Land and Natural Resources

U.S. agricultural production relies heavily on the Nation’s land, water, and other natural resources, and has a direct impact on the quality of the Nation’s natural environment. Over the years, significant improvement in the sector’s productive use of resources has reduced the amount of land and water needed per unit of output, and concerted public and private efforts have greatly improved the sector’s environmental performance. These charts document several aspects of these trends.


Agricultural production is a major use of land, accounting for over half of the U.S. land base

The 2012 U.S. land area amounted to nearly 2.3 billion acres, with nearly 1.2 billion acres in agricultural use. The share of the land base in agricultural use declined from 63 percent in 1949 to 52 percent in 2012, the latest year for which comprehensive national data are available. Gradual declines have occurred in cropland, while grazed forestland has decreased more rapidly. In 2012, 392 million acres of agricultural land were in cropland (an 18-percent decline from 1949); 655 million acres were in grassland pasture and range (4 percent more than in 1949); 130 million acres were in grazed forestland (59 percent less than in 1949); and 8 million acres were in farmsteads and farm roads (45 percent less than in 1949). Urban land, while it represents a relatively small share of the U.S. land base, has nearly tripled in area since 1949.

Last updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

For more information contact: Kathleen Kassel