D'C". NT RESUME 02754 - [A209320'4 (Restricted) [(The ruse of Prime Agricultural Lar 'or Nonagricultural Purposes in the Un'c.ed States]. Jujy 19, 1977. 4 pp. + enclosure (3 pp.).- Report to R. M. Davis, Administrator, Soil Conservation Service; by Brian P. Crowley, Assistant Director, Community and EcoLomic Development Div. Issue Area- Land Use Planning and Control (2300). Contact: Community and Economic Development Div. Budget Function: Agriculture (350). Organization Concerned: Department of Agriculture. A study cc nductul by the Soil Ceaer vation 3crvic in 1975 identified certain land in Minnesota as noncropland which had high or medium potential for conversion to Cropland within the next 10 to 15 years. Findings/Conclusions: This land was included as part of an 111-million-acre cropland reserve which the Service estimated existed nationvwie. About 78 sillion acres of the reserve were classified as having high potential for conversion to cropland, considering commodity prices, development costs, and production costs. The remaining 33 million acres were classified as having medius potential for conversion to cropland. In estimating the acreage of potential cropland, Service field represeutatives gathered :nd analyzed information from sample areas in 506 counties throughout the country. Various points within these sample areas were assessed as to their potential for conversion to cropland. visits to the 44 sample points in 5 counties in Hiniesota, which L-d been classified as having high or medium potential for conversion, showed taiit two of the points had been converted to cropland, but there was little likelihood that the other 42 points rep:asented land that could or would be converted to cropland if needea in the foreseeable future. Recommendations: In future studies of this type, landowners of the sample points should be consulted about their intentions for using noncropland for future crop production, and their views on the problems that would be encountered in converting such land to cropland should be obtained. (SC) UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOIINTING OFFICE WASHINGTON, D.C. 20548 Eli. pH9mVunp"IV ^el 029 ,o4MUevIL ANo tDtiv JUL 1_9 19' rMI7 ) D~o not mea aYvailable to publie reading Mr. R. M. Davis Adbinistrator, Soil Conservation Service Dbpalrtment of Agriculture Dear Mr. Davis: ::::::::X:::V: : :_: ::W; akin:; a survTey: to :deerlnetwhether the use of prime agricultural land for nonagricultural purposes is, or it likely to become, a problem in the United States. Part of our effort to date has been to inquire into what land- owners are doing or planning to do, and what problems might be involved, with certain land in Minnesota which the Soil Conservation Service had identified In a 1975 study as noncropland which had high or medium potential for conversion to cropland within the next 10 to 15 years. This land was included as part of an Ill-million-acre cropland reserve which the Service estimated existed nationwide based on its 1975 study. About 78 million of the lll-million-acre reserve was classified as having high potential for converasion to cropland considering-commodity prices, development costs, and production costs. The remaining 33 million acres of the reserve were classified as having medium potential for conversion Lt cropland using the same criteria. The Service's stud) vas undertaken to obtain data on the potential for developing new cropland, especially in view of the large amounts of cropland that had been converted in recent years for housing, industrial, and other purposes. Although some agricultural authorities have stated that the potential cropland should take care of the Nation's needs for increased food production for the fore- seeable future, they believe the Nation will be facing a squeeze in crop productive capability in a few years and action may be needed to preserve potential cropland. It is therefore important that estimates of the availability of potential cropland be fairly reliable. In entimating 'the acreage of otential cropland, Service field representatives gathered and analyzed information from sawple areas in 506 counties throughout the United States. Vatious points withi.n these sample areas were assessed as to their potential for conversion to cropland. They considered such factorc as the condition of the land, how the land was being used, and the type of development that would be necessary and the environmental and economic problems that would be faced in using the land for growing crops. They then classified the saple points according to whether they had high, medium, low, or no potential for conversion to cropland. The results of the sample were projected to estimate the 111-million-acre reserve. To get some idea ot the reliability of the estimate, we selected five counties in Minnesota and visit:d all 44 sample points in those counties that had been classified as having high or medium potential for conversion to crop- land. The 44 points included 31 of the 58 sample poin'.:s in the State of Minnesota that had been classified as high-potential cropland and all 13 of the sample points in the State that had been classified as medium-potential cropland, as shown below. Total points with high or medium Number of points classified as County potential Hihpotential Medium potential Hennepin 5 5 0 St. Louis 9 0 9 Redwood 2 2 0 Stearns 8 7 1 Kandiyohi 20 17 3 Total-5 coun!ies 44 31 13 Total--Minnesota 71 58 13 2 We viewed the land represented by these points and discussed the likelihood of conversion with the landowners. Two of the sample points we visited in Stearns County had been converted to cropland. On. the basis of our site visits and discussions with landowners and -ervice field representatives, it seems unlikely that the ot- .r 42 points in our survey represent land that could or would be converted to cropland in the foreseeable future if needed. We believe these points, which the Service's 1975 study projected to represent about 1.8 million acres, should have been classified as having low potential, and in one case no potential, for conversion to cropland. In many cases the land was being used for other agricultural purposes, such as raising cattle and turkeys, and in other cases the land- owoers believed it would be uneconomical to make the land suitable for growing crops. For example, two areas in 'indiyohi County which were rep)resented by 18 sample points were being used ar pasture fo'r turkeys. The owner said that he had a large pital inAvstment in turkey facilities and would not convert the pasture to cropland as long as he raised turkeys. An area in Bennepin County which was represented by several points was being used as a cattle lane and pasture. The owner said he would not conrert the. land in the cattle lane to cropland as long as he owned dairy cattle and would not convert the pasture area unless he could obtain double the rent he was receiving for pasture rental. Because these areas are already in agricultural production, we 'believe they should not be considered as having high or medium potential for tropland. Several of the other Ureas had drainage or oLher problems that landowners said would be too costly or difficult to correct. The enclosure lists our specific reasons for believing the land represented by 42 of the 44 sample points we visited has little or no potential for conversion to crop- land. In two of the five counties, district conservationists said that they had used aerial photographs to classify the sample points and had not visited the sites. District conservationists in the other three counties said that they had visited the sites but had not always talked to the land- owns!rs to determine whether they had any plans or views for using the land as future cropland. 3 We recommend that, in future studies of this type, landmvners of the sample points be consulted about their intentions or plans for using noncropland for future crop production and to obtain their views on the problems that would be encountered in converting such land to cropland. Such knowledge would provide a better basis for classifying their land as having high, medium, low, or ro potential for conversion to cropland. We ciscussed ou: observations and recommendation with represe.tatives of the Service's3 Land Inventory and Moultoring Division. 'e asked them to consider landowners' intentions in their current erosion inventory study which is to include an updated assessment of the Nation's potential cropland. They have agreed to discuss our observations with State and district conservationists during training sessions preparatory to underte ing the new study. They also said they would emphasize . their field offices the necessity of physically visiting all the sample points to insure that potential cropland is appropriately classified. We appreciate the cooperation of your staff in considering this matter. Sincerely, Brian P. Crowley -_ Assistant Director Enclosure 4 ENCLOSURE I ENCLOSURE I POTENTIjAL CROPLAND SAMPLE POINTS WITH QUESTIONABLE CLASSIFICATION Suggestea Sample Point Service GAO County nunmber num-.r(s) classification classification Reasons for differences dennepin 062 9 High Liw The area was being used for cattle. The owner said the area could be c'nverted if he got rid of his cattle, bet he had intention of doing so. no 062 13 High Low The owner said that, for this area to be cropped, it would have to be tiled and a drainage outlet would have to be made across a neighbor's property. The owner thought the cost of converting would be too great for such a small plot. 133 5 High Low The owner wanted to keep the land in pasture and said he would not convert as long as he owned the farm. 133 17 High Low The owner was renting out this land as pasture for $30 an acre. he said he would consider clearing the land if he could double his rental. He was skeptical about the cost of clearing the land. 133 21 High Low The sample point lies in a cattle lane. The owner said he would not convert the land unless he got rid of his dairy, herd which he has no intention of doing. The district conservationist believed the classifications in Hennepin County would be different if owners' intentions were considered. St. Louis 91 1,5,9, Medium Low The sample area was State-owned tax-forfeited lend. The area 13,17, (all points) had a high water table and the soil was primarily peat. The 21,,25, quarter section adjacent to the sample area had been mired 29,33 for peat. The district conservationist felt this land should have been classified as having low potential. INCOSURE I ENLOSURE I Suggested Sample. Point Service GAO County number number(s) classification classification Reasons for differences "Redwood 241 21,25 High Low Both points fell in a low drainage area containing boulders (both points) and scattered trees. The owner, who does tiling part time, said it would be too difficult to tile and the soil is poor. Stearns 041 5 digh Low The point was located on a parcel of land that was vnry steep and rolling. The district conservationist indicated the land i would have to be leveled using neavy equipment. 041 17 High Low The point fell on the edge of a mar-,; and the cwner said the land was too low and wet to economically convert.. The area had been tiled once but it was still too wet to farm. 122 13 High Low The owner said he planned to keep this area in pasture for his dairy herd. The point fell at the base of a slope. 122 25 High Low This point fell in a lightly wooded area which the owner planned to clear and use for pasture. 192 21 Medivm Low According to the owner, the area where this pc nt fell is low and wet in the spring, and he planned to keep the land as pasture for his dairy cattle. The district conservationist said the best use of the land was as a grazing area for dairy cattle. 361 9 High Low The sample point fell in a rolling wooded pasture area. The owner wanted to keep the area in pabture and said he would not convert the land as long as he owned the farm. ·Kandiyohi 031 1,5,9, High Low Sample numbers 031 and 041 fell on turkey farmz owned by 13,17, (all points) one person, The area on these farms is primarily pasture 21,33 used for turkeys. The owner said he would not convert che pasture to cropland as long as he raised turkeys. 031 25,29 Medium Low (both points) 2 ENCLOSURE I ENCLOSURE I Suggested Sample 'Point Service GAO County number number(s) classification classification Reasons for differences 041 1,5,13, High Low See preceding comment. 17,21, (all points) 25,29, 33 041- 9 Medium Low 092 29 High Low The sampLe.'point fell in a pasture area which had once been tiled, but the tile was too small to be effective. The owner had no plans to retile and drainage would require cooperation from neighbors. 152 13 High No The point fell in a platted area between a landowner's back- potential yard and a golf course. The sample area is close to, if not within, the city of Willmar. The owner said she wanted to keep the land as open space. 3
The Use of Prime Agricultural Land for Nonagricultural Purposes in the United States
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-07-19.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)