The Vanishing Farmland Crisis

Critical Views of the Movement to Preserve Agricultural Land

Edited by John Baden

The 1979 publication Where Have All the Farmlands Gone? by the National Agricultural Lands Study painted a bleak future for American farmlands. Threatened by encroaching construction and soil erosion, these lands were seen as endangered—and as the direct prelude to a nation-wide shortage of both food and fiber. The NALS report, to which eleven federal agencies contributed, argued that land-use planning and control must be employed to protect valuable farmland from “urban sprawl.”

First published in 1984, this collection of essays by a distinguished group of economists, including Theodore W. Schultz, Julian L. Simon, and Pierre Crosson, takes issue with the belief that croplands need governmental protection. Rather, the collection as a whole supports two theses: 1) shrinking farm acreage is not a serious problem, and 2) individual choices by landowners in a free market setting result in better-organized land use than would governmental land-use planning and regulation.

“Readers may or may not agree with the conclusions, but they will find the presentations challenging and informative. Certainly it will be difficult for anyone interested in the subject of farmland to ignore this book.

—Annals of Iowa

“This persuasive critique is a contribution to one of the key issues in the economics of U.S. agriculture.”

—Bruce L. Gardner, author of The Governing of Agriculture and former senior staff economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisors

About the Author

John Baden is founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), and Gallatin Writers, Inc. His authored and edited books include Managing the Commons and The Next West: Public Lands, Community, and Economy in the American West.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series