The amount of agricultural land available in developed countries is decreasing by a degree which may profoundly affect in the long term the food security. This paper reports a quantitative investigation of the factors that contribute to this decrease, by analysing 30 countries during the period 1995-2009. The panel data analysis suggests that a variety of phenomena are associated with the decline in agricultural land: a high level of gross domestic product, an increase in the size of urban areas and transport networks, and an increase in agricultural productivity. This last factor is linked to the abandonment of the least productive plots of land and to its conversion to forest. In contrast, an higher quality of institutions is associated with a reduction in the rate of cropland loss. This suggests that a qualitative growth in institutional quality determines a greater attention to agricultural land as a resource for the supply of food products and environmental services.