Evolution of land use in Iowa

Evolution of land use in Iowa

During the Ice Age, as the weather became colder, ice and snow piled up and pushed out the outer edges of enormous ice sheets in the form of glaciers. A narrative describes it as similar to a pancake which spreads out as batter pours into the center. Some of these glaciers covered all or portions of Iowa. That is why Northeastern Iowa is the driftless area because little or no glaciations took place.

Transitioning from desert to fertile oasis

As a farmer in Iowa, you might be keenly aware of the changes in land use that have taken place over time due to climatic factors.

The end of the most recent ice age witnessed an unsteady climate with periods of warmth and cold. As the unstable weather turned cold and warm, glaciers scraped across north-central Iowa, retreating back and forth and creating flat surfaces, pulverizing rocks and gravel into small particles. When the climate started getting warmer and dryer, green forests appeared, followed by hardwoods then, the grasslands that are now an essential feature of the region as we know it presently. After many seasons, the grasses and other prairie plants grew and died. Their roots remained in the soil to create the fertile topsoil which Iowa is known for

When American explorers set foot on the Louisiana Territory, Iowa was considered a “great desert” However, it was when early families began to migrate towards the prairies that they discovered the remarkable fertility of the deep, black topsoil.

At the start of European settlement, Iowa was about 85% prairies, treeless grasslands. The southeast of Iowa and other connecting rivers accommodated trees. However, from the uplands back towards the waterways, fires consumed other plants, including trees. Early settlers dealt with this by including some timber land in their purchases for fencing, fuel, and lumber they needed. Iowa's first millionaires were created through the lumber mills along the Mississippi and inland rivers due to demands from the floods of settlers who built homes, barns, outbuildings, and businesses. The advent of the railroads meant that more trees would go into making railroad ties. Today less than 0.1% of Iowa's original prairies exist. Activities like plowing have altered the rest of the land.

Various uses for Iowa’s land

There are numerous ways of using Iowa's farmland. The hilly landscape of Northeast Iowa is useful mainly for dairy farming. Here farmers harvest hay during the summer to feed their herds during the winter. Although the hillsides are too steep for plowing, abundant rainfall enhances excellent pasture. The hilly land in southern and western Iowa enables livestock production. The flat fields of Northcentral Iowa are home to some of the world's most valuable farming acres. Corn and Soybeans are the primary crops found in this region, excluding wildlife, trees, and shrubs. With larger farm equipment, one farm operation can manage thousands of acres, reducing the population of farm families, farms, and the small towns that once surrounded them.

Farming practices have seriously altered the land. Long before now, swamps and wetlands accumulated water during the rainy season, which made farming impossible. Tiling ponds drained the water from ponds and wetlands; it led to flooding as excess water flowed into rivers and streams quickly. Also, the introduction of commercial fertilizers led to ecological challenges in the lower Mississippi from chemicals that denature fish and vegetation. Rapid run-off and deep plowing also encourage erosion and the loss of Iowa's rich topsoil, its most precious resource. As a livestock farmer, you can reduce the impact of these challenges by concentrating animal waste that can pollute the air or steam while ensuring that farm production meets up with the state's economy and the world's food and fuel supplies.

Classification of land in Iowa

Several landowners in Iowa have experienced situations where their lands have been reclassified and will thus become land for non-agricultural use. This residential classification also means that you, the owner, will have higher property taxes. If you are in a place that does not have adequate access to amenities like sewer and water, this might create financial challenges. These property assessments vary according to Iowa assessors. They state that there are many gray areas concerning what constitutes a farm because the state gives little guidance.

President of the Iowa State Assessors Association, John Lawson, explained that most assessors look to the state administrative code to ascertain if the land is, in good faith, used primarily for agricultural purposes. However, this issue persists because the extant laws on it are vague regarding what a farm is or is not. Shari Plagge, another assessor, stated that most people; tend to assume that being out in the county equates with having land for agricultural use. It is not the case. However, the land should be classified based on its primary use. The presence of farm activity does not automatically qualify a land as suitable for agricultural use.

Senior Research and Policy analyst at Iowa Farm Bureau, Tim Johnson, expressed worry that assessors were trying to give a narrow definition of a farm. He remarked that assessors should align with the administrative rule. It stipulated that if an ag process occurred on a parcel, it should be considered ag land. Plagge and other assessors emphasize that it is their job to establish fair values for properties. Data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicate that surging US crop prices have reversed fortunes for farmers in Iowa. Hopefully, this should boost the fortunes of landowners and farmers in Iowa.

Learn more about land

At Midwest Land Management, we are here to guide you through the entire process of land acquisition, either for agricultural or non-agricultural use. If you are interested in buying land or getting people to help you make viable investments in your land, you can contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

Our team is fully licensed to serve clients in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. We work hard to achieve clients' goals and objectives. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your farming operation, too.