Farm Progress

Here’s how a decade of land use changes will continue to pressure the beef industry.

Alan Newport, Editor, Beef Producer

April 5, 2017

2 Min Read
Analyst thinks it unlikely cropground will revert to permanent pasture without "extended" period of low crop prices.

The end-of-March USDA planting report highlighted the currently large amount of crop ground in the nation and surreptitiously pointed to the decreases in pasture and hay over the past decade.

Once it is converted to crop ground, it’s hard to get land back into pasture, at least into permanent pasture, says Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist.

Peel says data on pasture acreage is not available every year but the most recent National Resource Inventory from USDA-NRCS showed that from 2007 to 2012, pasture acreage in the eastern half of the nation decreased by 2.2 million acres. This includes the major cropping areas of the Midwest.

He notes increases in corn and soybean acreage, especially in the Midwest, came at the expense of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, pasture acres, and harvested hay acres. He also says cow-calf producers in the Midwest report pasture and hay are in limited supply and expensive, making it difficult to compete with cow–calf production in other regions.

“This raises the question of whether lower crop prices will result in reestablishment of pasture in the Midwest and other major cropping regions,” he says.

Peel thinks there could be short-term increase in annual crops for hay and pasture in these regions, but expects it unlikely any major shifts from crop to pasture will happen anytime soon.

He says in the latest USDA crop intentions report, expectations for total harvested hay acreage is down slightly for the US versus last year, but hay acreage is projected to be up year-over-year in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. He says there is no data available right now to determine whether perennial pastures are being reestablished in major crop areas, but he thinks not.

“Reseeding pastures would require fences, water development for grazing and an expectation of several years of beneficial use for grazing,” Peel says. “Until or unless crop prices remain depressed for an extended period of time, there will likely continue to be less hay and pasture forage resources available in major crop regions compared to earlier periods.”

About the Author(s)

Alan Newport

Editor, Beef Producer

Alan Newport is editor of Beef Producer, a national magazine with editorial content specifically targeted at beef production for Farm Progress’s 17 state and regional farm publications. Beef Producer appears as an insert in these magazines for readers with 50 head or more of beef cattle. Newport lives in north-central Oklahoma and travels the U.S. to meet producers and to chase down the latest and best information about the beef industry.

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