Group Title: Agriculture information bulletin ; no. 482
Title: Improving U.S. farmland
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00072499/00001
 Material Information
Title: Improving U.S. farmland
Series Title: Agriculture information bulletin
Physical Description: 11 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Lewis, Douglas, 1938-
McDonald, Thomas, 1949-
Publisher: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Economic Research Service
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 1984
 Subjects
Subject: Farms -- United States   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Statement of Responsibility: Douglas Lewis, Thomas McDonald.
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: "November 1984."
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Bibliographic ID: UF00072499
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 11732537

Full Text
Z-0, 027


Improving U.S. Farmland

Douglas Lewis
Thomas McDonald


U.S. Department of Agriculture
Economic Research Service
Agriculture Information
Bulletin No. 482
November 1984


Farmers invested more than $6.5
billion in improving their land in a re-
cent 3-year period. Those investments,
while often made on existing cropland,
expanded total U.S. cropland by 9.1
million acres. The investments and
total acres affected are:
Clearing-More than $1.5 billion
on about 10.6 million acres.
Draining-About $2.25 billion on
29 million acres (most of that for im-
provements to existing drainage
systems).
Irrigation-About $1.7 billion for
new irrigation on 5.5 million acres.
Soil conservation-About $935
million on more than 15 million acres.

Farmers' investments in 1975-77 to
enhance the quality of their land or
expand their land base are analyzed
in this report. Such information is
necessary for monitoring the quality
and quantity of U.S. cropland, one of
the most basic components of U.S.
food production. The data were col-
lected through 10 "follow-on" surveys

Figure 1

Ownership of U.S. Land, 1978

State and local Indian tribes and
governments individuals
6% 2%


of the 1978 Landownership Survey,
the first attempt since 1946 to survey
ownership and land use at the na-
tional level.

The follow-on surveys were designed
primarily to collect information on
agricultural uses of land. Other uses
(urban and forest, for example) were
not explored, so a total picture of land
use changes cannot be derived from
the data. Even so, such an omission
probably did not skew the results
significantly, since the investments
described apply primarily to agricul-
tural land. To put the survey data in
a better perspective, we have included
a regional distribution of land uses
(table 1) and a national overview of
landownership (fig. 1).

9 Million Acres Added to
Cropland

More than 9.1 million acres were con-
verted to crop production during
1975-77 as nearly 221,000 owners


converted an average of slightly more
than 41 acres each to cropland use.
More than 4.9 million acres of the con-
verted land had not been previously
used for crops. Of the land that had
been cropped, more than 2 million
acres had been out of production for
more than 10 years.

Noncropland was converted to crop-
land in all regions of the country with
over 1 million acres added in the
Northern Plains, Appalachian, and
Mountain regions (table 2). The fewest
acres were converted to cropland in
the Northeast, which also had the
smallest average addition per owner,
about 17 acres. In contrast, the aver-
age addition to cropland in the Moun-
tain region, where agriculture is land-
extensive, was about 169 acres per
owner.

From what uses did the new cropland
come? Mostly from pasture or range.
Over 64 percent had been used for
pasture, 17 percent had been idle, and


Source: Landownership in the
United States, 1978.


Current technology in underground drain-
age includes plastic tubing installed with
a laser controlled mole plow. Photo cour-
tesy of R. Wayne Skaggs, North Carolina
University.







Table 1-Major uses of land, by region, 1978

Region Cropland' Pasture Forest Special Other Total
and range land use area land land area

Million acres
Northeast 17.5 3.0 68.1 8.7 14.8 112.1
Lake States 45.1 4.7 49.8 8.3 14.1 122.0
Corn Belt 101.8 12.0 27.8 7.6 15.8 165.0
Northern Plains 102.9 73.2 4.4 6.7 7.0 194.2
Appalachian 31.2 5.7 71.9 6.9 8.2 123.9
Southeast 21.2 9.3 75.1 8.6 9.4 123.6
Delta 26.0 5.8 49.4 3.4 7.7 92.3
Southern Plains 55.8 111.5 31.7 5.9 6.9 211.8
Mountain 43.6 306.5 119.0 45.8 33.0 547.9
Pacific 25.4 52.6 85.9 21.1 19.2 204.2
48 States2 407.5 584.3 583.1 123.0 136.1 1,897.0

'Includes cropland used only for pasture.
2Data for all tables in this brochure apply only to the 48 coterminous States.

Source: Major Uses of Land in the United States, 1978.


Table 2-Land converted to crop production, by region, 1975-77
Region Owners Area

1,000 Percent 1,000 acres Percent
Northeast 16.6 7.5 284.2 3.1
Lake States 29.3 13.3 691.5 7.6
Corn Belt 40.8 18.4 902.7 9.9
Northern Plains 19.4 8.8 1,357.5 14.9
Appalachian 31.1 14.1 1,186.4 13.0
Southeast 23.6 10.7 937.4 10.3
Delta 10.3 4.7 946.9 10.4
Southern Plains 10.6 4.8 883.2 9.7
Mountain 7.0 3.2 1,183.1 12.9
Pacific 32.0 14.5 745.7 8.2
48 States 220.7 100.0 9,188.6 100.0
(9.3) (8.6)
Note: Numbers in parentheses are coefficients of variation for the estimates
Immediately above.

Table 3-Previous use of land converted to crop production, 1975-77
Previous land use Owners Area

1,000 Percent 1,000 acres Percent
Pasture or rangeland 93.1 39.2 5,799.8 64.7
(8.9) (9.3)
Idle 76.2 32.1 1,521.2 17.0
(15.8) (14.4)
Timber or pulp production 54.8 23.1 1,395.2 15.5
(27.1) (36.0)
Recreation 3.6 1.5 25.9 .3
(77.5) (57.5)
Other 9.8 4.1 222.9 2.5
(29.9) (28.2)
Total reporting 220.71 100.0 8,965.0 100.0
(9.3)

Note: Numbers in parentheses are coefficients of variation for the estimates
immediately above.
'Does not add because some owners reported more than one use.


Figure 2

Acres of Selected Land
Improvements, by Region,
1975-77
Million acres
Pacific
0.61 f
3.05
0.66
0.74
Mountain 3.47 jJ Clearing
0.72
0.99 r- Drainage
0.58 Irrigation
S1.18 Additions
Northern Plains Additions
0.25
1.59
2.02
1.36
Lake

S1.90
S0.63
0.69 1


Northeas




Southern




Delta


i


t
0.83
1.50
0.05
0.28
Plains
2.88
0.79
0.36
0.88


"zzzz


Southeast
1.90
1.81
0.58
0.94
Appalachian
1.26
3.79
0.02
1.19
Corn Belt


~Izz


0.94

0.40
0.90


(
(








Figure 3

Cost of Improving U.S.
Farmland, by Region,
1975-77
Million dollars


Pacific





Mountain





Northern


101 C r
282
59 Clearing


46 O
18
39

Plains
18 [
52
83


One of the final steps in land clearing
prior to seedbed preparation. This ma-
chine removes roots and stones from the
root zone.
Photo courtesy of USDA's Soil Conserva-
tion Service.


Lake
49
S124
76
Northeast
770 l77777 1
666 I
224
Southern Plains
65
33
49
Delta
62
55
14
Southeast
143
138
29
Appalachian
134 '
S531
45
Corn Belt
113
R 350
316


over 15 percent had been in timber
production (table 3).

The most common activities required
to convert to cropland were clearing
of brush or trees (on about 3.1 million
acres), leveling (1.8 million acres),
drainage (1.7 million acres), irrigating
(1.4 million acres), and stone or
fencerow removal (1.1 million acres).

About 4 million acres of the new
cropland were planted to row crops,
about 2.6 million acres to small grains
or summer fallow, and 900,000 acres
to hay. Most owners (87 percent) ex-
pected that the converted cropland
would remain in crops for at least 3-5
years. About 8 percent expected their
land use to change to pasture or
range.

"More efficient farming" was the
reason given most frequently by
owners (61 percent) who expanded
their cropland. The next most frequent
factors cited were changes in crop
prices (19 percent of the owners) and
changes in livestock prices (10 percent
of the owners).


Clearing the Land

Over 10.6 million acres were cleared
for agricultural use by 317,500


owners during 1975-77. About a third
of the land cleared was in the
Southern Plains and another third in
the Southeast and Appalachian re-
gions combined (table 4). Individual
clearing projects for the Southern
Plains and Mountain regions averaged
almost 125 and 100 acres, respective-
ly; the average size for a clearing
project nationwide was about 33
acres.

Pasture renovation was the apparent
objective of clearing operations on
nearly 5 million acres (table 5). Most
of the pasture renovation was in the
Southern Plains and accounted for
most of the land cleared in that
region. About 3.2 million acres were
added to the cropland base by clear-
ing during the 3 years. Almost a third
of this cropland had been pasture or
rangeland, another third had been
idle, and a fifth had been timberland.
Over 2.4 million acres were converted
to a use other than improved pasture
or cropland.

Owners of 8.6 million acres reported
that they spent in excess of $1.5 bil-
lion in clearing their land (not all
owners surveyed reported their level
of investment). Thus, owners invested
an average of about $5,750 each ($175
per acre) in land clearing. The acre-
age cleared tended to decline as the


Drainage

Conservation






























Laser leveling a field before installing
irrigation can help save water by
making the slope more uniform.
Machine-mounted lasers are also
used in installing both surface and
subsurface drainage. Introduced
commercially only about 5 years ago,
laser leveling is now applied on half the
irrigated farmland in some U.S. areas.

Photo courtesy of USDA's Soil Conserva-
tion Service.


Reliability of Data

In describing the highlights of' the follow-on surveys, we are present p i"
numbers' that seem most reliable. Replies to some of the questions in the
follow-ons were statistically not very reliable, because of the few numbers
of responses.

The follow-ons we summarized generally had 1.000-2,000 responses, which
are subject to statistical sampling error. Many of the tables include the
coefficients of variation (CV) for the estimates reported. CV's are a mean-
of evaluating the reliability of the survey results. The smaller the CV, the
greater the reliability of the estimate. For example, an estimate with;iaCt ;.
;'of 10 percent is more reliableAhan one with a CV of 20 perceoiA CV of ,.
lO.'percent means that chances-are 2 out of 3 that an interval cbnstructpd
to represent a range from 90-110 percent of the estimate would contain?
the true population value. Chances are 19 out of 20, with a CV of 10 per-
cent, that an interval constructed to represent a range from 80-120 per-
cent of the survey value would contain the true population value.

Additional interpretive problems arise from:

-* .Iet;fficient data for coAsistqncy across surveys (for example, cost
and land use prior to 404viBBwing an investment).
*. Failure of the questionnaires to distinguish between groes and net
changes (for example, land use change and capital regarding mainte.
nance vs. new investment).
Misunderstanding of questions by a few respondents (implying poor
wording).
Double-counting that may exist with a simple summation.of data. .

We also urge a final caution:to readers that the data describe c ndthon..
at the time of the survey and should not be used to extrapolate to trends:

Even with those statistical and interpretative qualifications, howevera.the
4ata are useful in describing the levels of certain investmeafe in privately -
owned land.





cost per acre rose. Over 86 percent of
the land was cleared for less than
$250 per acre. The exception to this
trend was the highest cost category
($1,500 per acre and more) which ac-
counted for only 6 percent of the land
cleared but over half of the total land-
clearing investment. However, since
land use following clearing for this
cost category was often described by
the owners as something other than
cropland or improved pasture, one
must be cautious about whether it rep-
resents the clearing cost of agricul-
tural land.


Draining the Land

Landowners invested in drainage sys-
tems on over 29 million acres of farm-
land in 1975-77, either adding to exist-
ing systems or installing new ones.
More than a fourth of the land was in
the Corn Belt and another third was in
the Delta and Appalachian regions com-
bined (table 6).

Owners of 24 million acres reported
investing about $2.25 billion for
drainage (not all owners surveyed
reported their level of investment).
The average expenditure was $94
per acre and $6,980 per owner. Ex-
penditures on about 17.4 million acres
averaged less than $50 per acre. Re-
latively few acres were drained at a
cost above $500 per acre. However,
these higher cost acres accounted for
over 38 percent of the total expendi-
ture on drainage.

The major use of the land, both before
and after drainage, was cropland
(table 7). Of the 20.7 million acres in
cropland following drainage, about 88
percent had been in cropland before
drainage, 3 percent in pasture, less
than 1 percent in forest, and the re-
mainder in mixed or other uses. Only
in the Delta region were fewer acres
in cropland following drainage than
before. The largest percentage gain in
cropland use following drainage was
in the Northern Plains, Mountain,
Lake States, and Southern Plains
regions.

About 15 percent of all owners mak-
ing drainage investments during
1975-77 participated in a drainage
district or other special purpose water


Table 4-Land cleared, by region, 1975-77


Region


Owners


1,000


Northeast

Lake States

Corn Belt

Northern Plains

Appalachian

Southeast


Delta


Southern Plains

Mountain

Pacific

48 States


31.7
(18.7)
22.8
(16.9)
55.6
(11.3)
11.5
(27.6)
74.0
(36.5)
39.1
(28.9)
17.8
(15.0)
23.4
(16.9)
7.3
(21.7)
34.3
(50.8)
317.5
(12.3)


Area


Percent

10.0

7.2

17.5

3.6

23.3

12.3

5.6

7.4

2.3

10.8

100.0


1,000 acres

832.5
(63.2)
404.8
(19.1)
936.0
(14.5)
250.7
(31.8)
1,257.4
(28.6)
1,899.1
(36.2)
839.3
(19.6)
2,877.5
(19.9)
724.0
(22.2)
612.6
(37.8)
10,633.9
(12.6)


Percent

7.8

3.8

8.8

2.3

11.8

17.9

7.9

27.1

6.8

5.8

100.0


Note: Numbers in parentheses are coefficients of variation for the estimates imme-
diately above.

Table 5-Land use change associated with land clearing, 1975-77

Land use Land use following clearing
before Row Small Improved pasture Other Total1
clearing crops grain or range Other Total

1,000 acres
Timber or pulp production 515.6 78.8 515.1 405.2 1,530.2
Pasture, grass
or rangeland 435.8 598.9 3,005.2 425.5 4,479.9
Idle 737.7 261.5 913.5 781.5 2,705.0
Mixed 365.8 63.6 393.0 266.0 1,122.4
Other 47.4 58.1 95.5 535.1 736.7
Total1 2,113.5 1,086.5 4,942.0 2,416.5 10,633.9
'Does not add because some of those surveyed did not answer this question.


management organization. These
owners made drainage investments on
about 8.8 million acres, slightly over
30 percent of the total. Over 50 per-
cent of the owners participating were
from the Lake States and Corn Belt
regions. Although 34 percent of the
drained land in a drainage district
was in the Delta, few owners from the
Delta were involved.


Participants in a drainage district
drained more acres than others did,
135 vs. 70 acres. But the impact of
governmental participation in organiz-

ing drainage districts is unclear. Al-
though relatively few owners partici-
pated, drainage districts may serve as
demonstrations that encourage individ-


ual investments and the local impacts
may be important. It appears that the
owners who benefited from participat-
ing in such a district also drained
more acres per unit than nonpartici-
pants did.



Owners installed tile, pipe, or subsur-
face drains on about 14.4 million
acres during 1975-77, including over
6.2 million acres in the Corn Belt and
2.3 million acres in the Appalachian
region. The second most prevalent
drainage improvement reported during
the period was cleaning or dredging
existing outlet ditches. This practice
affected almost 4.8 million acres in
the Delta region.




Table 6-New or improved drainage systems Installed, by region, 1975-77

Additions to New Improvements to
Region existing drainage drainage existing systems Total
systems systems and new drainage
systems installed
s0 Percent 1000 Percent 000 Percent 1,000 Percent
acres acres acres acres

Northeast 854.9 4.7 267.8 6.9 370.6 5.5 1,493.3 5.2
(28.7)
Lake States 1,147.4 6.3 315.0 8.1 441.6 6.5 1,904.0 6.6
(15.2)
Corn Belt 5,584.1 30.4 919.0 23.7 1,484.5 21.9 7,987.6 27.5
(10.3)
Northern Plains 754.2 4.1 177.3 4.6 655.6 9.7 1,587.1 5.5
(28.5)
Appalachian 2,774.3 15.1 292.9 7.5 724.2 10.7 3,791.4 13.1
(40.3)
Southeast 792.3 4.3 347.1 8.9 672.0 9.9 1,811.4 6.2
(18.1)
Delta 4,268.7 23.3 116.9 3.0 1,216.2 17.9 5,601.8 19.3
(40.8)
Southern Plains 267.4 1.5 59.3 1.5 462.2 6.8 788.9 2.7
(34.9)
Mountain 458.9 2.5 147.4 3.8 381.7 5.6 988.0 3.4
(26.1)
Pacific 1,437.9 7.8 1,243.1 32.0 372.9 5.5 3,053.9 10.5
(29.4)
48 States 18,340.1 100.0 3,885.8 100.0 6,781.5 100.0 29,007.4 100.0
(11.5)
Note: Numbers in parentheses are coefficients of variation for the estimates
immediately above.

Table 7-Land use changes associated with newly drained land,
1975-77

Land use Land use following drainage
before
drainage Cropland Pasture Other Total'

1,000 acres
Cropland 18,213.7 58.6 417.3 18,728.5
Pasture 682.2 457.5 14.5 1,304.1
Forestland 129.9 97.3 1,130.6 1,370.1
Mixed or other 1,661.3 403.7 5,213.6 7,285.4
Total' 20,768.7 1,023.1 6,782.2 29,007.4

'Does not add because some of those surveyed did not answer this question.

Table 8-Conservation practices installed, by region, 1975-77

Region Terraces Grass waterways Gully control
Owners Area Owners Area structures

1,000 1,000 acres 1,000 1,000 acres 1,000
Northeast 5.3 153.3 9.7 335.5 107.1
Lake States 1.5 31.7 36.2 1,645.4 35.2
Corn Belt 17.9 879.3 31.5 2,183.4 64.2
Northern Plains 16.0 1,789.9 10.9 1,068.4 25.8
Appalachian 2.7 189.0 16.1 447.3 42.5

Southeast 7.1 499.8 3.5 200.8 33.4
Delta 1.1 131.8 1.3 203.6 21.8
Southern Plains 18.4 2,182.1 6.4 913.4 59.6
Mountain 1.0 179.9 1.2 1,114.3 55.5
Pacific 5.2 213.0 5.6 117.9 82.8

48 States 76.2 6,249.8 122.4 8,230.0 527.9


Surface drainage is an important meth-
od for disposing of excess water in
many areas, with extensive installing
and repairing of field ditches common
in the Corn Belt, Delta, and Southeast
regions. While less land was drained
in the Southern Plains, Northern Plains,
and Mountain regions, surface drain-
age by means of field ditches and land
shaping was the most common drain-
age investment in these three regions.

Per-acre expenditures varied with the
type of drainage improvement. Expen-
ditures for installing or repairing tile
averaged about $105 per acre while
field ditching expenditures averaged
less than $25 per acre.


Conserving the Land

An estimated 292,000 U.S. landowners
invested in soil conservation practices
or structures-terraces, grass water-
ways, and gully control. About 112,000
owners installed grass waterways for
about 8.2 million acres, 57,000 built


Sources of Data

Compilations of the results of the follow-on surveys are free for the asking
from John Miranowski. Director. NRED/ERS, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Room 412, 500 12th St., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250. Title are listed
below. You can also call in your orders on (202) 447-8239.

Additions to Cropland, 1975-77. 25 pp. May 1981.
Irrigation Investment and Disinvestment, 1975-77. 37 pp. June 1981.
Investment in Conservation Structures, 1975-77. 44 pp. July 1981.
Land Purchases and Acquisitions. 1975-77. 70 pp. April 1982.
Land Drainage Investment Survey, 1975-77. 36 pp. June 1982.
Land Clearing Investment Survey, 1975-77. 25 pp. August 1982.
Landownership Characteristics and Investments in Soil Conservation.
41 pp. September 1981.
*Land Removed from Crop Production, 1975-77. 23 pp. February 1981.
*Removal or Abandonment of Selected Conservation Practices, 1975-77.
33 pp. December 1981.
Who Owns the Land? A State and Regional Summary of Landownership in
the United States. 52 pp. April 1983.

Titles preceded by an asterisk are not highlighted in this brochure.,Those
questionnaires elicited too few responses to be considered statistically
reliable.


terraces to control erosion on over 6.2
million acres, and 97,000 invested in
gully control structures, like drop spill-
ways, diversion structures, ponds, and
so forth.

Terrace construction was most com-
mon in the Corn Belt, Northern Plains,
and Southern Plains (table 8). Grass
waterways were most prevalent in the
Lake States, Corn Belt, and Appala-
chian regions. Gully control structures
were also installed at a higher than
average rate in the Corn Belt, although
the highest rates were at opposite
ends of the country, the Northeast and
Pacific regions. Many of the water-re-
lated soil conservation investments
were made in the upper Midwest.

Relatively little land use change seem-
ed to be associated with conservation
investments (table 9). For example,
about 4.3 million acres were used for
crops before terracing and 4.4 million
acres afterwards. Land used for pas-
ture also remained relatively constant
at about 1 million acres. About 95 per-
cent of the cropland remained crop-
land and over 85 percent of the pas-
ture land remained in pasture.

Slightly more than 229,000 owners re-
ported investments in soil conservation
practices of about $935 million (table
10). The most common type of invest-
ment was installing terraces, involving
more than $412 million. On the aver-
age, owners reported spending about
$7,200 for terracing, slightly more
than $2,000 to establish grass water-
ways, and slightly less than $3,000 to
install gully control structures.














Terraces, grass waterways can feed into
drop spillways like this one to control,
slow, and disperse water flow, thereby
reducing erosion.

Photo courtesy of USDA's Soil Conserva-
tion Service.


~4rpuk










































Table 9-Land use change associated with terracing, 1975-77

Land use Land use following terracing
before Mixed and Total
terracing Cropland Pasture Hay other Total'

1,000 acres
Cropland 4,059.9 46.5 33.1 141.9 4,320.7
Pasture 92.9 816.1 4.0 45.2 958.3
Forestland 14.9 63.9 32.3 111.1
Hay 31.6 102.7 4.8 139.1
Mixed and other 247.7 50.2 2.9 420.2 720.9
Total 4,447.0 1,079.4 44.8 639.6 6,250.1

-None reported.
'Does not add because some of those surveyed did not answer this question.

Table 10-Investment in conservation practices, 1975-77

Type of practice Owners Area

1,000 Percent $1,000 Percent
Terraces 57.0 24.9 412,861 44.1
Grass waterways 111.9 48.9 236,348 25.3
Gully control
structures 96.9 42.3 285,982 30.6
Subtotal 229.1 100.0 935,191 100.0

Owners not reporting 62.9

Total 292.0


Photo courtesy of USDA's Soil Conserva-
tion Service.


Irrigating the Land

An estimated 77,100 owners irrigated
slightly more than 5.5 million acres for
the first time during 1975-77 (table 11).
Since irrigated land for 1974 totaled
less than 42 million acres (according
to the 1974 Census of Agriculture),
this addition was quite significant.

These owners invested almost $1.7 bil-
lion (about $375 per acre) on new ir-
rigation projects during 1975-77 (table
12). The average owner invested over
$21,600 irrigating slightly more than
70 acres. Capital to install new irriga-
tion systems came mostly from farmers'
loans or personal funds. In addition,
the public sector invests large sums of
money in off-farm projects like dams
and canals in order to impound and
distribute irrigation water.

About 5 million acres were used for
cropland following irrigation. About
3.9 million of those acres had been in
cropland and cropland mixed with
other uses before the investment was


Drip irrigation delivers a small, controll-
ed flow of water directly to plants' roots,
saving water, energy. Although drip irri-
gation is especially advantageous for
some crops, most irrigation being installed
in the United States today is the flood or
spray type.


a4
's ~ *^*WF^ =^
R7* fHMF ~fi^H








made. Therefore, about 1 million acres
were added to the cropland base by
new irrigation: 769,000 acres of
former pastureland and 99,000 acres
of former timberland.

Center pivot distribution systems were
used on almost half of the newly irri-
gated land. Other sprinkler systems
were used on about a fourth and
gravity systems were used on the re-
maining fourth of newly irrigated
land. Wells supplied the water for
three-fourths of the new land; surface
water sources, one-fourth.



112 Million Acres Acquired

An estimated 3.3 million owners pur-
chased or otherwise acquired about
112.5 million acres in the United
States during 1975-77 (table 13). The
average owner acquired about 35
acres. These numbers imply that about
3 percent of the land nationwide
changes hands each year. Over 25
percent of the owners reporting pur-
chases were in the Northeast, 14 per-
cent in the Corn Belt, and 13 percent
in the Appalachian region.

Owners reported spending a total of
almost $184 billion in 1975-77 to ac-
quire land. The 2.9 million owners
reporting value data did so for about
56.4 million acres. Thus, the average
price per acre was about $3,250 and
the average spent per tract was about
$64,000.

About two-thirds of the owners re-
ported a price in excess of $5,000 per
acre, but most of those purchases
were for nonagricultural uses. Land
acquired for agricultural use is usual-
ly in larger tracts and sells at a lower
price per acre. About one-sixth of the
parcels cost less than $1,000 per acre
and these parcels (representing 56
percent of the land) were primarily
for agricultural use (table 14). Much
of the total expenditure is accounted
for in tracts where the purchase price
exceeded $5,000 per acre. This was
the predominant category in terms of
value in nearly all the farm production
regions. This category accounted for
almost 83 percent of total reported ex-
penditures.


Table 11-Newly irrigated land

Year Owners Area
1,000 Percent 1,000 acres Percent

1975 47.8 62.0 1,893.2 34.2
(44.8) (13.3)
1976 19.9 25.8 1,581.7 28.6
(13.6) (10.4)
1977 22.1 28.7 2,059.1 37.2
(12.7) (10.8)
Total 77.11 100.01 5,534.0 100.0
(28.6) (7.0)

Note: Numbers in parentheses are coefficients of variation for the estimates imme-
diately above.
1Number of owners sums to more than the total because some owners reported new
irrigation in more than one year.

Table 12-Source of funds for new irrigation, 1975-77


Source


Owners


Area


1,000 Percent 1,000 acres Percent


Federal Government
Personal funds
Individual loan
Farmers Home Admin.
Production Credit
Association
Federal Land Banks
Other banks or savings
institutions
Insurance companies
Other
No response
Total


4.2 73.4
37.2 1,803.8
8.9 123.6
4.0 291.3

3.0 384.8
3.4 479.8


10.0
1.6
1.1
47.5
100.01


917.5
230.4
84.1
1,145.3
5,534.0


Cost of irrigation


Mil. dol. Dol./acre


1.3 13.1
32.6 615.1
2.2 53.8
5.3 93.0


6.9 127.8 332
8.7 154.5 322


16.6
4.2
1.5
20.7
100.0


408.3
118.2
44.6
41.3
1,669.7


1Number of owners sums to more than the total because some owners reported more
than one source of funds.




-^^dI Bawmmry the 47e JandownOeroip Survey, published by



a .size,.method of acqusitionperided of acq4jt-
." S lafeasan charts. The report also details. the survey
i .l .. ... lrm, ._.. .._used.'an.. aup en .ho.ut.es.._e'




c--LTmii oj..,d. pthe United States: 1978. 28 pp., $3,50; GPO


.'iMAcMwt9p Nation. 28pp. $3.25; GPOno, 0O1-1O 326.

.Si.up .intende.it of Documents. U.S. Government Printing Office,
'Wkas r gmaas aody 2 r payable lo supae.


e iteAotate cll GPO's order at
1 R dWsfihs, Ilease add 25 percent for postage.








Land use was seldom changed at the
time of purchase. In the Corn Belt,
over 400,000 acres were changed
from noncropland to cropland (3 per-
cent of all Corn Belt land sold). In the
Appalachian region, over 280,000
acres were changed from cropland
to noncropland (3 percent of all Ap-
palachian land sold), while over
630,000 acres (6-7 percent of Ap-
palachian land sold) were changed
from noncropland to cropland-a net
gain of about 350,000 cropland acres
in the Appalachian region.

Over 70 percent of the owners of new
tracts reported that they purchased
the tract for a residential or business
site (table 15). We suspect that most
of those tracts are in the rural-urban
fringe. Only about 19 percent of the
owners reported an agricultural use,
but those owners accounted for 75
percent of the land. Agricultural use
was especially prevalent in the Nor-
thern Plains, Southern Plains, South-
east, and Corn Belt.



Afterword

The supply of land for agricultural use
is related both to the quantity of land
and how land currently in use can be
improved. This brochure reports the
results of surveys that addressed both
dimensions of the land supply issue for
1975-77.

The adequacy of the Nation's land
base to meet the long-term food and
fiber needs remains a policy concern
of USDA, notwithstanding current
problems related to excess production.
The ERS research program continu-
ously addresses the question of agri-
cultural capacity. Work planned for
the near future includes: an evaluation
of land added to the cropland base
between 1977 and 1982; a survey of
farm expenditures for soil conserva-
tion; an evaluation of rangeland im-
provement investment needed to offset
projected conversion of rangeland to
cropland in the Great Plains; a review
of the history of and prospects for
farm drainage in the United States;
and an evaluation of resource capaci-
ty to meet global food demands in the
year 2000.


Table 13-Amount of land purchased or acquired, by region

Region 1975 1976 1977 Total

1,000 acres

Northeast 2,280 3,405 3,056 8,741
(35.5) (35.6) (39.0) (31.1)
Lake States 2,945 2,867 2,582 8,394
(18.4) (19.9) (14.0) (11.1)
Corn Belt 3,789 4,547 4,038 12,374
(13.6) (29.5) (15.0) (13.0)
Northern Plains 7,585 5,977 2,218 15,780
(38.3) (40.5) (17.6) (34.0)
Appalachian 1,916 3,657 3,301 8,874
(21.5) (16.8) (30.6) (14.3)

Southeast 2,127 3,281 3,217 8,625
(26.4) (37.0) (31.4) (19.6)
Delta 990 1,675 1,558 4,223
(20.5) (22.3) (27.5) (16.3)
Southern Plains 4,088 5,352 3,028 12,468
(21.8) (22.4) (20.6) (12.6)
Mountain 3,646 2,350 3,418 9,414
(20.6) (22.0) (21.3) (12.0)
Pacific 2,056 17,524 4,022 23,602
(30.4) (23.0) (20.4) (13.9)
48 States 31,422 50,635 30,438 112,495
(11.0) (10.2) (8.0) (7.3)

Note: Numbers in parentheses are coefficients of variation for the estimates
immediately above.


Table 14-Amount of land and average parcel size, most recent tract
purchased or acquired, by price per acre, 1975-77

Price per acre Amount of land Average parcel
purchased or acquired size

1,000 acres Acres

Less than $1,000 43,600 109
(6.7)
$1,000-$1,999 6,307 43
(14.4)
$2,000-$4,999 3,035 14
(32.2)
$5,000 and over 3,474 3
(18.4)
No response 21,029 60
(10.0)
Total 77,445 31
(4.7)
Note: Numbers in parentheses are coefficients of variation for the estimates imme-
diately above.


Additional Reading

Potential Cropland: The Ownership
Factor. 14 pp.; October 1981; $4.50
microfiche; $7.00 paper. Order no.
PB82-117854.
Linkages Between Landownership and
Rural Land. 19 pp.; February 1983;
$4.50 microfiche; $7.00 paper.
Order no. PB83-139956.
Linkages Between Landownership
and Rural Land: Appendix Data. 224


pp.; 1983; $4.50 microfiche; $19.00
paper. Order no. PB83-139949.


These reports can be purchased from
the National Technical Information
Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Spring-
field, VA 22161. For more information,
call the NTIS order desk at (703)
487-4780. Telephone orders can be
charged to your VISA, MasterCard,
American Express, or NTIS account.




















































Table 15-Proposed use of most recent tract purchased or acquired, by
region, 1975-77

Region Agricultural Residence/ Business/other Total
subdivision nonagricultural

1,000 tracts

Northeast 64 708 23 889
Lakes States 43 177 35 258
Corn Belt 118 311 18 451
Northern Plains 63 27 1 93
Appalachian 71 131 205 409

Southeast 88 52 171 322
Delta 39 83 11 133
Southern Plains 67 92 2 161
Mountain 18 183 9 234
Pacific 50 128 137 314

48 States 622 1,970 612 3,265

'Does not add because some of those surveyed did not answer this question.


Parallel, cut and fill, grassed backslope
terraces help reduce erosion. These ter-
races drain into pond at top right.

Photo courtesy of USDA's Soil Conserva-
tion Service.







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