State of America's Farmland
Every acre counts
"Quite simply, we cannot have a sustainable future without sustainable farms." John Piotti, President, American Farmland Trust
The United States is blessed with an extraordinary agricultural landscape which supports a regionally diverse food and farming system, state and local economies and the nation’s balance of trade.
Our farmland and ranchland provide environmental amenities including wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, and fire suppression. They are a magnet for tourism and offer recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing, riding and hiking. This land is our legacy as we look to the past and plan for the future.
But this land is at risk.
With an expanding population, a changing climate and other economic and demographic pressures, competition for land and water will only increase. Are we conserving enough farmland to protect our legacy and ensure food security for future generations?
AFT is launching a major new initiative that builds on our history of using the best data available to track the irreversible loss of farm and ranchlands to development. We released our last landmark analysis (Farming on the Edge) in 2007.
Now we’re working with Conservation Science Partners to use the most accurate national-level data and computer models available to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the nation’s agricultural lands. We are documenting both past conversion and projecting the impacts of multiple threats our remaining farmland will face out to 2040 unless we take action now.
Our initial analysis shows the extent and diversity of America’s farm and ranch lands. The findings suggest we disproportionately urbanized some of our most productive, versatile and resilient farm and ranch lands between 1982 and 2012. AND, for intensive food and crop production, only a dwindling percentage of these lands offer producers the greatest flexibility with the fewest limitations. The resulting shifts in agricultural land uses onto more marginal lands have implications for domestic food security and resiliency which we will explore more fully in future reports.
Map of land cover/uses in 2012
As the map below shows, American farmland is a rich and varied landscape which includes over one billion acres of crop, pasture, range, federal grazing lands and woodlands associated with farms.
The broad extent of land managed by farmers and ranchers in 2012
Farmers and ranchers manage nearly 58 percent of the land in the continental U.S.
Up Next for State of America's Farmland
In the fall of 2017, AFT will publish national findings based on a retrospective analysis of the conversion of agricultural land since 1982.
The report will consider both the quality and quantity of the lands we're losing based on a unique analysis that assigns weights to the productivity, versatility and resiliency of agricultural lands, and locates the land with the highest potential for intensive food and crop production. AFT will also release state-level data and information about the past conversion of agricultural lands and the effectiveness of state policies to protect farm and ranchland.
In the spring of 2018, AFT will release county and sub-county data, and publish findings that include projective scenarios using housing density and climate projections to forecast what could happen to our farm and ranchlands by 2040 if we fail to take action.
For more information, please contact AFT's Farmland Information Center at 1-800-370-4879 or sign-up for email updates below.
National Advisory Committee
American Farmland Trust is grateful to the following individuals for committing their time, energy, creativity and expertise to the State of America's Farmland Initiative.
Chet Arnold, University of Connecticut
Nelson Bills, Cornell University
Carrie Burns, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Jill Clark, The Ohio State University
Dick Esseks, University of Nebraska
Jerry Hatfield, USDA Agricultural Research Services
Megan Horst, Portland State University
Libby Jones, Airdrie Stud Farm and former Kentucky First Lady
Mark Lapping, University of Southern Maine
Roel Lopez, Texas A&M Institute
Mike McCoy, California Strategic Growth Council
Mike McGrath, Philadelphia Society of Promoting Agriculture
Jim Mosely, Mosely Land Company
Larry Orman, GreenInfo Network
David Rouse, American Planning Association
Mary Podoll, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (invited)
Jimmy Bramblett, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (invited)
State of America's Farmland is made possible with the support of American Farmland Trust members, our board of directors and the generous contributions of: