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Splitting Heirs: Iowa Farm Transfers are Family Concerns

PHOTO: With more than half of Iowa farmland owned by people age 65 and older, a major transfer to a new generation is under way, leading to difficult choices for many farm families. Photo credit: Jo Naylor/Flickr.
PHOTO: With more than half of Iowa farmland owned by people age 65 and older, a major transfer to a new generation is under way, leading to difficult choices for many farm families. Photo credit: Jo Naylor/Flickr.
January 23, 2015

AMES, Iowa - The historic transition of farmland to a new generation - one of the most sweeping changes ever for the state's rural landscape - is the focus as Practical Farmers of Iowa gather for their annual conference.

To help prevent the loss of family farms and keep rural communities strong, said PFI executive director Teresa Opheim, legacy needs to be a consideration as the population ages.

"Fifty-six percent of Iowa farmland is owned by those over the age of 65, and 30 percent is owned by those over the age of 75," she said. "So, we have an enormous land transition that is occurring."

The PFI assembly is being held today and tomorrow at the Iowa State Conference Center in Ames.

Among the land-transition issues to be addressed in depth are some of the ways land is passed down through a family, a process Opheim said has become more complex and divisive through the years.

"For example, a farmer who's speaking at that session has three sons, and one farms and the other two do not," she said. "So, what strategies can she and her husband take to keep the farming child on the land, but then also provide for their two non-farming heirs as well?"

Opheim said one way that PFI has been sparking that discussion among families to start planning is with a play based on obstacles and solutions with farmland transitions. "Map of My Kingdom" was written by Iowa's Poet Laureate Mary Swander and will take the stage tonight.

More information is online at practicalfarmers.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA