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Image: Farm Economy

Land Use, Land Value & Tenure

Related Reports

Agricultural production is a major use of land, accounting for around 51 percent of the U.S. land base. Land use and land-use changes have important economic and environmental implications for commodity production and trade, open space, soil and water conservation, air quality and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and other areas of interest.

Worth $2.31 trillion, farm real estate (land and structures) accounted for 82 percent of the total value of U.S. farm assets in 2012. Because it comprises such a significant portion of the balance sheet of U.S. farms, change in the value of farm real estate is a critical barometer of the farm sector's financial performance. Changes in farmland values also affect the financial well-being of agricultural producers, because farm real estate is the largest single component in a typical farmer's investment portfolio and it serves as the principal source of collateral for farm loans. 

Farmland ownership trends identify the extent to which the benefits of farmland ownership accrue to individuals who farm, or to non-operators (landowners who do not themselves farm) who own land for investment or other purposes. About 40 percent of U.S. farmland has been rented over the last 25 years. Non-operators owned 29 percent of land in farms in 2007, though that proportion has declined since 1992.

ERS conducts research on a range of land use, value and tenure issues, including:

  • Trends in major land uses
  • Trends in farmland values
  • Impacts of government policies and programs on land use and land value
  • Trends in farmland ownership

Two recent reports offer an important overview of the topics of land use, land value, and tenure: Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007 (EIB-89, December 2011) and Trends in U.S. Farmland Values and Ownership (EIB-92, February 2012).

Last updated: Friday, February 21, 2014

For more information contact: Allison Borchers