Texas is changing and growing, but is all change good?

As the Lone Star State’s population continues to grow, its farm and ranch acres are disappearing.

The land isn’t gone, but its use is.

Texas lost about 2.2 million acres of working lands from 1997-2017, according to data from the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute. The rate of conversion accelerated in the last five-year period, with over 1.2 million acres lost during that time.

“That’s a staggering loss for Texas farmers, ranchers and forestland owners,” Leanne Hempel, Victoria County Farm Bureau president, said. “That’s a lot of people, homes, shopping centers, restaurants, stores and more. We’re losing our working agricultural land at a fast rate.”

The surging population growth and years of strong economic activity are the main factors for working land conversion.

Population growth increases land values and markets, creating incentives for landowners to subdivide and sell their land. As ownership sizes decrease, the likelihood of maintaining a profit with traditional farming, ranching and forestry uses also decreases, facilitating the conversion of working lands to non-agricultural uses.

That conversion is expected to continue.

By 2050, the Lone Star State is projected to have more than 40 million residents, according to the Texas Demographic Center.

“We need to keep our farmers, ranchers and forestry owners on the land to grow our food, help conserve water, preserve wildlife habitat and manage our natural resources,” Hempel said. “Keeping farmers and ranchers on the land is good for the land and it’s good for Texas.”

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