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National Resources Inventory Provides Snapshot of the Nation’s Agriculture

Washington, January, 2014Snapshot of Agricultural Lands

A new report shows a boom in growing certain specialty crops as well as a growth in agricultural land, stable erosion rates, and notable land use changes.

These findings are just a few from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service's 2010 National Resources Inventory Report, which provides a summary on the status, condition and trends of land, soil, water, and related resources on the nation’s private lands from 1982 to 2010. The NRI report includes data from 800,000 sample locations across the country.

A view from a hillside crop field with farms in the background“The NRI summary report is the only report of its kind and is one of our most comprehensive tools to understanding what’s actually happening on the country’s landscape,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “As a science-based organization, this information is an invaluable resource to help us understand where conservation is working and where we need to focus more effort.”

NRCS is increasing the frequency of NRI reports, recognizing the dynamic and rapid changes in the agricultural and related land uses.

 

Some of the highlights include:

  • Land dedicated for cultivated fruits, nuts and flowers increased from 124,800 in 2007 to 273,800 in 2010;
  • Cropland acreage increased by about 2 million acres from 2007 to 2010 after a steady decline over the previous 25 years;
  • Acres in pastureland increased by 847,000 acres;
  • Developed land increased two percent from 111.1 to 113.3 million acres;
  • Palustrine wetlands, such as swamps or marshes, and estuarine wetlands, such as a river flowing into the ocean, saw a small increase from 1997 to 2010;
  • Cropland erosion rates remained stable despite a growth in agricultural land use and more extreme weather events, such as drought and floods.

Web image: Photo of an area that was cleared years ago for cropping, restored to its pre-disturbanc“We expected to see an increase in the erosion, but our numbers told a different story,” said Patrick Flanagan, PhD, who is NRCS’ national statistician.

NRCS records also show growth in conservation programs administered by the agency. Enrollment grew from about 17 million acres in 2007 to about 40 million in 2010.

“We’re excited that more farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have chosen to voluntarily install conservation practices on their operations,” Weller said. “Because of their hard work and dedication, cropland erosion rates have remained stable even though more land is in production.”

The 2010 report marks 28 years of scientifically valid, comprehensive and relevant data on how U.S. non-federal rural lands are being used. It also gives a statistical perspective on natural resource and environmental conditions for these lands, with the specific goal of supporting agricultural and environmental policy development and program implementation. It serves as the foundation for critical analytical efforts for USDA and other agencies and groups.

Download the report here. For more information, email the NRI Help Desk.

Read more on our National NRCS web site.