Analysis: 23 million acres converted to cropland

High crop prices and crop insurance subsidies contributed to the conversion of more than 23 million acres of grass, wetlands and other animal habitat into fields of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and other crops between 2008 and 2011. That’s the conclusion of a new report by the Environmental Working Group and the Defenders of Wildlife.

Read the report, titled “Plowed Under.” It is based on a comparison of satellite images collected by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read a Star Tribune article about the report.

“Plowed Under” says that more than 8.4 million acres of grassland, shrub land and wetlands were converted to plant corn, more than 5.6 million to raise soybeans and nearly 5.2 million to grow winter wheat. The conversion totaled 1.34 million acres in Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune.

In 2007, a General Accounting Office report, titled “Farm Programs Are an Important Factor in Landowners’ Decisions to Convert Grassland to Cropland,” reached some of the same conclusions about the incentives that farm subsidies and crop insurance gave farmers and ranchers to plow up grassland.