CARI: Center for Applied Rural Innovation


Date of this Version


Document Type



Charles Francis

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

225 Keim Hall

Lincoln, NE 68583-0915


Copyright 2003 University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Loss of prime farmland is a serious concern in the U.S. and around the globe. With rapid urban population increases, the activities and perceived needs of concentrated groups of people result in the swallowing of some of the most fertile lands in this country. Today we have just under 2 acres of productive farmland per person in the U.S.. Given the current population growth rate due to births and immigration, plus the present rate of farmland loss, World Watch Institute estimates that we will have about 0.6 acres or one-third as much farmland available per person by 2055 - a mere two generations in the future. They further calculate that we need at least 1.2 acres per person to sustain production that supports our own population, without any exports. To make matters worse, our "consumption" of farmland for other uses is accelerating faster than population growth.

The loss of farmland is not generally perceived as a problem in Nebraska where open space seems limitless. We see the endless fields of corn and soybeans across the state; the large sections filled with wheat in the Panhandle; and the subtle beauty of the Sandhill grazing lands, and cannot conceive of a land shortage. "That may be a problem in Connecticut or California, but surely not in Nebraska?" These perceptions are coupled with the ideas that yields are constantly increasing, and that GMOs will solve all of our future food problems. Still there are those that decry the loss of farmland and wildlife habitat, warning that the conversion of rural landscapes to human structures and activities totally negate their potential for ecological functions and services. So, What is the truth about the future?