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Abstract

While urban area increased rapidly during the 1970's, it was a small percentage of total land area. Cropland and pasture losses were comparatively small. Conversion of other rural land to cropland and pasture replaced more than one-third of losses to urban uses. "Land consumption" by urban uses has remained constant at about a half acre per household in fast-growth counties since 1960. The most rapidly growing counties had the highest land conversion rates. Higher rates also occurred in counties with smaller initial populations than in counties with larger population bases. However, these counties accounted for little total land conversion. Projected urban land conversion will not significantly reduce the U.S. cropland base by the year 2000. Increases in agricultural production due to technological change should more than compensate for projected cropland losses. Urbanization of agricultural land does raise issues at the State and local levels in regard to protecting watersheds, maintaining air quality, maintaining open space, preserving rural lifestyles, preventing urban sprawl, and preserving local economies.

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