Introduction

Texas is home to over 142 million acres of private farms, ranches and forestlands, thus leading the nation in land area devoted to privately-owned working lands. These lands account for 84% of the state’s entire land area and provide substantial economic, environmental, and recreational resources to the benefit of the state’s entire population.

Statewide Trends

Side Oats

Ownership Size

By the end of 2007, the USDA Census of Agriculture accounted for over 247,000 farming and ranching operations in the state. This represents an 8% increase since the census of 1997. In other words, Texas annually gained about 1,900 new working farms and ranches. However, the land base for Texas agriculture has decreased by as much as 2% during the same period. Average ownership size declined from 585 acres in 1997 to 527 acres in 2007.

  • By 2007, smaller operations – those less than 100 acres in size – accounted for over 50% the state’s total farming & ranching operations, while occupying only 3% of the land area. This class of smaller operations increased by 22% since 1997, and was the only ownership size class showing an overall net increase in land area across the state.

  • The amount of land in mid-sized farms & ranches (500 to 2,000 acres) has continued to decline at the rate of about 250,000 acres per year.

  • Large ownerships – those greater than 2000 acres in size – account for about 4% of all farms & ranches, but they occupy about 62% of the state’s total farm & ranchland. While larger operations have slightly increased in total number since 1997, they have decreased in land area by 461,000 acres.

  • The loss or gain in area represented by large operations varied according to ecological region. For example, since 1997 over 2.8 million acres of larger farms & ranches in the Trans Pecos, Edwards Plateau and South Texas were fragmented into mid-sized and smaller ownerships. In other regions – the High Plains, Rolling Plains, Coastal Sand Plains, Oak Woods & Prairies, and Blackland Prairies – about 2.5 million acres of mid-sized properties were consolidated into larger operations.

Land Use

At 92.6 million acres, native rangeland continues to be the prevailing general category of land use in Texas. Since 1997, the accumulated localized losses of native rangeland have exceeded 4.8 million acres. In addition the statewide area in dry (non-irrigated) cropland has declined by 1.57 million acres.

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One of the most notable trends continues to be the conversion of native rangelands and croplands to non-native pastures. Non-native pastures now account for over 11 million acres and are the third largest land use category in the state.

A more recent trend in land use is a shift to “wildlife management” use following state legislation in 1996 that created the official land use category for tax appraisal purposes. Since then, lands classified as being in wildlife management have increased to 2.37 million acres. Some of the local decline in native rangelands can be attributed to this shift to wildlife management use.



Land Values

In 2007 the average appraised market value of farms, ranches & forestlands in Texas was $1,196 per acre. On the average, this represents a 140% increase in appraised market value over the 10-year period. The increase in market values have tended to be highest in those areas surrounding major metropolitan growth areas. The Edwards Plateau, Llano Uplift and areas in the east-central portion of the state have seen the steepest price inflation. The High Plains, Trans Pecos, and Coastal Sand Plains had appraised market value increases of less than 60% over the 10-year period.

Cows

Loss Of Agricultural Lands

According to accumulated data County Appraisal Districts, over 2.1 million acres of farms, ranches and forestlands were converted to other uses over the period from 1997 to 2007. Over 40% of this land conversion was related to growth and development associated with population expansion in the state’s 25 highest growth counties. During this period, 861,765 acres were lost from the agricultural land base in these counties. As a function of population increase, roughly 149 acres of agricultural lands were consumed per 1,000 new residents.

Collaborators

Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources


American Farmland Trust


Sponsors

The Brown Foundation

Houston Endowment

Shield-Ayers Foundation

Magnolia Charitable Trust

The Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation