The 1995 Freedom to Farm legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress discarded many of the restrictions that had previously caused farmers not to change crops. Under it - and farm bills since that time - producers have been able to participate in the farm programs and still make their own cropping choices. A University of Illinois study has looked at how acreage patterns have shifted in the United States since Freedom to Farm. Todd Gleason has the details...
The 1995 freedom to Farm Act gave producers to plant what they believed to be their most competitive crop and still participate in the farm program. That choice tenant still underlies today’s farm bill legislation, and when comparing the five-year period just before it’s enactment to the last five years, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, there are clear-cut winners and losers in terms of crops and acreage says University of Illinois Farm Management Specialist Gary Schnitkey: “what we saw is a movement towards soybeans and corn, and soybeans gained 14 million acres from the early period to 2005 to 2009, corn gained 9 million, so those two crops were the only crops that gained in acres, the other crops, hay and rice were stable, but the big losers were wheat, barley and grain sorghum.
Again, when comparing the era from 1990 to ’94, to 2005 to 2009, soybeans and corn grew in acres, crops losing acres were wheat, barley and grain sorghum, along with corn silage, cotton, peanuts, dry-edible beans and potatoes.
To evaluate acreage changes data detailing acres harvested in the United States by year, were obtained by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, data were collected for all crops with over 1 million acres harvested in 2008. There were 13 of them; soybean, corn for grain, hay, rice, wheat, barley, gain sorghum, corn for silage, cotton, peanuts, dry-edible beans, potatoes and sugar beets.
Acres harvested were averaged for the years 1990 through ’94, the years preceding the passage of the 1995 farm bill, and 2005 through 2009. Between the early ‘90’s and the late 2000’s, soybeans were the crop with the largest acreage increase, it averaged 58.2 million acres harvested in the early 1990’s, increasing to 72.2 million acres in the late 200’s, it’s a 14 million acre increase or about 25%.
Corn also had a sizeable increase of 90.4 million acres, or about 14% from one period to the other. Wheat had the largest reduction from 62.8 million acres to 50.7 million acres, or down 19%.
The data, says Schnitkey, shows the largest increases in corn and soybeans was concentrated in the Great Plains, and in the even greater Corn Belt…”the stat that gained the most in corn and soybean acres was North Dakota, gained 4 million acres, and other big gainers were Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.”
Again, the commodities with the largest gains over the period, both and pre and post Freedom to Farm, were soybean and corn, wheat, barley, grain sorghum, corn for silage, and cotton, experienced the largest losses.