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Midwest Farms in Dramatic Decline

One third of the cropland in the upper Midwest has entirely lost its fertile topsoil!

“Farms Under Threat” research has shown that before 2040, as many as 23.5 million acres, nearly 36,000 square miles of farmland — may be lost across the Midwest in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. This loss will disproportionately impact smaller farms that often serve local markets with fresh produce, eggs, dairy and meat. Small and peri-urban farms also tend to incubate new farmers and are instrumental in navigating supply chain disruptions currently experienced at grocery stores across the nation. By 2040, agriculture in the Midwest will also be significantly constrained by water due to impacts of climate change. As temperatures continue to rise in the Midwest, precipitation is expected to become more intense in late winter and early spring, followed by drier summer months.

Agri News reports that If recent trends continue, 363,375 acres of Illinois’s farmland will be … “...converted to uses that jeopardize agriculture by 2040. That represents an area nearly 2.5 times larger than the city of Chicago and equates to the loss of more than 1,500 farms and 3,400 farm jobs. Will, Kane and Kendall counties will be the hardest hit, with Will County ranking second of all counties in the nation for loss of cropland due to urban development. ”Illinois, a top producer of soybeans and corn, could lose as much as 448,371 acres of farmland. Based on recent trends projected to 2040, 451,100 acres of Indiana farmland will be lost as well. This equates to losing 2,200 farms, $259 million in farm inputs and 4,400 jobs based on county averages. The hardest-hit counties would be Hamilton, Lake and Hendricks. The state could lose as much as 602,200 acres of farmland. Simultaneously, an aging farming population is retiring, potentially leaving 40% of America’s agricultural land with an uncertain future. These states have some of the oldest populations with the exception of Illinois at 16.5 the other states listed have an average of 18% of the population over the age of 65 and some of the lowest birth rates in the country!

In Wisconsin, the birth rate is below the national average. There were 10.3 births for every 1,000. The birthrates in Missouri and Illinois have been steadily declining and more people than ever are choosing not to have children. There’s some cause for concern about the decline in birth and fertility rates in the U.S. Recent data suggests the U.S. birth rate is the lowest it’s ever been. Some predict that the nation’s prosperity is at stake should the trend continue. In Missouri, more people died last year than were born, with 4,555 more deaths than births, which hasn’t happened before in the 110 years that those vital numbers have been recorded, according to a provisional report from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The Minnesota birth rate has also been on the decline for years, with the 2019 rate sitting at 11.71 births per 1000, compared to 14.16 per 1,000 in 2007, according to CDC data.

This rate of decline matches the national trend. “We haven’t had replacement level fertility in Minnesota since 2006,” said Megan Dayton, a senior demographer at the Minnesota State Demographic Center. Replacement level fertility is 2.1 births per woman, a number that would “replace” two parents, with the additional 0.1 to account for infant fatalities. “Now, the birth rate has decreased every year since and we’re nearing 1.75 births per woman. ”At the same time, fertility rates in Indiana continued to decline, resulting in only 77,600 births last year—the state's lowest annual tally on record dating back to the late 1960s.According to state records, the number of babies born in Iowa has declined fairly steadily since 2016, when 39,094 children were born.

And this isn’t the least of their problems because moderate to severe drought covers 70% of Michigan, 57% of Iowa, 46% of Minnesota, 34% of Wisconsin, and 9% of Illinois. The most fertile topsoil is entirely gone from a third of all the land devoted to growing crops across the upper Midwest. with direct measurements of soil quality that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has carried out, it was found that light brown soil which contains very little organic carbon was prevalent in the region. The topsoil layer was gone! What's more, this was consistently the case in particular parts of the landscape. Specifically the hilltops. Scientists believe that a century of plowing is to blame. The soil gradually fell down hillsides, a little bit each year, as farmers tilled the soil. The USDA team then expanded their study to fields of corn, soybeans, and other crops within a large area of the upper Midwest that includes much of Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa. They calculated that about a third of the crops were growing on erosion-prone hills. This produced their estimate that a third of all cropland in that region had lost its topsoil.


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