Trends show more agricultural land lost to development

The new 2022 Census of Agriculture data shows the number of farms in Ohio declined by 2.3% and in land in farms declined by 6.4% between 2002 and 2022. One number that is concerning to agricultural stakeholders in Ohio is the loss of 931,089 acres in land in farms in Ohio in the last 20 years. 

The question is how much of the agricultural land in Ohio was lost to development?

Ani Katchova, Professor and Farm Income Enhancement Chair, and Xiaoyi Fang and Rae Ju, PhD students in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at the Ohio State University published a report to answer this question.

They used the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) of the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (https://www.mrlc.gov/eva/) which uses satellite imagery to show land of different categories and changes in land categories over time. 

The definition of agricultural land according to the NLCD includes cultivated crops and pasture/hay, which is narrower than the more general definition of land in farms (which also includes woodland, wasteland, and land in conservation programs) according to the Census of Agriculture. According to NLCD, 355,085 acres of agricultural land in Ohio was lost between 2001 and 2021. The NLCD defines several categories for developed land — high, medium, and low intensity developed land and open space developed land. While counties located in the Metropolitan Statistical Areas had among the largest percentages of agricultural land loss to development (as high as 93% for Franklin County), the overall percentage of agricultural land lost to development in Ohio has been 51% between 2001 and 2021. Using these statistics, the best estimate for the agricultural land lost to development in Ohio is 180,691 acres over the last 20 years. 

The report can be found at: aede.osu.edu/sites/aede/files/publication_files/AgLandLosttoDevelopment2024.pdf

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