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Farmland Facts

Farmland Facts Flyer
Farmland Facts Flyer

Farmland is a vital resource of carrying out Iowa State’s agricultural programs and fulfilling its land-grant mission of research, service and teaching in agriculture.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and others at Iowa State University field questions on farmland issues in Story and Boone counties. Some questions have involved the Committee for Agricultural Development (CAD), a nonprofit corporation affiliated with ISU. Others ask about ISU’s future needs for agricultural land.

Listed below are answers to frequently asked questions about how ISU and CAD use and manage farmland.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences welcomes your comments and questions. Call (515) 294-8892 or e-mail the College’s communications office, Melea Licht.

View the new farms map

A newly developed farms map shows where the research farms are located, provides ownership information and contact information for accessing the farms. It’s intended for use by ISU researchers and educators to learn more about the farms and how they could be used in instruction and research. An NREM student in spring 2020 visited each farm and mapped each conservation practice and natural areas to further aid interpretation. Work was done only in Boone and Story counties as proof of concept and more counties will be added as time and funding allows.

Farmland Questions and Answers


What is the Committee for Agricultural Development (CAD)?

CAD was established as a nonprofit corporation in 1943 with the approval of the Iowa Board of Education. Its mission is to produce crop seeds developed from Iowa State research; to distribute plant genetic materials and other research products to the public; and to acquire and maintain adequate land for agricultural research purposes of Iowa State.

What is the relationship between CAD and Iowa State University?

CAD works closely with Iowa State to meet the need for farmland to conduct agricultural research and to grow and distribute publicly available seed developed by ISU researchers. CAD land also is used to produce feed for livestock in ISU’s research and teaching herds, and to receive manure from those operations. Management of CAD operations is conducted by university employees in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The portions of their jobs related to CAD business are paid by CAD, not by taxpayer funds. CAD’s operations also benefit ISU researchers and students. Over its history, CAD has provided more than $2 million of research support to ISU. CAD owns and operates farms in southwest Iowa and east central Iowa that were given as gifts. In accordance with the donor’s wishes, all profits from the farm benefit the education of ISU graduate students in agronomy. Over the past 30 years, proceeds from one of the farms have contributed more than $400,000 to ISU students.

Who makes decisions for CAD?

CAD has an 11-member board of trustees made up of 6 representatives from Iowa farm and seed organizations and 5 representatives from Iowa State University.

How much land does CAD own?

CAD currently owns 3,150 acres of land. Except for the two gift farms, the land is located in Story and Boone counties. Since 2000, CAD has purchased 8 parcels of land totaling 1,586 acres and sold 8 parcels totaling 1,663 acres. CAD’s land purchases are made with an eye toward long-term needs of university research and demonstration. CAD’s land purchases have helped to meet increasing demands for research and for raising foundation seed, which requires special attention and adherence to strict environmental and production guidelines.

How does CAD pay for land?

CAD is a financially independent organization. It purchases land with its own funds, which primarily come from sales of public varieties of seed and of commodity grains grown in rotation with seed. CAD pays property taxes on all its land. In 2008, CAD paid $21,668 in property taxes in Story County and $42,203 in taxes in Boone County.

What is CAD land used for?

The majority of central-Iowa acreage owned by CAD is dedicated to ISU agricultural research and to seed production. Some of CAD’s revenues have come from growing commodity corn in rotation with seed. Using a public-bid process, CAD pays local farmers to provide custom farming operations to grow the commodity grain.

How much land does CAD and ISU need for its programs?

Agricultural research is changing and these changes impact land decisions. Today, not all research can be conducted on small plots; some require more significant areas of land to be able to test, implement or evaluate new technologies. These new technologies may include new methods of automation and mechanization, such as the use of global positioning systems and geographic information systems. Studies on crops containing genetic modifications require sizable areas so plots can be isolated from neighboring fields. Land is also needed for extension, demonstration and continuing education programs led by ISU staff.

Also, the demand for agricultural land has increased as ISU researchers and graduate students are more successful in securing competitive grants. Collaborations with federal research partners, like the USDA, also continue to grow, and these research efforts are beneficial to the university and the state of Iowa.

Historically, agricultural land purchases for ISU uses have considered the needs of the campus and the community. The university’s agricultural activities continue to move farther from campus and Ames to accommodate urban growth, new economic development and recreational development in the Ames area. These items are important to students, businesses, schools and residents. Adequate land also is needed to serve as a buffer between the university’s agricultural activities, especially those involving livestock, and urban or suburban areas.

Long-term view of farmland.

Even in difficult budget times, ISU takes a long-term view for its programs and positioning itself for excellence in the future. That includes meeting the needs of faculty, staff and collaborators for agricultural land to fulfill their mission in research, education and extension.

Does CAD grow commodity corn and soybeans?

The majority of central-Iowa acreage owned by CAD is dedicated to Iowa State agricultural research and to seed production of ISU-developed seed. Since CAD is financially independent, some of its revenues have come from growing commodity corn on land not used for seed production. (To prevent production problems, soybean seed cannot be grown on the same acreage two years in a row; so every other year, commodity corn is grown on land that was previously in seed.) Using a public-bid process, CAD contracts with local farmers to provide custom farming operations to grow the commodity grain. Revenues from commodity crops support CAD’s main operations linked to seed production and ISU agricultural research.

What are ISU’s future plans for buying agricultural land in Story or Boone counties?

Iowa State’s plans for agricultural land management are outlined in the Land Management Plan for the Campus and Ames Area Agricultural Properties, which was completed in 1996. This plan, which includes land owned by the university and affiliated organizations (like CAD), outlines goals for efficient land use that are compatible with the university’s agricultural teaching and research requirements and the urban development of Ames. The land-use plan has continued to be the basis for planning in central Iowa. ISU is working to update the plan to reflect recent developments. Any updates will be submitted to the Board of Regents for their review and approval.