Ensure Long-Term Productivity

Encouragement and a lease with mandatory conservation provisions protect your resources and foster a long, cooperative landlord-tenant relationship.

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If you lease your land, long-term productivity rests on a well-crafted rental agreement and your ability to execute the lease in a solid working relationship with the tenant.

Develop a lease agreement focused on long-term productivity and a cooperative landlord/tenant relationship.

Base the lease on clear goals and your specific circumstances. Include features to encourage conservation practices, talk often with the tenant, and work cooperatively.

A long-term lease creates security for your tenant, which in turn encourages careful work. While year-to-year leases are common, they don’t motivate most people to invest the time and care necessary to decrease soil erosion, build soil nutrients, or maintain farmland conservation structures on land they don’t own. A multi-year lease does. Long-term arrangements also can increase a farm operator’s connection to neighbors and attention to runoff and other off-farm impacts.

Cost- and risk-sharing can also help meet production and stewardship goals. This may include lending equipment, volunteer or paid labor, a shared lease, flexible cash rent, investing in the tenant’s farm business, or shared ownership through a LLC or lease-to-own arrangement. Increased quantity and quality of communication also increases tenant security.

Include mandatory conservation actions in the lease.

Mandated conservation is often driven by a conservation plan prepared by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service or a private business, signed by landlord and tenant and attached to the lease. Specific sustainability thresholds and a monitoring routine can also be established to protect land, water, and your interests, with methods for meeting requirements left to the tenant. A list of specific mandatory practices can also be included in a lease.

Consult a licensed attorney.

Landlord/tenant laws are complex and subject to change. When developing a lease, set goals, learn from reliable templates, or talk with a land management specialist. But before finalizing an agreement seek and consult with one or two licensed attorneys who know agricultural leasing.

It is essential to understand how lease terms interact with the law so they are legally enforceable and account for external considerations such as tax and estate planning and sustainability of the farm operation.

Expect to invest time in property management and the landlord/tenant relationship.

It may take longer to develop a thoughtful long-term lease arrangement, but year-to-year administration is typically easier and less expensive. Adjustments for rent are built in, terms are clear, and owner and tenant know each other well.

If you live at a distance from your land, a reliable property manager or management firm may be helpful to carry out practices defined in your lease.

When you can, help other landowners learn from your experience.

Hearing about your experiences makes it easier for other landowners and tenants to improve their lease arrangements. Every action gets us one step closer to making successful leases, landlord/tenant relationships, and land management normal.

Develop a Clear Lease Arrangement


Collaborators: Work Together


own the asset.

Personal communication and clear rental agreements benefit people, soil, streams & fish.


make choices daily.

Across the Basin, producers work for profitable operations that protect water quality.

Local Organizations

point the way.

Committed leaders gather neighbors and resources to act for the common good.


provide technical assistance.

Experts and mentors are ready to help.