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For the second year, a bill was introduced that would add an amendment to the Iowa Constitution declaring that Iowans have a right to hunt, fish, trap, and harvest wildlife.  The amendment's supporters cite the need for the amendment stemming from efforts of animal rights groups to limit hunting and trapping.  The amendment could also provide protections for hunting rights that may be in competition development and increased use of public land by other recreational groups, such as hikers and off-road vehicle enthusiasts. Critics assert such amendments clutter constitutions and are unnecessary to protect individual rights.

Resources for Farm Lease Conservation A new resource is available for landlord's looking to incorporate cover crops and other conservation practices into their farm lease.  Iowa Learning Farms, a part of Iowa State University Extension, just published a series of videos and print material that provide information about how landlords can begin conversations with their tenants about conservation practices. Iowa State University Professor and Iowa Learning Farms advisor, Mark Licht, states,

Missouri Courts recently addressed issues relating to the increase in size and weight of farm equipment and resulting problems accessing farmland. As equipment gets larger and heavier, existing easements and roads that have been used for decades often become inadequate to allow farmer's access to fields. In Westrich Farms, LLC v. East Prairie Farm, LLC, a landowner's tenant could no longer use a county road to access the farm because his large equipment exceeded the weight limits for a bridge on the county road that ran to the farm and had previously been used.  The issue for the court to decide was whether the landowner could establish a private road across his neighbor's farm due to the county road becoming inadequate.

Boundary disputes are not uncommon. They often occur when someone purchases land and then learns that a fence or other boundary marker is not quite where it should be according to the survey. These disputes are often settled through a legal doctrine referred to as boundary by acquiescence. The Iowa Court of Appeals recently addressed this doctrine in Nafziger vs. Pender and Smith. The Nafzigers purchased land, conducted a survey, and found that the boundary is actually about 30 feet north of where the current fence is that divides their land from that of the Smith's. The Nafziger's felt the survey should be followed and the fence removed and relocated north.

The Drake University Agricultural Law Center is providing an opportunity for individuals and organizations interested in Iowa's soil and water conservation policy to take part in a two-day conference to be held in Des Moines on November 19th and 20th. The Center, with support from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will host a state-wide conference on soil and water conservation policy. The conference will facilitate discussion of the role of law and policy in conservation efforts and will involve diverse stakeholders who are all working to protect Iowa’s soil and water resources.

Sustaining Our Iowa Land The Past, Present and Future of Iowa’s Soil and Water Conservation Policy Nov. 19-20, 2015 Olmsted Center, Drake University

Land contracts for farmland, in which a farm is sold by an owner in exchange for payments over a set period of time, appear to once again be gaining popularity with beginning farmers. Purchasing farmland with an installment contract can be beneficial for farmers with poor or no credit, but it also comes with risks that should be evaluated and for which planning is essential.

What Are Land Contracts

Land contracts, commonly called installment land contracts, contracts for deed, or land sale contracts, are real estate transactions where the buyer, or vendee, makes a down payment followed by periodic payments and the seller, or vendor, retains title to the property until all of the payments have been made. 

Whether you're a farmer or a landowner, addressing conservation and sustainability in a farm lease can be a tricky subject. Tenants and landlords sometimes choose to ignore issues that they believe may create conflicts in the landlord-tenant relationship. This is particularly true with farm leases, which are often between neighbors, family members, and long-time friends. However, both parties do have an interest in ensuring the sustainability of the land, and discussing and including conservation provisions in a farm lease can be beneficial for both parties and the land. This post is intended to provide an introduction to some key factors to consider when addressing conservation concerns, or sustainability, in a farm lease arrangement.

More than two years ago Sallee v. Stewart made headlines when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled the state's "recreational use statute" did not apply to a chaperone who was injured while supervising children playing in a barn. Recreational use statutes provide protection against negligence claims for landowners who open their land to the public. The case received a great deal of attention from farmers, insurance providers, educators, and the Iowa legislature.  Within a few months of the Supreme Court opinion, legislators attempted to broaden Iowa's recreational use statute and specifically included protection for landowners hosting educational activities.