OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma ranks 12th in the nation in number of acres dedicated to farmland, according to the latest Major Land Uses (MLU) Survey produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The 2012 MLU, the latest available from the series which has been published since 1945, reports the following data for the Sooner State:
• total cropland: 11,290,000 acres
• cropland as a percent of all state land: 25.7% (#13 highest among all states)
• cropland used for crops: 9,155,000 acres
• idle cropland: 1,123,000 acres
• cropland pasture: 1,011,000 acres
• most valuable crops produced: hay ($527 million), wheat ($360.5 million), cotton ($260.3 million)
The MLU ranked Texas #1 in the nation for acres dedicated to farmland, and Kansas #2; Iowa, #4; Nebraska, #7; California, #16; Arkansas, #17; Florida, #31; and New Mexico, #34. Rhode Island had the least cropland: 25,000 acres in 2012. An agricultural statistics report prepared by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry reported that in 2015 our state had 78,000 farms constituting 34.2 million acres. More recently, a 2017 USDA “Census of Agriculture” included profiles of all 77 Oklahoma counties. The census showed that while the number of farms in nine southwest Oklahoma counties declined by 6.5% between 2012 and 2017, acreage devoted to crops and pasture in those farms increased by 1.63% during that five-year period.
USDA ledgers show that 312 million acres of U.S. cropland were harvested last year. Records dating back to 1910 show that the peak was reached in 1932, when 361 million acres of cropland were harvested, but plunged to 296 million acres two years later in the depths of the Great Depression. Unemployment nationwide soared to 25% in 1933 and hovered around 22% in 1934. With more than 329 million American mouths to feed and approximately $139.6 billion worth of agricultural exports, American farms need plenty of land to grow and produce crops. Thanks to widespread mechanization, American farms are some of the most productive on Earth, fetching high yields of the top crops: corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cotton. Those crops account for over one-third of the country’s exports. Livestock plays a vital role, too, with American farmers raising over two trillion cows, pigs, sheep and chickens.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture recorded:
• 4.85 million head of cattle and calves on Jan. 1, 2016
• 2.11 million hogs on Dec. 1, 2015
The 2017-18 Oklahoma Almanac reported that farmers in this state last year raised:
• 7.23 million chickens and hens, plus • 109,000 sheep and lambs
Cash receipts for all Oklahoma commodities sold in 2015 totaled $7.14 billion, according to the state agricultural statistics report. Oklahoma ag exports in 2012 totaled nearly $1.8 billion, records indicate. America’s shift to high-yield, mechanized farming – which soared into hyper-drive during World War II, when the country needed vast quantities of fats, oils and meals for herself and allies – changed the makeup of American agriculture. Family farms disappeared in the face of massive factory farms. In 1870 more than 50% of the nation’s population was employed in agriculture, a number that has since dwindled to under 2%; today the U.S. has approximately two million farm households.