IA Arboretum Was Not Agricultural Land, IA Supreme Court Rules

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: agricultural leases.

Iowa Arboretum, Inc., v. Iowa 4-H Foundation. IA agricultural leases

At issue in this case was the construction of Article I, Section 24 of the Iowa Constitution, which provides that no lease of agricultural lands is valid for more than twenty years.

The property in this case was approximately 300 acres in Boone County, leased to the Arboretum. During the time of the lease, a portion of the land was used for agricultural purposes, but most of the land was used for the arboretum. During the lease, the smaller portion had been used for crops, and had at other times been used for CRP payments.

The court had earlier held that the constitutional provision did not apply to land suitable for agricultural use, but used solely for nonagricultural purposes. The issue was whether that case applied where the property was used partially for agricultural purposes.

The court noted that the Arboretum was not precluded by the lease for farming the property, the terms of the lease made clear that the land would not be used in that way.

The court noted that the evil aimed at by the constitutional provision was to prevent long leases of farmlands, oppression of tenants, and violent unrest. For that reason, the court held that the provision did not apply, and that the lease was valid.

No. 15-0470 (Iowa Oct. 28, 2016)

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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