DES MOINES, Iowa — According to the latest US Department of Agriculture Census, the people who own and farm our land keep getting older. In fact, 60 percent of them are 65 years or older.
That’s why the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is trying to help the cause by giving a hand to beginning farmers. The DNR is allowing new farmers to plant and harvest on their property through a lease.
The Beginning Farmer program has been around since 2013. This year the DNR is looking for more farmers to lease to for 2020.
Land Manager for the Iowa DNR, Luke Kramme, said this program gives a way for farmers to start their careers on a smaller scale. They get to keep the profit from their crops when taken to their local elevator and only have to pay the DNR a leasing fee.
Most of the DNR’s land that can be leased is row crops, like corn and soybeans, according to Kramme, but it also includes small grains like hay, forage, or sunflowers.
While the program does help out new farmers, it also helps the DNR.
“The main goal is to enhance habitat for wildlife in the state and that will create more recreational opportunities for the public,” Kramme said. “So on average with these leases, we have the farmer leave about 10 percent of the crop in the field and that creates a food source and habitat source for wildlife.”
The DNR has 24,000 acres of land for lease through this program. Beginning farmers can apply through the Iowa Finance Authority up until Dec. 1st.