NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Farms And Forests Give Way To Development

December 8, 1999

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reporting that nearly 16 million acres of U.S. agricultural and forest lands were developed during the period 1992 to 1997. Development has driven up land values and proven to be a windfall to many farmers who live near cities and choose to sell their holdings.

  • The development rate during the five-year period averaged 3.2 million acres a year -- compared to a rate of 1.4 million acres a year for the 10-year period from 1982 to 1992.
  • One of the highest rates of development was in Pennsylvania where 1,123,200 acres were converted in the most recent five-year period.
  • In Texas, the annual conversion rate jumped from 139,000 acres to 243,900 acres.

A 1996 federal farm law set aside $35 million over six years to supplement state and local efforts to curb development of farmland, but the fund was depleted after just three years. Bills are pending in Congress to renew the programs at a cost of $55 million every year.

Source: Associated Press, "Development of Open Space and Farms Doubles During the 1990s," USA Today, December 8, 1999.


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