Anthony R. Arcaro, Avoiding ConsitutionalChallenges to Farmland Preservation Legislation, 24 Gonz. L. Rev.  475 (1988).

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America’s farmland is being developed at an alarming rate. Between World War II and the mid-1970s an average of 1.4 million acres of agricultural land was developed each year-an area larger than the State of Delaware.

In 1982 there were approximately 1.41 billion acres of nonfederal rural land in the United States, with 421 million acres regularly used as cropland; the remaining 993 million acres were primarily range, pasture, or forest land. Some of these remaining 933 million acres are considered cropland reserve. But in fact, only 153 million acres have high or medium potential for conversion. The rest have little or no suitability as farmland.  According to the National Agricultural Lands Study, by the year 2000 the country’s cropland reserve will probably be in full production. Those projections were made in the early 1980s. Today, the actual rate of development nationwide is not known, but by 1984 three million acres of agricultural land a year were already being developed and permanently lost for food production.

Although high-tech farming has produced high-yield crops, there are two primary limitations as to what the soil of America can produce. First, there is a limit on the amount of land that can be economically farmed. Not all of the reserve agricultural land is ideally suited for crop production. Some of the cropland reserve will require extensive and expensive preparation and erosion control in order to be cultivated. Second, not all farmland can be in production all of the time because of the constraints of agricultural science and basic practicalities. Some land needs to be left fallow in order to replenish the soil. Economic conditions or illness may prevent a farmer from planting all of his arable ground. Even if all of the land is planted, there is no guarantee of a good yield. As any farmer can tell you, the one thing that is certain about farming is that farming is uncertain.

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