Rockford's Independent Newspaper

U of I ends auction of farming rights on university-owned land

In hopes of better tenant relations, the University of Illinois will no longer put the rights to farm part of its thousands of acres of farmland up for auction every few years.

The university and its foundation manage more than 40 farms, totaling more than 17,000 acres of land in central Illinois. In September, the university made the decision to remove a much-criticized program of auctioning off the farming rights to the highest bidder every three years.

The foundation has always leased land this way, but the university-managed land, which Noland called a significant portion of their total acreage, had been bidding the land they manage out every three years since 2005.

Kevin Noland, assistant vice president for real property and financial services at the foundation, said the land will now stay with the tenant until it’s appropriate to change hands.

“They would advertise largely within that farm’s local community and attempt to hire the best candidate,” he said.

Under the new agreements, Noland says the tenant farmer will be a better steward of the land when they see themselves farming it in the future.

“They’re going to take better care of that farm and treat it as if it was their own,” Noland said. “They’re going to fix that tile break or take better care of the conservation issues that need to be tended to.”

He said one of the voices of criticism from the three-year auction management came from their own farming program, U of I’s School of Agriculture and Economics.

The foundation hopes the change will spur more donations of farmland to the university. Farmland accounts for nearly a tenth of the foundation’s $1.8 billion endowment.

–Illinois News Network

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