Farm Ownership

[From: IN%"aingle@acs.bu.edu" "Alexander Ingle" 30-JUL-1994 12:12:16.61 [To: IN%"H-RURAL@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "Rural History List" [Subj: Farm Ownership

I was surprised to hear from an Italian friend that many or most small family farms in Italy are leased from larger landowners, not owned by working farmers themselves.

Can someone tell me what the situation is in the United States today? About what percentage of farms are owned and cultivated by the same person/family? What is the situation with leasing? What about tenancy? Is there a distinction between tenancy and leasing?

Thanks,

Alex Ingle aingle@acs.bu.edu


Tue, 2 Aug 1994 13:49:17 EDT

The subject of farm tenancy (speaking as one who dabbles in this field myself) is vast. Both fixed rent tenants and sharecroppers may be found throughout the world. I'm interested particularly in the French manifestations. For Italy you could look at a recent article by Francesco Galassi in the Economic History Review; for the U.S. lots has been done on sharecropping (e.g., by Ransom & Sutch), though there are also works on Midwest tenants. [Other members of the list will know much more about this.] Steven Cheung has written about tenancy in China, and a host of scholars have studied it for India. If you want more specifics, let me know further. Is there a distinction between tenancy and leasing? My sense would be that tenancy is the more general term, implying any holding of land that is not one's own. A lease implies more fixed conditions, set down in a document. But the 2 might of ten be used interchangeably.

Hope this is of some help.

Jonathan Liebowitz



Date: Thu, 4 Aug 1994 13:53:11 EDT Farm ownership in Italy and U.S.

In reply to Alex Ingle's query:

There is dramatic regional variation, of course, in tenancy rates in the U.S. Different farming systems are characterized by more or less tenancy. The winter 1993 (vol 58, number 4) edition of the journal Rural Sociology was devoted to land tenure issues. An article by myself and Jess Gilbert describe landlord-tenant relations in Wisconsin. In that article are tables detailing the number of full owner-operators, owner-tenants (who own some and rent some land) and full tenants. In the U.S. as a whole 59.3% of farmers are full owner operators, 29.2% are owner tenants, and 11.5% are full tenants.

There are some related articles of interest in that edition of Rural Sociology for more information.

Tom Beckley tbeckley@nofc.forestry.ca


Thu, 4 Aug 1994 15:28:52 EDT Query: Farm ownership in Italy and U.S.

The name to conjure with in the history of tenancy in the United States, especially the post-bellum South, is Joseph D. Reid, Jr. His papers in journals like Explorations in Economic History and the Journal of Economic History were pathbreaking.

Ralph Shlomowitz has done similarly important work, extending to Australia.

Don McCloskey Department of History University of Iowa

donald-mccloskey@uiowa.edu


Fri, 5 Aug 1994 13:38:13 EDT

...library, but it has the figures for ownership, tenancy, income, expenses, etc. For instance, in 1900 55.8% of operators of farms were full owners, compared to 59.3% in 1987. However, 51.4% of the acres were owned by operators in 1900 compared to 32.9% in 1987. There are more acres in farm land today than at the turn of the century. I'm sure the definitions are fluid, but when I wrote up an oral history for a family reunion last year, my father (age 80) said when his father was a tenant farmer, 50% of the produce and crops went to the owner. However, he also leased land, and after the rent payment, anything he produced was his. This was in 1920 in Illinois, and the same family still owns the farm which my grandfather farmed as a tenant farmer.

Norma Bruce bruce.6@osu.edu


Fri, 12 Aug 1994 14:23:51 EDT

[original message]

I was surprised to hear from an Italian friend that many or most small family farms in Italy are leased from larger landowners, not owned by working farmers themselves.

Can someone tell me what the situation is in the United States today? About what percentage of farms are owned and cultivated by the same person/family? What is the situation with leasing? What about tenancy? Is there a distinction between tenancy and leasing?

Thanks,

Alex Ingle aingle@acs.bu.edu

I'm not sure if you want historical or contemporary information on farmland ownership, but since you've gotten some responses on historical land tenure, let me offer you some sources for current conditions. ERS publishes reports regularly about farmland ownership and a couple of recent monographs would be useful to you: _Leasing Farmland in the United States_, December 1991 (AGES 9159) and _Farmland Ownership and Renting in the United States, 1987_, June 1991 (AGES 9130). These can be ordered by calling 1-800-999-6779. They are each $7.50. You might also be interested in _Women Farm Landlords in the United States_, November 1992 (AIB 681).

Generally speaking, in the 20th century more than 30% of agricultural land has been leased. Since 1940 that has increased, reaching 44% of farms and 41% of farmland acres in 1988. Officially, tenancy is a form of leasing. A tenant is someone who operates only land that is leased. That is a Census Bureau differentiation and is critically important if one is using Census data for any research. Including all renters or lessees in the same category as tenants would be misleading, since many renters also operate farms on land they own. That is especially important when we take into account the connotations associated with those two terms. Tenancy seems to suggest some significant difference in power relations and control of land, whereas the term leasing seems to suggest a peer business relationship. If all lessees are called tenants, then the conditions of landownership appear quite different from their reality. Leasing is currently seen as one of many strategies used by successful commercial farmers to manage risk. Especially during the days of the farm crisis, with inflated and then deflated farmland values, leasing rather than buying land seemed to make sense. Leasing farmland is not necessarily an indication of lesser status. Tenancy may also not be an indication of lesser status, since a tenant could actually own land that is leased to another person, but because he/she operates only on rented land the Census defines that farmer as a tenant. I guess the real lesson in all this is that Census definitions need to be taken very seriously, and those definitions can really restrict us by hiding such complicated ownership relations.


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