A Fuss Over Farmland

Colorado loses a million acres of farmland

Punctuating a disturbing land-use trend across the country, the Denver Post reports on recently released census figures showing that Colorado has lost more than a million acres of farmland since 1997, among the most of any state in the nation.

The amount of land on farms in Colorado declined from about 32 million acres to about 31 million acres. Colorado ranked third in total farmland lost, behind Texas and New Mexico, according to a 2002 U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Nationwide, the census shows that a years-long trend is continuing. The nation’s farmers are growing older. The amount of land in production and the number of farms are dropping. And the remaining farmers need to work bigger areas to make ends meet.

The nation lost about 15 million acres of agricultural land from 1997 through 2002, and the number of farms fell by almost 100,000. Meanwhile, the average size of a farm grew from 431 to 441 acres.

Besides the numerous cultural and economic benefits of maintaining farms throughout the United States, environmentalists much prefer agricultural land—which recharges groundwater, sequesters carbon, and preserves open space and wildlife habitat—to the urban and suburban sprawl nipping at the heels of rural America from coast-to-coast.