The amount of land in the United States devoted to growing crops declined between 2002 and 2007, which indicates that increased ethanol production is not using up more land.
According to the report, “Major Uses of Land in the United States 2007,” total cropland was down by 34 million acres in 2007 to its lowest level since 1945. Cropland accounted for 18 percent of the total land area in the country – the third largest land use behind forest (30%) and grassland (27%).
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen said the new report shows increased ethanol production has not resulted in expansion of total U.S. cropland or a decline in grassland and forest.
“Using real data from the real world, this report from USDA shows yet again that U.S. cropland is not expanding in response to increased ethanol demand,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “The report also shows that forest and grassland increased dramatically during a period when ethanol production more than tripled.”
The smallest total use of land in the U.S. is urban at 61 million or three percent. However, while urban land use accounts for the smallest percentage, the USDA report shows that it accounts for the biggest increase in land use, quadrupling between 1945 and 2007, increasing at about twice the rate of population growth over
this period. Urban land use increased almost 2 percent from 2002 to 2007.
“It is ironic that the land use debate has fixated on biofuels, when the actual culprit of land conversion has clearly been urban and suburban sprawl,” Dinneen said. “Subdivisions full of mini-mansions, big box stores, shopping malls, and parking lots are encroaching on productive farmland across the country.”