A report from USDA's Agriculture Economic Research Service confirms that from 1945 to 2007 the amount of cropland decreased in the United States. Cynthia Nickerson says the reasons vary by region. In some regions of the country where you have significant pressures to provide land for housing, you'll see declines in crop land. In other regions of the country it could be for other competing demands for land. The study also showed that the nation's cropland is becoming more concentrated in an area comprised of Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Illinois.
Nickerson says that in 2007 they estimated about 25% of total cropland is located in these five states, up from 21% in 1964. On the other hand in the northeast and the southeast we've seen a long-term decline in cropland uses, and that's due primarily to urban pressures and because relative to other regions these regions don't have as favorable conditions for growing crops or marketing them.
In terms of land mass our nation is still very rural. Nickerson reports that the land in urban areas plus this rural residential land outside of urban areas still represents a very small portion of the total U.S. land base, about 7%.
ERS also examined farmland values and ownership, both macroeconomic and parcel-specific factors that affect farmland values. In the last few years, U.S. farmland values have been supported by strong farm earnings, which have helped the farm sector in many regions to withstand the residential housing downturn. Historically low interest rates are likely a significant contributor to farming’s current ability to support higher land values. About 40% of U.S. farmland has been rented over the last 25 years. Non-operators owned 29% of land in farms in 2007, though that proportion has declined since 1992.To view the ERS report, click HERE.