You ever have those facts wedged in your mind so deep that you feel that it is the bottom of your foot truth? That full contact, no holds barred, yes I know this? It happens to most of us. And recently me. A few days ago I wrote about the strata of agricultural land use with a bit of this nonsense:
For context, about 425 million acres is total farmland in the US, with three quarters going to direct croppage and the last quarter to livestock and dairy.
Boy was I wrong. I had always assumed only a small enclave of land was designated to agricultural use,
American lands devoted to agriculture are a staggering 900+ million. Two fifths. About 40%. And very much in the heart of the country.
Now, this includes all kinds of farming, timber, hay and silage, corn, cotton, wheat, etc. Per the USDA:
Of the 915 million acres of land in farms in 2012, 45.4 percent was permanent pasture, 42.6 percent was cropland, and 8.4 percent was woodland. The remaining 3.6 percent was land in farmsteads, buildings, livestock facilities, etc.
Cropland, pasture, poultry, trees, bees, and pigs, the extent of our 2.02 million farms, of which most are family enterprises, dot the landscape of this country, only comprise 1% of the population, and account for sustenance that we largely take for granted. The actual share of land and stewards, as has been stated many, many times is in decline, both between 4+% of farmers hanging it up and almost 1% decline in land farmed. Only recently have people wanted to come back to the land, and with outfits such as Farmshare Austin, have had great success in training folks to farm, their statistics are good, and serve as inspiration for the future. Farming isn’t for everyone. Educating where food, social energy, is produced, and the how, is for everyone. The reality is much larger than any of us might think, even to those of us in the middle of it.
I suspect it is still more complicated.
Forest acreage: 238M federal, 83M state, 445M private. Given that it takes 40+ years to grow a tree, I would not count on it showing up the same in every census.
Is the federal land on which ranchers graze their cattle farmland? You might get several more answers.
Bloomberg did a good presentation of this back in 2018. I’ve included a link. Crop land is basically in the Mississippi River valley, the old inland sea between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Natural gas extracted down near the Gulf is converted to ammonia, liquified and shipped up the river to where it is injected directly into the ground with special blades. Modern farming is out of science fiction with thousands of acres scientifically managed. It looks nothing like farming in children’s books.
The west is about grazing land.
Agriculture is big business “since 2008 the amount of land owned by the 100 largest private landowners has grown from 28 million acres to 40 million”. Do you remember Farm Aid in the 1980s? Farms are owned and run by big corporations. Larger independents are in the position of Uber drivers, tightly controlled as to every aspect of their farming and with no control of profits or pricing They get all the downside of self-employment and little of the upside. They are beholden to the big meat and grain processors who use those independents as a shield in the face of regulation. You’d think they’d wise up, but farming gets in one’s blood and one hates to be the one who finally sold the farm.
I know small scale farmers, and they work with relatively small plots and focus on high value crops. That means truck farming and specialty meats. One can make a go of it, but it helps to have a day job. Still, there are a number of small operations that support half a dozen or even dozens of workers as well as producing profits for the owner. Again, it gets in one’s blood.
One interesting fact is that 80% of Americans live in the 3.6% of the land, in urban areas.
For more fascinating stuff, see https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-us-land-use/
A huge portion of that dark green in the middle of the country (I lived there and still have family there) hasn’t really been productive since we slaughtered the buffalo. But yeah, turning cattle out, sucking on the aquifer and not growing the wheat you plant is a form of agriculture.
it does get in the blood. even if the money’s no good, it’s better than livig in the city with jobs subject to short notice. too bad about the big corps and the banks.
i’ve been waiting for the day when the accountants at safeway realize they can get a bigger return on their money by investing in chinese chips rather than planting seeds.
wonder how spring planting is going in Ukraine.
Michael, have you seen this article? https://projects.propublica.org/climate-migration/
There is an active map that shows the movement over time of what will be suitable agricultural area. From the article:
There is this article that shows a good portion of the US has already reached the +1.5C temperature rise with a good portion over 2.0. https://neuburger.substack.com/p/in-the-climate-world-everything-new?s=r&fbclid=IwAR2jCEvNXnqHpsrkHy7kYAo51XEoCWsFlyc0mGiFjIll_dEgljhdnoTPhB4
Things are going to change.