Midwestern Study Takes A Look At Habitat, Ag Land Use

Study commissioned by seven state Farm Bureaus suggests crop insurance subsidies have not caused big shifts in Midwestern land use, they say

Published on: Nov 12, 2013

A study of historical land use patterns across seven Midwestern states reveals little net movement of habitat to cropland and negligible impact on land use even by federal program crops or those covered by crop insurance, the Illinois Farm Bureau says.

The study, commissioned by seven Midwestern state Farm Bureaus, including Illinois, was conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Urbandale, Iowa. Other states included in the survey are Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Indiana and Michigan.

The primary purposes of the study were to estimate the degree to which land use changes have occurred in the states, and to identify potential factors contributing to land use changes, IFB says.

Study commissioned by seven state Farm Bureaus suggests crop insurance subsidies have not caused big shifts in Midwestern land use, they say
Study commissioned by seven state Farm Bureaus suggests crop insurance subsidies have not caused big shifts in Midwestern land use, they say

"Land use is a complex matter," said Dave Miller, Director of Research and Commodity Services at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. "To fairly assess what and why changes are happening with a limited resource like land, you have to examine it in the right context."

"Our state Farm Bureaus felt that to adequately address land use challenges, we needed to understand what was happening and why," Miller said. "A complete analysis that studied changes both to and from wildlife habitat had not been done, and this was the impetus behind our multi-state study."

According to the study, 3% of the total land area in the seven-state study area shifted away from grassy habitat since 2007, and there was a net move toward grassy habitat from non-agricultural land.

In addition, the study found large net shifts of land toward crop production did not uniformly occur throughout the study area, indicating crop insurance subsides and net returns alone are not the dominant factors contributing to loss of grassy habitat, IFB says.

The study also indicated that land use continues to evolve in the Midwest as new crops emerge and others fade away as market demand changes over time.

Other land use studies have focused on the extent to which land is being converted to crop production, or more specifically, to federal farm program crops or to crops covered by crop insurance, study organizers say. They contend that such studies lack the context and analysis to properly measure the impact of other factors on land use.

"Factors like water availability, net returns to crop production, conservation program changes, land values, and alternative opportunities for the land all impact land use decisions," a press statement regarding the study said.

The study did not rely exclusively on data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service's Crop Data Layer alone. Instead, it cross-checked the Crop Data Layer with farmer and rancher land surveys from NASS, which have a lower standard error rate, the organizers say.

Source: IL Farm Bureau