Evidence of urbanization and the competition for farmland in the United States can be gleaned from the National Resource Inventory (NRI). For the five years prior to 1997, about 11.2 million acres of land were converted to urban uses, with about 3.2 million of that being prime farmland. The urbanization of land is concentrated in a relatively few states. More than 50% of the converted land was in Texas (894K acres), Georgia (852K), Florida (553K), California (553K), Pennsylvania (545K), North Carolina (507K), Tennessee (401K), Ohio (365K), Michigan (364K), South Carolina (362K), and Virginia (344K).
Each year about 645,000 acres of prime farmland are being developed. More than 50% of this conversion is occurring in the top ten states. Texas leads the nation in annual prime farmland conversion with 67,000 acres, followed by Ohio (42K) North Carolina (34K), and Illinois (32K). While the NRI data shows that considerable farmland is being converted to developed uses each year, it does not reflect that development breaks land into fragmented units that may be uneconomic to farm. One indicator of the fragmentation problem is the significant growth in residential/lifestyle farms. These farms represent 40% of total farms in the 1998 Census of Agriculture. While important to land use patterns in many states, they account for 6% of total sales. For these farms, off-farm employment is critical to income stability. Growth in these farm types means interaction between farmers and nonfarmers at the rural urban interface. More farmers depend on outside jobs and more urbanites have direct contact with farming. This type of farming and the accompanying rural urban interface issues may become more important.
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