toward conservation practices on their land, and their relationships with their tenants. We find that support for conservation practices is generally high, but varies by the type of practice. Landowners are more comfortable with informally encouraging their tenants to use specific practices than including conservation provisions in their leases. Major barriers in encouraging their tenants to use conservation practices include the need for more information and the potential costs for themselves and their tenants. Landowners' relationships with their tenants generally play no role in whether or not they encourage conservation practices, however, more frequent land visitation, more emphasis on the environmental views of their tenant, and positive views toward government programs are significant predictors of encouragement. These findings can be used to more effectively design targeted outreach campaigns that encourage absentee landowners to work with their tenants to voluntarily implement conservation practices on their land.

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