Cropland and Soils: Past Performance and Policy Challenges
Pierre R. Crosson
The agricultural system in the United States is a great provider of food and fiber to its citizens as well as to a large portion of the world community. Of the existing total land area of 1.9 billion acres, about 600 million acres have physical characteristics favorable to crop production: sufficient rainfall, deep- to-adequate topsoil depth with good water-holding capacity, and gentle slopes. The Midwest, especially the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, most of Missouri, and the southern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, is favored in these respects. Soils in much of the Mississippi Delta region, along the Gulf Coast, and in the Tidewater region of the eastern states, also are rich and deep but generally require drainage to be most productive. More inland soils, stretching more or less continuously from New England down through Georgia and across eastern Texas, generally are thinner and less naturally fertile than the soils of the Midwest ( Cochrane, 1979).