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Long Lease of Farm Land OK'd By Iowa Supreme Court

Updated: Jan 13, 2018

In a case last week, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion stating that Iowa Const. art. I, § 24 does not apply if a lease of land is primarily for non agricultural purposes.

The Iowa Constitution states:

No lease or grant of agricultural lands, reserving any rent, or service of any kind, shall be valid for a longer period than twenty years.

The Court ruled that if the primary purpose of the use of the leased land was non-agricultural, then the constitutional prohibition does not apply. 

 The Court noted that the purpose of the statute was to prevent long leases that led to oppression of tenants an. It was also intended to prevent long-term leases of agricultural land that led to "locking up" those parcels of land.

Here, the Court ruled that the clear intended purpose of the 99-year lease was to establish an arboretum, not a farm. The Court held that the Iowa Constitution did not invalidate a 99-year lease for land intended to be used primarily for an arboretum, but incidentally for farming.

The  Iowa Supreme Court ruled in Gansen v. Gansen  that only the portion of a lease for agricultural purposes exceeding 20 years is invalid. See, Iowa Arboretum, Inc. v. Iowa 4H Foundation, No. 15-0740 (Iowa Sup. Ct. Oct. 28, 2016).

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