John Phipps: Is the U.S. Running Out of Farmland?


By U.S. Farm Report

via AgWeb - May 10, 2022


Paul Butler raises a good question about farmland accounting in a previous commentary:


“The only question I have is the 900 million acres of farmland. I come up with about 180 million acres of corn and beans, 45 million acres of wheat (rounded up), 11 million acres of cotton and 3 million rice. A quick google search showed me about 3 million in vegetables.  50 million acres of hay. That’s a total of 292 million. What am I missing?   What are the other 608 million acres growing?”


The important point, I think, is the definition of “farmland”. Here is how NASS, who supplies the numbers defines it:


“Land in farms consists of agricultural land used for crops, pasture, or grazing. Also included is woodland and wasteland not actually under cultivation or used for pasture or grazing, provided it was part of the farm operator’s total operation. Land in farms includes acres in CRP, WRP, and other government conservation programs.”


Like you, I automatically think of row crops, because that’s what our farm looks like. Here is how farmland is broken down by use: Note the largest component is pastureland. Remember too, that the criterion for a farm is over $1000 gross sales – a low hurdle.


Frankly, I’m not clear on what the unharvested cropland is, but the numbers above are what's used by the American Farmland Trust – they monitor farmland acres to development. This is the basis of my calculation that the loss was less than 0.2% per year. Even if we assume it was all harvested cropland that percentage would triple to only 0.6% per year – still less alarming that the 20-year totals used in the headlines...


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