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Threatened Farmland
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What's happening to our farmland?

svsfEach year you have to drive a little farther out to find it. Slowed by traffic, through tangled intersections, past rows of houses that seem to have sprouted from the field, finally, you can see the bountiful farmland. For the past two decades, we've paved over our farmland for roads, houses and malls. Wasteful land use puts America's farmland at risk, especially our most fertile and productive—our most valuable—farmland.

We're needlessly wasting one of the world's most important resources. Less than one-fifth of U.S. land is high quality, and we are losing this finest land to development at an accelerating rate. U.S. agricultural land provides the nation—and the world—with an unparalleled abundance of food. But farmland means much more than food. Well-managed farmland shelters wildlife, supplies scenic open space and helps filter impurities from our air and water. These working lands keep our taxes down and maintain the legacy of our agricultural heritage. It makes no sense to develop our best farmland. Instead, we have a responsibility to protect this most valuable resource for future generations.

  • In America, we've been losing more than an acre of farmland per minute.
    Between 2002 and 2007, 4,080,300 acres of agricultural land were converted to developed uses—an area nearly the size of Massachusetts.
  • Between 1982 and 2007, 41,324,800 acres of rural land (i.e., crop, pasture, range, land formerly enrolled in CRP, forest and other rural land) were converted to developed uses. This represents and area about the size of Illinois and New Jersey combined.
  • During the 25-year span, every state lost prime farmland.
    States with the biggest losses included Texas (1.5 million), Ohio (796,000), North Carolina (766,000), California (616,000) and Georgia (566,000).
  • Between 2002 and 2007, 7,491,300 acres of rural land were converted to developed uses—an area nearly the size of Maryland. This amounts to an average annual conversion rate of 1,498,200 acres.
  • Our food is increasingly in the path of development.
    An astounding 91% of our fruit and 78% of our vegetables are produced in urban-influenced areas.
  • Wasteful land use is the problem, not growth itself.
    Wasteful land use is the problem, not development itself. From 1982 to 2007, the U.S. population grew by 30 percent. During the same time period, developed land increased 57 percent.


Learn more about the 2007 National Resources Inventory report from which these numbers are derived.

American Farmland Trust