Frequently Asked Questions of
♦ Landowners ♦ Farmers ♦ Food Fans
- The children aren’t interested in farming but the adults want the land to remain a farm. (SILT protection assures that the land will
always be farmed.)
- Some family members want to sell and some want to farm. (SILT protection on some or all of the land can make it more affordable
for the ones who want to farm.)
- Selling the farm creates a large tax liability. Meanwhile, the family home will get bulldozed by the next farmer. (A donation of the farmstead and surrounding acres can offset taxes and provide a farm to the next generation.)
- Land and easement donations can generate state and federal tax benefits for up to 20 years. Protecting your farm can fit into your larger farm and land transition plans.
An ag conservation easement is a way to keep land in the family while protecting it permanently. We work on this document together to restrict the use of the land – such as no housing developments or always remaining farmland. It attaches to your deed, so whoever inherits or buys the land must abide by it. SILT then promises to always maintain the integrity of your dream for that land by monitoring and enforcing the easement with yearly visits, consulting with the current landowner, but also going to court if we have to.
On parcels donated to SILT, we offer long-term, inheritable leases to eligible farmers, freeing them from a lifetime of land debt. With decades of mortgage interest out of the equation, farmers can plow capital into their operations instead. The farmer gains equity in the home, barns and business.
We charge market-rate rent (reduced for remediation practices) that help pay for monitoring and assistance we provide SILT farmers, making SILT economically sustainable while maintaining a fair playing field for all food farmers in a particular market.
Placing an easement on your land reduces its economic value, which makes it more affordable to the next farmer. That difference in value is what counts as your charitable donation. Eligible farmers can deduct a 100 percent of their adjusted gross income for up to 15 years under a law passed in late 2015. Please talk to your advisers about how these benefits can work for you.
If I give SILT my land, do I have to move?
Stay as long as you like! You can retain control over your land, including rent and CRP, while enjoying the tax benefits from the donation. You will have peace of mind knowing your farm will always be in sustainable food production. A SILT farmer will be there when you’re ready to move on.
Farmers can choose from one of 5 third-party certifications. You get two bites of your paperwork and we get a legitimate standard of sustainability.
Nope. You decide what to grow and when and where to sell it. We work with you on a Farm Management Plan but if you meet your third-party certification and don’t put up condos on the back 40, we’re nearly home from there. If you don’t already agree that our sustainability standards are right for you, then SILT’s not the place for you, and that’s OK.
Let’s be honest – has anyone ever “made a living” growing corn and beans? There was always the winter job, the side job, the spouse’s job bringing in the cash for school clothes, medical care and food. We hold our farmers to the same standard, but they have an even better chance of holding down and keeping a day job because our neighborhood-friendly farms are located much closer to the cities with those jobs.
How can I gain equity if I never own the farm?
You will gain equity in the house, barns and business that you can leverage for other needs, and you can cash out when you’re done farming, but the land never gets bought or sold again. That means you don’t pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in mortgage interest over your lifetime, but you won’t become a millionaire – off of land speculation at least – either.
What exactly is an easement?
SILT easements attach to your deed and limit the use of the land to sustainable food production. Restricting it this much means the value drops a lot for the foreseeable future. The person placing the easement on the land gets substantial tax benefits and the people you eventually sell to get affordable farmland. SILT understands that it can take years to transition conventional corn and bean land to sustainable food production but that’s OK. We’ll be here. And we visit the land every year, talking with the owner, checking up on the farm management plan and making sure the land is always in sustainable food production. That’s why easement donors also donate to a SILT monitoring fund that we set aside so that we’re here generations from now to do this work.
What farms to you have available?
Our list is always changing. You can see what’s available here. As of Spring 2017 we are developing an application process for farmers as well. If you’d like to know as soon as that’s done, be sure to sign up for our email updates.
♦ Food Fans
The science is coming in on natural, fresh ripe food, but the science has been in for some time on the health benefits of such food on our diets. More food produced in Iowa, traveling less distance to get to our schools, hospitals, nursing homes and universities means a improved public health and lower costs for long-term obesity-related health problems.
SILT farmers grow fruits, vegetables, nuts and meat for local or regional consumption. They must be third-party certified in the accepted sustainable farming practice of their choice. That means they rely on the overall health of the farm’s ecosystem to fertilize the land and control pests, planting a diverse mix of crops for economic as well as environmental sustainability, planting perennial crops like fruit and berry bushes to reduce soil erosion and grazing animals in a way that imitates the prairie, building soil and plant health.
SILT farmers are selling at farmers’ markets, local grocery chains, restaurants and directly to consumers through CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Find a CSA near you or buy your food from places that promote local or Certified Organic, Certified Naturally Grown or Animal Welfare Approved and you’re likely supporting the economy that helps our farmers thrive. Want more specifics? Contact us.
Support farmers like these. Major chains may brag that they sell local produce, but farmers risk going from being “price makers” like they are at the farmers’ market to “price takers” living with whatever corporations are willing to pay them.
Support SILT’s work. We’re a young nonprofit and a very large majority of our funding comes from ordinary individuals. Please consider a donation of any amount. Making it monthly helps us budget better!
Spread the word. Join us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for our e-newsletter. Even better, invite friends and family to a SILT reception at your home, community center, church or service organization. We’ll be glad to inform them of the difference SILT’s making.