The 1979 publication Where Have All the Farmlands Gone? by the National Agricultural Lands Study painted a bleak future for American farmlands. Threatened by encroaching construction and soil erosion, these lands were seen as endangered—and as the direct prelude to a nation-wide shortage of both food and fiber. The NALS report, to which eleven federal agencies contributed, argued that land-use planning and control must be employed to protect valuable farmland from “urban sprawl.”
First published in 1984, this collection of essays by a distinguished group of economists, including Theodore W. Schultz, Julian L. Simon, and Pierre Crosson, takes issue with the belief that croplands need governmental protection. Rather, the collection as a whole supports two theses: 1) shrinking farm acreage is not a serious problem, and 2) individual choices by landowners in a free market setting result in better-organized land use than would governmental land-use planning and regulation.
John Baden is founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), and Gallatin Writers, Inc. His authored and edited books include Managing the Commons and The Next West: Public Lands, Community, and Economy in the American West.
Edited by John Baden. Contributors include John Baden, Pierre Crosson, William Fischell, B. Delworth Gardner, Clifton B. Luttrell, Robert H. Nelson, E. C. Pasour, Jr., Theodore W. Schultz, and Julian L. Simon.
This Kansas Open Books title is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.