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Idaho Agricultural Land Use Changes

Agriculture has been the lynchpin of both life and the economy of  Idaho since the first settlers arrived in Idaho in the 1840s.  This remained the case well into the second half of the 1900s.  For example, in 1975 Idaho had 26,900 farms encompassing 15.6 million acres of land, equal to approximately 30 percent of the state's total land area.

But as development began in Idaho's urban areas, a subtle but steady shift  began as land historically used for crops was converted into residential, commercial and industrial.  By 1987, just 12 years later,  2,758 farms had disappeared and land used for farming had declined by 1.7 million acres.  Here's a look at the decline over the 29 years between 1978 and 2007.  The figures, provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also include the economic sales value in today's dollars of crops produced on those acres.

1978:   14.7 million acres - $1.63 Billion

1987:   13.9 million acres - $2.27 Billion

1992:   13.5 million acres - $2.96 Billion

1997:   12.1 million acres - $3.39 Billion

2002:   11.8 million acres - $3.91 Billion

2007:   11.5 million acres - $5.69 Billion

By 2007 only 21.7 percent of Idaho's lands were being used for agriculture, a decline of more than 8 percent since 1975.  That decline represents is a loss of some 4.1 million acres of agricultural land in just three decades. Using 2007 figures, the missing 4.1 million acres resulted in the loss of $2 Billion in additional agricultural revenue.

The impact of development is most apparent in southwestern Idaho which contains the state's largest metropolitan area. A series of images prepared by the GIS Center of the Idaho Department of Water Resources visually depicts Treasure Valley land use changes from agriculture to residential, commercial and industrial use at three different  points in time: 1939, 1994 and 2000.  It is an ongoing trend that is echoed in the other geographical regions of the state.

View Illustration

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