Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



The conversion of farmland near cities to other human uses is a global trend that challenges our long-term capacity to provide food, fiber, and ecosystem services to a growing world population. If current trends continue in the U.S., the population will reach 450 million by the year 2050. At the same time, an accelerating change in land use will reduce today’s two acres per person of farmland to less than one acre per person. This is scarcely enough to produce food for our domestic population, without any food available for export – even assuming advances in technology. We need to take these trends seriously, as the national economy and domestic food security are threatened by conversion of land to non-farm uses.

This bulletin provides insight on the multifunctional aspects of the rural landscape, including an overview and agricultural production (MFRL 1), human decision making (MFRL 2), landscape structure and function (MFRL 3), economic dimensions (MFRL 4), policy and legal dimensions (MFRL 5), and potentials for peri-urban agriculture in Nebraska and the Midwest (MFRL 6). Twyla M. Hansen compiled this information in fulfillment of requirements for her Master of Agriculture degree project; it is an outgrowth of the UNL course, Urbanization of Rural Landscapes, taught by Charles A. Francis.

The information is suitable for a general audience, and especially valuable for city and county planners, county extension boards, natural resource district boards and administrators, Extension and NRCS educators and specialists, university and college classes in planning, high school classes in agriculture, farmers and ranchers, and residents of rural communities concerned about the long-term future and stability of their towns and quality of life.

Through use of this bulletin in client workshops across Nebraska and classes in college and high school, we anticipate feedback from interested people and improvement in the information base. We welcome comments, additional references, and examples of application of the principles of long-term planning in this region.