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The Decline in Acres Farmed –What to Do?

Touch the Soil News #2055 (photo – Field Corn – USDA NRCS)

Each year, new records are broken in terms of farmland sales as a price per acre.  While farmland in terms of sagebrush ridden desert acres is worth much less that prime farmland in Iowa, a driver of prices is that acres being farmed are on the decrease.

The peak year for farmed acres in the U.S was 1954 when the nation farmed 1,206,355,000 acres.  For perspective, the U.S. population in 1954 was 158,205,873.  This then equates to 7.63 acres of land farmed for every person in the nation.

Fast forward to the start of 2024.  According to the USDA land in farms is now 878,560,000 acres.  The U.S. Population in March of 2024 is 341,297,969.  This then equates to 2.57 acres of land farmed for every person in the nation.  While there have been productivity gains, from a strictly per-acre basis, farmland security in the U.S. is only one third of what it was in 1954.

The upshot is that farmland is now a real treasure whose value will stem from sustainable ways to improve its quality and productivity.  This change in farmland security has cities looking within and around their outskirts to improve regional productivity and even bring unused land within cities into production.

In 1954 there were 4,798,200 farms in existence.  As of early 2024, there was 1,894,950 farms in existence.  The kicker is that almost half these farms earned less than $10,000 a year.   Best guess estimates are that over 90 percent of the food produced in America is done by fewer than 300,000 farms.

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