Bringing Farmland Conservation-Based Estate Planning to Agricultural Professionals

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $83,314.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Julia Freedgood
American Farmland Trust

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    U.S. Census data confirm what those who work closely with farmers already know: the farming community is aging. The average age of a Minnesota farmer is 53; in Iowa, the average is 54; and in Illinois, it is 55. Given that fewer and fewer children of farmers are entering the profession and taking over their families’ farms, there is likely to be a significant turnover of farmland in the Upper Midwest in the next two decades. Much of the land will likely be bought by other farmers, some will be inherited by children of farmers who no longer live in the community, and some will be bought for speculation purposes. Thousands of Midwestern farms have been in the same family for several generations. Recent research and anecdotal evidence gathered by AFT and its collaborators for this project indicate that many farm families worry about what will happen to their farms after they die. They especially worry that the land might be subdivided and permanently converted to non-farm use. Not many have made long-term plans for those farms, especially in situations where there is no family member in line to take over the farm as a business. (However, children may be in line to inherit it, whether or not they actually operate it.) A common misconception AFT finds among farmland owners is that as long as they state in their will that the farm should not be subdivided or sold for non-farm development, those things won’t happen. In fact, a mere statement in a will cannot prevent those things. Professionals who deal with farmers and farmland owners, especially bankers, financial planners and attorneys, have a good understanding of various estate planning options available to farmland owners. But it is not common knowledge in those communities how a conservation easement, the legal arrangement at the heart of any conservation-based retirement or estate plan, offers new options to combine goals of conserving farmland and optimizing family assets.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short-Term Outcomes:
    Up to 36 agricultural professionals (10-12 each in IL, IA and MN) demonstrate they understand the basic concepts and purposes behind conservation-based retirement and estate planning (CBREP). Each participant will identify up to three “audiences” (professional colleagues, landowners, etc.) and propose means of disseminating information to these audiences.

    Intermediate Outcomes:
    10-12 agricultural professionals from each state (IL, IA and MN) form “core groups” and serve as each state’s ongoing CBREP contact points and resource people. Each of the core group members will deliver CBREP information to up to three previously identified audiences. Core groups will meet to discuss successes and problems with CBREP outreach activities. Finally, core group members will develop and deliver one half-day workshops on CBREP for an additional 40-60 agricultural professionals in each of the three states.

    Long-Term Outcomes:
    Up to 36 agricultural professionals (10-12 each in IL, IA and MN) agree to continue to serve as their state’s “contact points” and information sources for conservation-based retirement and estate planning, both for their own professional colleagues and for farmers and farmland owners.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.