NRCS Land Use Update Shows More Cropland, Less Erosion

Report explains how non-federal lands are used in the U.S.

Published on: Jan 23, 2014

A recently released study conducted by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service finds that cropland erosion has decreased and crop land acreage has increased between 2007 and 2010.

The report, National Resources Inventory summary, features data on how U.S. non-federal rural lands are being used. Data come from 800,000 sample locations across the country.

"The NRI summary report is the only report of its kind and is one of our most comprehensive tools to understanding what's actually happening on the country's landscape," commented NRCS Chief Jason Weller.

Among the highlights of the survey are the promising erosion statistics. Despite a growth in agricultural land use and more extreme weather events, cropland has been able to stave off erosion issues.

EROSION DECLINE: Report finds erosion declines on cropland
EROSION DECLINE: Report finds erosion declines on cropland

"We expected to see an increase in the erosion, but our numbers told a different story," said Dr. Patrick Flanagan, national statistician for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

According to the report, soil erosion on cropland decreased 41% between 1982 and 2010. Water (sheet and rill) erosion declined from 1.67 billion tons per year to 982 million tons per year, and erosion due to wind decreased from 1.38 billion to 740 million tons per year.

NRCS Land Use Update Shows More Cropland, Less Erosion

As noted, even while erosion decreased, cropland acreage overall increased by more than 2 million acres. The increase is a recovery from a steady decline noted over the past 25 years.

Most of the gain came from land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program counterbalanced to some degree by losses of cropland to pasture, development, and other rural land, the report said.

Related: State Funding To Limit Non-Ag Use of Farmland Moving Higher

Meanwhile, about 13 million acres of prime farmland has been lost primarily to development since 1982, the survey said. More broadly, the NRI summary found that about 43 million acres of land were newly developed between 1982 and 2010, bringing the total of developed land to about 113 million acres.

Additional highlights of the survey include:

- Fruit, nut and flower production acreage surged from 124.8 million to almost 273.8 million.

- Palustrine wetlands slightly increased. These include swamps or marshes, and estuarine wetlands.

- Acres enrolled in NRCS programs grew from about 17 million acres in 2007 to about 40 million in 2010.

Download the report, 2010 National Resources Inventory, for more.