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States With the Most Farmland, Ranked

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With more than 330 million American mouths to feed and about $136.7 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 five crops: corn, soybeans, alfalfa, cotton, and cattle. Livestock plays a vital role, with 2 million American farms raising billions of cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens.

America’s shift to high-yield, mechanized farming—which kicked into hyper-drive during World War II when the country needed vast quantities of fats, oils, and meals for herself and her allies—forever changed the makeup of American agriculture. Family farms folded in the face of massive factory farms: In 1870, over 50 percent of the population was employed in agriculture, a number that has since dwindled to 1.3 percent in 2019. Historically intensive land use depleted topsoil, spread non-native weeds, and aided deforestation, which led to federal legislation protecting wildlands and subsidizing efficient agricultural practices.

The U.S. in 2019 had 2.02 million farm households, but which American regions have the most acreage devoted to farming? Stacker analyzed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Major Land Uses (MLU) survey, then ranked each state and the District of Columbia based on the number of acres each has dedicated to farmland. For further context, each slide also provides total cropland acreage, cropland used for crops, idle cropland, and cropland used for pasture. Top crops are from USDA state agriculture overviews as of March 8, 2021.

The 2012 MLU data is the latest available from the series, which has been published since 1945—Alaska and Hawaii were added in 1959 when they became states. The USDA reports that the Major Land Uses series is the “longest-running, most comprehensive accounting of all major uses of public and private land in the United States.”

Data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture, a count of the country’s farmers and ranchers that happens every 5 years, is also featured.

Read on to discover where the ingredients for your family’s next meal may have been grown or raised.

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Dean_Fikar/Getty Images

1. Texas

– Total cropland: 29,215,000 acres
– Cropland as a percent of all state land: 17.5% (#21 highest among all states)
– Cropland used for crops: 21,598,000 acres
– Idle cropland: 4,773,000 acres
– Cropland pasture: 2,844,000 acres
– Most valuable crops produced: cotton ($1.8 billion), corn ($1.2 billion), hay & haylage ($1.2 billion), sorghum ($318.0 million), wheat ($306.7 million)

Texas is out front in terms of the number of farms and ranches of any state in the country. Its top crops are cotton, corn, grains for feed, rice, and wheat. There are also olive and pecan orchards and fruit and vegetable farms in the Rio Grande Valley.

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