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Production agriculture in the 4-state area of southwestern North Dakota, southeastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming and northwestern South Dakota has faced serious economic challenges. In the mid-1990's, a growing number of recreational land buyers purchased land for wildlife habitat and hunting, rather than for farm derived income. A survey of the area was done to determine land ownership characteristics, information about land that was rented and leased out, and attitudes toward key issues facing landowners and farm and ranch operators. The average landowner owned 3,089.4 acres comprised mainly of pastureland/rangeland (2,242.6 acres) and cropland (473.3 acres). Ownership of farmland was primarily from purchases (70.6 percent) and inheritance (26.1 percent). The most popular types of ownership were sole proprietorships (52.1 percent) and family partnerships (31.7 percent). Pastureland/rangeland rented in larger tracts, with 46.8 percent over 640 acres. These contracts were most common in one-year lengths, but the lease tenure was more than 10 years for two-thirds of the respondents. Cropland was generally rented in smaller acreages, and the most common lease length was the 2- 3 year category. Rented cropland had the highest rate (66.7 percent) of absentee landowners. Renters strongly agree that absentee landowners are inclined to develop long-term relationships with tenants, and developing these relationships is critical to securing long-term agreements. Absentee landowners indicated that having a good relationship with their tenant (84.6 percent) was very important, as were the tenant conservation practices (61.3 percent) and tenant land-use intentions (51.1 percent).


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