Source: Pixabay

Acreage of Major Crops Isn't Increasing

In 2021, American farmers harvested 280 million acres of the eight biggest crops, which is less than any year from 2012-2018 and less than all but three years from 1996-2018. Acres for these crops are down 13% from their 1981 peak.  

These statistics were included in the 2021 crop acreage report released today by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).  

Harvested Acres of Major Crops
Source: Our US Crops data app


Back in April 2021, I wrote about how farmers were planning not to plant more crops in response to high prices. I speculated that the actual plantings would end up higher than these plans. That turned out not to be the case. 

Acreage in 2019 and 2020 was low due to poor weather that prevented a substantial amount of acreage from being planted.

Prospective vs Actual Planted Acreage
Source: NASS Quickstats and R code linked at end of article


The decline in major-crop acres since 1980 is concentrated outside the corn belt and the great plains. In the central corn belt, acreage has been relatively constant in the past few decades. It has increased slightly in the great plains states.

Planted acres
Source: NASS Quickstats and R code linked at end of article


Stagnant total acreage masks substantive changes in the biggest four crops: corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.  Wheat acres are down more than 50% since 1980, and almost 20% in the last decade. Hay acres have also declined in the last decade.

Source: Our US Crops data app
Source: Our US Crops data app


Corn and soybean acres are both up substantially since 1980. Corn jumped in 2007 when the Renewable Fuel Standard increased the amount of ethanol that would be required in gasoline. Soybean acreage has increased steadily, in large part due to strong and increasing demand from China.

Source: Our US Crops data app
Source: Our US Crops data app


Two things to watch in 2022 and beyond. Will total acreage continue to resist increasing in the face of high prices?  Will major-crop acreage outside the cornbelt and great plains continue to decline?


You can view the area harvested figures on our US Crops data app.  Check it out.

You can generate the remaining graphs using this R code.