In thousands of acres, with margins of error
|Irrigated Cultivated Cropland
|Nonirrigated Cultivated Cropland
|Total Cultivated Cropland
|Irrigated Noncultivated Cropland
|Nonirrigated Noncultivated Cropland
|Total Noncultivated Cropland
• Cropland includes cultivated and noncultivated cropland.
About the Data
Estimates presented here are based upon the latest information from the
National Resources Inventory (NRI).
The NRI is a longitudinal sample
survey based upon scientific statistical
principles and procedures. It is conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),
in cooperation with Iowa State University’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology.
These results are based upon the 2012 NRI, which provides nationally consistent
data for the 30-year period 1982–2012.
Current estimates cover the contiguous 48 States, Hawaii, and the Caribbean Area.
Release of NRI results is guided by NRCS policy and is in accordance with OMB
and USDA Quality of Information Guidelines developed in 2001.
NRCS is releasing NRI estimates only when they meet statistical standards and are scientifically
credible in accordance with these policies;
also, measures of statistical uncertainty are provided for all 2012 NRI estimates released to
The findings on land use come from the NRI data category "Land Cover/Use,"
which comprises mutually exclusive categories such as cropland, rangeland, forest land,
other rural land, developed land, and water areas.
The NRI uses this classification
to account for every acre of non-Federal land within
the Nation. Every parcel of land is described by one and only one of these categories.
The NRI approach
to conducting inventories facilitates examining trends
in rural and developed land uses over time because—
- the same sample sites have been studied since 1982;
- the same data have been collected since 1982 [definitions and protocols
have remained the same];
- the inventory accounts for 100 percent of the surface area;
- quality assurance and statistical procedures are designed/developed to
ensure that trend data are scientifically legitimate and unambiguous; and
- it is easy to track lands as they go from one land-use category to another.
Irrespective of the scale of analysis, margins of error must be considered.
Margins of error (at the 95
percent confidence level) are presented for all NRI estimates.
Note that estimates of change between two points in time will be less precise (relatively)
than estimates for a single
inventory year because the changes will be occurring on a smaller fraction of the landscape.
- Land cover/use. A term that includes categories of land cover and
categories of land use. Land cover is the vegetation or other kind of material that covers the
land surface. Land use is the purpose of human activity on the land; it is usually, but not
always, related to land cover. The NRI uses the term land cover/use to identify categories that
account for all the surface area of the United States.
- Cropland. A land cover/use category that includes areas used for the
production of adapted crops for harvest. Two subcategories of cropland are recognized: cultivated
and noncultivated. Cultivated cropland comprises land in row crops or close-grown crops and also
other cultivated cropland, for example, hayland or pastureland that is in a rotation with row or
close-grown crops. Noncultivated cropland includes permanent hayland and horticultural cropland.
- Close-grown crops. Crops that are generally drill-seeded or broadcast, such as
wheat, oats, rice, barley, and flax.
- Row crops. A subset of the land cover/use category cropland (subcategory,
cultivated) comprising land in row crops, such as corn, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, sorghum, sugar
beets, sunflowers, tobacco, vegetables, and cotton.
- Hayland. A subcategory of cropland managed for the production of forage crops
that are machine harvested. The crop may be grasses, legumes, or a combination of both. Hayland also
includes land in set-aside or other short-term agricultural programs.
- Horticultural cropland. A subcategory of cropland used for growing fruit, nut,
berry, vineyard, and other bush fruit and similar crops. Nurseries and other ornamental plantings are
- Irrigated land. Land that shows evidence of being irrigated during the year of
the inventory or of having been irrigated during 2 or more of the last 4 years. Water is supplied to
crops by ditches, pipes, or other conduits. For the purposes of the NRI, water spreading is not
- Water spreading. Diverting or collecting runoff from natural channels, gullies,
or streams with a system of dams, dikes, ditches, or other means, and spreading it over a relatively
flat area. (See Irrigated land.)
- Margins of Error. Margins of error are reported for each NRI estimate. The margin
of error is used to construct the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate. The lower bound of
the interval is obtained by subtracting the margin of error from the estimate; the upper bound is
obtained by adding the margin of error to the estimate. Confidence intervals can be created for various
levels of significance which is a measure of how certain we are that the interval contains the true
value we are estimating. A 95 percent confidence interval means that in repeated samples from the same
population, 95 percent of the time the true underlying population parameter will be contained within the
lower and upper bounds of the interval.
For more definitions see the full
2012 NRI Glossary.
For more information about the NRI, visit
Send comments and questions to the NRI Help Desk
Citation for this website:
U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015.
2012 National Resources Inventory.
Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DC. 15 January 2016 *
*[use date the website was accessed]