Dakota Farmer

Survey indicates fewer farmers plan to convert grassland to cropland over next 10 years; some says they are going back to grass.

January 13, 2016

1 Min Read

There's been a lot of angst over the conversion of grassland to cropland in South Dakota and North Dakota in recent years.

Land in the Conservation Reserve Program dropped from more than 50 million acres to 38 million acres over the past 10 years. Farmers and ranchers also converted pastures to cropland, mainly to grow corn and beans.

Conservationists and pheasant enthusiasts sounded the alarm. Environmental groups made preserving the prairie their top priority. A local ecologist compared the loss of grassland in the Prairie Pothole Region to the clearing of the Amazon jungle.

But the grassland conversion in the Dakotas may be coming to an end on its own.


The South Dakota Department of Agricultural Economics reports that a survey of landowners in the two states shows that comparatively few have plans to convert land from grass to crop use in the next 10 years.

Just 2.6% of the respondents to the SDSU survey said they are planning to convert native grassland to cropland.

Only 6.5% plan to convert tame grassland to cropland.

About 12.6% of the respondents said they plan to convert cropland back to pasture or grass in the next 10 years.

Most respondents did not expect major changes in grassland acres in their areas in the next 10 years.

Overall, about 40% of the respondents said they had converted some grassland to cropland in the past 10 years.

See the report in the SDSU Economics Commentator.

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