How Much Farmland Is Lost To Development

How Much Farmland Is Lost To Development Each Year In 2024?

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Key Points

  • Farmland and farms benefit the environment and the world's population.
  • Urban encroachment, caused by infrastructure and housing construction, is gobbling up valuable farmland.
  • An estimated 2,000 acres of farmland are lost daily in the US alone, and the amount of arable land is finite.
  • The world's population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050, which will require a 60% increase in crop production.
  • The loss of farms and arable land has serious economic consequences, including job loss and rising food costs, and needs to be addressed urgently.

Farmland and farms, small and large provide a long list of benefits to the environment and the world’s population.

Yet farms have an aggressive adversary threatening their very existence. This is a new development.

As the number of people in the US and beyond grows exponentially, more homes, business complexes, schools, hospitals, retail centers, and other infrastructure become necessary to support them. 

Roadways are also needed for people living in these new developments. If you’ve ever been on an airplane and looked out the window, you’ve probably seen the prolific number of highways crisscrossing the land. New roads and bridges are being built daily, using more valuable land.

Simply put, development is gobbling up land formerly used for farming. This is known as urban encroachment or urban sprawl.

How Much Farmland Are We Losing To Development?

A national group called Farms Under Threat, in a 2022 study estimated an average of 2,000 acres of farmland are lost each day. You read that right each day. 

In 2021 alone, the US lost 1.3 million acres of farmland.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the total land used for farming decreased from 896.6M acres in 2020 to 895.3M in 2021. 

This may not seem like a catastrophic change, but consider this: we won’t uncover more usable farmland in the US.

The amount of arable land is finite.  More land will not show up overnight, next year, or the next. Nearly half of the US – 47% – of the US is uninhabitable. This means that it cannot be used to support human life.

At first glance, this may seem like plenty of land for farms to support human life.

But consider this: of this total, about 20% is covered by snow land, 20% is mountainous, 20% is desert, and 10% does not even have topsoil. So that leaves 30% – or 59.3 billion square miles – of land suitable for farming.

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Concerning Development Trends

The world’s population as a whole needs more food, not less.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, as many as 828 million people across the globe faced hunger in the year 2021. We all know the world’s population is rising sharply.

By 2050, the global population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion.

The United Nations estimates that crop production will have to increase by as much as 60% by the year 2050 to feed the estimated 9.3 billion people living on Earth at that time.

That is a staggering statistic that we all need to consider and take action to find ways to address this sooner rather than later.

What Country Has The Most Farmland?

The winner is India!

In the US, 16.8% is arable land suitable for farming and crop production. 

Other countries, such as the Bahamas, lack arable land entirely.


In 2021, nearly 20% of the US economy and 30% of all American jobs were agriculture-related. 

Active farmland is one of the critical elements in producing jobs and providing goods and services. However, this increasing food demand, coupled with the depleting amount of agricultural land, will also mean the cost of food will rise higher and higher. 

We are in a pivotal position right now as we see urban sprawl accelerating and the number of productive farms taking a dangerous nosedive.

There will also be harsh economic effects of the decline in farming. Jobs will be lost, unemployment could rise, and the US percentage of income from farming products will be compromised.

It doesn’t matter which American state or country you live in; the loss of farms and arable land is a serious situation that needs to be addressed now rather than later.

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