Touch the Soil News #739
We’ve all been in cities and watched how the nation’s best farmland was being urbanized. In 1950, the nation’s farmers were working 1,202,000,000 acres (1 billion 202 million acres). In 2017, the nation’s farmers are working only 910 million acres.
Primarily due to urbanization, America has 292 million less acres. Of concern and for which there are no numbers, between 1950 and 1980 there were millions of acres of farmland still coming on line. Due to irrigation improvements and access to lands not previously farmed, our best guess estimate is that America has lost another 60 million acres hidden behind the larger overall net loss of acres.
The loss of farmland over the last 7 decades unfolds as follows:
Acres farmed in 1950 1,202,000,000
Add new acres developed + 60,000,000
Subtract acres lost (352,000,000)
Remaining acres 2017 910,000,000
For perspective, 350 million acres of lost farmland is equivalent to a farm 50 miles wide and 11,000 miles long. The circumference of this farm would be 22,100 miles. Traveling at 60 miles an hour (round the clock) it would take you over 15 days to drive around the farm.
The impact of the loss of farmland is more than just about acres. All the while farmland was being lost, the number of folks coming to the dinner table was going up. In 1950, there was 7.9 acres of farmland for every person in the nation. Today that number is 2.8 acres of farmland for every person. In short, farmland security in the nation is about 1/3 of what it was in 1950.
According to the USDA, the decrease in the number of acres farms is lower than during the 70’s and 80’s. However, their numbers reveal an average loss of 1 million acres a year for the last five years. That is equivalent to a farm 10 miles wide and 155 miles long.