Policy Initiative

Initiative coordinator: Mary Adams (515) 294-5832, madams@iastate.edu

Current Grants

Completed grants are housed in the ISU Digital Repository


  • Link potential local, state, or regional policies to enhanced sustainability of natural resources.
  • Provide basic research or benchmark data analysis needed to help assess or implement possible new local or state policies and alternatives for Iowa.

Target audiences

  • State agencies
  • Conservation and natural resources partners
  • County boards of supervisors
  • Cities/municipalities
  • Iowa General Assembly
  • Iowa legal community

Outcomes for policy projects

  • Development and implementation of state and local policies that could increase the capacity of Iowa agriculture to meet water quality standards and water resource management goals. Ideas could include but are not limited to policies carried out by soil and water conservation districts, cities, counties, and municipalities, as well as state agencies and organizations with missions related to Iowa’s water resources.
  • Analysis of state and local agricultural policies and their impacts on economic, social, community and ecosystem health.

  • Assessment of short- and/or long-term effects of ongoing changes in land tenure and ownership of agricultural lands in Iowa; effects on production, land management decisions, ecosystem health and community economic and social structure. Work in this area could dovetail with the goals of the new Policy Initiative working group on land tenure and sustainability.
  • Identification of ways to reduce barriers to farming entry for new, transitioning, underserved and minority farmers, along with incentives to adopt sustainable practices in their new operations.


Policy Resources

Conservation Practices for Landlords , published in 2012, is a great resource from ISU Extension that outlines and shows photos of various sustainable farming techniques, their benefits and challenges. Another article, titled the same from Ag Decision Maker, Conservation Practices for Landlords outlines these practices that landowners might consider [May 2014]. Read additional comments from author Mike Duffy in April 2014 Ag Decision Maker newsletter.

The SALT Project: Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure (SALT) is a project of the Leopold Center Policy Initiative and Drake University's Agricultural Law Center to address legal issues related to leases, farmland transfer and beginning farmers. The Iowa Land Tenure Working Group initiated in 2011 as part of the Leopold Center's Policy Initiative, was established to increase discussion, networking and to facilitate additional research regarding land tenure arrangements, public policy and the sustainability and resiliency of Iowa's agricultural system. The group is a broad-based network of organizations with an interest and capacity to conduct research and develop recommendations regarding the sustainability and resilience of Iowa's land tenure arrangements and policy.

Resources from the SALT project:

Leasing the Farmstead to the New Small Farmer 

Related grant projects


Other Resources

Farmland Ownership and Tenure in Iowa 2012 ISU Extension publication that focuses on land ownership and tenancy issues. The study is done every five years.

Renewable Energy Incentive Rates: Potential Opportunities for Iowa Farmers A white paper on feed-in tariffs (FITs) as a policy option for encouraging small-scale renewable energy projects

Why Don't We Have Sustainable Agriculture Now? Dick Levins' prepared comments for the 2009 Shivvers Memorial Lecture at Iowa State University

Family Farms in an Era of  Global Uncertainty John Ikerd's prepared comments for the 2008 Shivvers Memorial Lecture at Iowa State University

Why Worry about the Agriculture of the Middle? White paper led by Fred Kirschenmann and Mike Duffy for the Leopold Center

External Costs of Agricultural Production in the United States Results of a study conducted by ISU graduate student Erin Tegtmeier and ISU economics professor Mike Duffy