USDA has released an in-depth analysis of U.S. land use patterns that shows total cropland decreased by 34 million acres from 2002 to 2007, the lowest level since USDA began collecting this data 1945. The USDA report also shows significant increases in forestland, grassland and rangeland during the five-year period. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the new report is one more addition to the mounting body of evidence that proves increased ethanol production has not resulted in expansion of total U.S. cropland or a decline in grassland and forest.
According to the report's authors urban land acreage quadrupled from 1945 to 2007, increasing at about twice the rate of population growth over this period. Land in urban areas was estimated at 61 million acres in 2007, up almost 2% since 2002 and 17% since 1990, In comparison the estimated acreage of grassland pasture and range increased by 27 million acres, almost 5%, between 2002 and 2007, while forest-use land increased 20 million acres, or 3%, from 2002 to 2007.
RFA President Bob Dinneen points out that 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. He says that subdivisions full of mini-mansions, big box stores, shopping malls, and parking lots are encroaching on productive farmland across the country.
Geoff Cooper, RFA vice president of research and analysis, wrote on the Renewable Fuels Association website that RFA is encouraging the policymakers and regulators responsible for penalizing crop-based biofuels for indirect land use change to take a close look at the new USDA report.
"There is simply no substitute for real data," Cooper said. "Our renewable energy policies and regulations should be based on what is actually happening on the ground, not on hypothetical results from black box economic models."
To view the USDA report, click HERE.