U.S. Has Abandoned 30M Acres Of Farmland

(IntegrityPress.org) – Approximately 30 million acres of American farmland has been abandoned since the 1980’s, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters. Through satellite imagery and data provided by the U.S. Agriculture Department, researchers were able to study the location and breadth of abandoned land, as well as the period for which it had been abandoned.

Throughout the mainland U.S., 1.26 million hectares of arable land ceased to be used for crops each year. Around half of this went on to be used for animal grazing or grassland; just under a fifth became forest or shrublands; and less than a tenth became wetland.

The researchers were keen to map out the extent of abandoned cropland but did not examine the possible causes of this large and sudden change in land use. Despite this, study co-author Tyler Lark expressed surprise at how little overlap there seemed to be between abandoned cropland and farmers signing up for the USDA Conservation Program.

Lark said that he and his colleagues had assumed that the federal program, in which farmers are paid to retire sections of farmland, would be a notable factor in the demise of American arable lands. The program has been used to compensate farmers to stop using land that is deemed to be at risk of water quality issues, soil erosion, or habitat destruction. It presents a desirable option to some farmers who may be struggling to make a steady or good income with their traditional farmland.

The shrinking of American farmland is a topic of interest to many, not least due to concerns over potential future food insecurity. Some have pointed to the sale or leasing of farmland to developers, such as solar farm businesses or real estate developers as a possible cause. Demand for housing and renewable energy production has increased in recent years, and farmers can often stand to make a much better profit by selling their land than they can by farming it.

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