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Economist Debunks 'Not Making Any More Land' Myth

Economist Debunks 'Not Making Any More Land' Myth
Surprising numbers show how much more land is in production around the world.

Here's a casual dinner conversation at a meeting just the other day. Someone mentioned how high a piece of land had sold for – more than $14,500 per acre for nearly a 1,000 acre tract of good land. One of the parties chimed in. "If I had the money, I would invest in that land," the person said. "The price will only go up. They just aren't making any more land. It's got to be a good investment."

Raise more crops: Perhaps no one is making land, but around the world millions of acres that weren't farmed before are coming under the plow, so to speak, Mike Boehlje says.

Unfortunately, Mike Boehlje wasn't sitting at the table. It might have been interesting to have heard his response. Boehlje is a Purdue University Extension ag economist. Based on what he said earlier the same week in front of a packed room consisting of Indiana Certified Crop advisers, the conversation with this "buy land now" person might have gotten lively.

"The idea that 'they aren't making any more land so I should pay more or buy more' is a myth," Boehlje insists. "There was 147 million acres brought into the production around the world recently that had not raised row crops in the year before. That's one and one-half times the U.S. corn acreage."

The message for the past seven years with increasing commodity prices has been to find more land to produce crops on, he says. People around the world have attempted to do so.

Not all of it is outside the U.S., however. Boehlje says that while much of that has come from the Soviet Union and Africa, 18 million new acres have come into production in the U.S. over the past few years. About 14 million of those acres were land that was originally in the Conservation Reserve Program, but which rolled out and farmers decided not to re-enroll. In some cases, cuts in funding prevented re-enrollment. In other cases, farmers simply chose to keep the land out and farm it again.

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