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Inventory of Lost Farmland

Inventory of Lost Farmland 2010 – 2022

In 2023, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act 1557, which tasked the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) to take an inventory of lost farmland. The requirements provided by the law are as follows:

  1. Conduct an inventory of all farmland lost in Indiana from 2010 to 2022;
  2. Identify the primary cause of the reduction of farmland; and
  3. Issue a report to the Legislative Council containing the department’s findings and recommendations, including recommended legislation.

According to IC 14-22-11-1(a)(2), farmland is defined as, “(1) devoted or best adaptable for the production of crops, fruits, timber and the raising of livestock, or (2) assessed as agricultural land for property tax purposes.”

Download the full inventory of lost farmland report here.


ISDA used two sources of data – (1) parcel data from the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) and (2) the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Crop Data Layer (CDL).

DLGF parcel data was used as tabular data, which provided insights about the quantity of land use change but could not be used to assess any geospatial patterns in land use change.
DLGF classifies properties in blocks of 100. Agriculture uses are classified as 100-199. The classifications for agriculture include:

Agricultural – Vacant Land, Agricultural – Cash Grian/General Farm, Agricultural – Livestock other than Dairy or Poultry, Agricultural – Dairy Farm, Agricultural – Poultry Farm, Agricultural – Fruit & Nut Farm, Agricultural – Vegetable Farm, Agricultural – Tobacco Farm, Agricultural – Nursery, Agricultural – Greenhouses, Agricultural – Hog Farm, Agricultural – Beef Farm, Agricultural – Timber, Agricultural Land with Mobile Home, Agricultural Land with PP Mobile Home, Agricultural Build Lease Land, and Agricultural – Other Agricultural Use.

The CDL was used to provide insight into the geospatial changes of land use change. However, estimates of land use change were also calculated. CDL identified the change in use into the following reclassification schemas: Agricultural, Developed Land, Forest and Wetland, and Other. (For the classifications, see Table 5 in the report)


ISDA determined through the Inventory of Lost Farmland that there has been an overall reduction of farmland acres of approximately 1.5-2% from 2010-2022. This was determined by the total agricultural acreage loss of approximately 3.5%, then factoring in the total agricultural acreage gained of approximately 1.7%. The results show that agricultural land was most likely to be lost in areas around the edges of cities and suburban areas.

According to the DLGF’s parcel data, there were approximately 18,314,648 acres of agricultural land with a property class code denoting agricultural use in 2010, and approximately 17,968,966 acres in 2022. This represents an approximate loss of 345,682 acres, or a 1.89% decrease.

Below are the primary causes of reduction in farmland in approximate acreage according to DLGF parcel data:

  1. Agriculture to residential – more than 370,000 acres
  2. Agriculture to other – more than 68,000 acres
  3. Agriculture to industrial – more than 41,000 acres
  4. Agriculture to commercial – more than 27,000 acres
  5. Agriculture to mineral – more than 2,100 acres

While there was a net loss of farmland, ISDA was also able to identify the number of approximate acres gained to agriculture:

  1. Residential to agriculture – more than 328,000 acres
  2. Commercial to agriculture – more than 25,000 acres
  3. Other to agriculture – more than 21,000 acres
  4. Industrial to agriculture – more than 13,000 acres
  5. Mineral to agriculture – more than 800 acres

When looking at DLGF data, one should consider that there are 92 county assessors in the state who implement Indiana’s property tax laws and assign property class codes to the best of their ability. However, there is bound to be differences in how certain, non-routine properties could be classified year over year and from county to county. While the property class codes used by county assessors include a variety of different property types attributable to agricultural property, each individual parcel has the potential to be a mixed-used parcel, which means that there could possibly be more than one property designation that is applicable to the parcel. Although every parcel can have assessed value attributed to the 1%, 2%, and 3% property tax cap, only one property class code can be assigned to a parcel. County assessors are directed to select property class codes that can be attributed to the predominate use of the parcel. In other words, it is possible that some mixed-use parcels containing agricultural property cannot be identified through a specific property class code.

The NASS CDL showed a total of approximately 14,606,334 acres of farmland with land classified as any type of agricultural use in 2010, and a total of approximately 14,040,419 acres with land classified as any type of agricultural use in 2022. This represents an approximate loss of 565,915 acres, or a 3.87% decrease.

Since the CDL data was used to provide insight into the geospatial changes of land use, the estimates of land use change quantity from this method of analysis generally have a downward bias. The image generalization workflow is likely to further bias quantity results, as it removes small and isolated pixels, and changes edges of regions, which will affect the accuracy of quantity estimates. Therefore, the CDL dataset is likely less reliable in providing accurate quantity estimates than the parcel data because there is more error during the process.

It is also important to note that the DLGF data does not separate renewable energy from agricultural uses. It can also be difficult to determine how accurate the CDL data separates renewable energy from agricultural uses. Therefore, ISDA received data from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) and the Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) to understand the number of acres used for solar. Currently reported by the IURC, there are 7,611 acres in operation and 19,214 acres under construction. The IMPA operates 1,482.97 acres for solar.

Since the focus of the report is on lost farmland, it’s important to note ISDA is unable to conclude that a solar project was or is being built on farmland. There is no available data to identify the total amount or solar built on farmland.

ISDA does not include wind energy in this number as those projects use significantly less acres.


HEA 1557 directed ISDA to include recommendations in the report. While ISDA does not have recommended legislative language, ISDA has considerations for the Indiana General Assembly.

  1. Due to a steady increase in population and continued economic growth, ISDA recommends the legislature pass legislation directing ISDA to update the Inventory of Lost Farmland every five years, starting in 2029 for a report to be published in 2030. ISDA believes getting on this five-year schedule will be most beneficial as data from the Census of Agriculture will be released again in 2029.
    • The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.
    • The most current Census of Agriculture was released in February 2024, which contains data for 2022. The next census will be conducted in 2027 with an expected release in 2029. ISDA believes it would be important to include this information when updating the Inventory of Lost Farmland in the future. (Note – the Census of Agriculture is data through December of the year USDA conducts the census, which is then typically released a year and two months after the information is collected.)
  2. Consider prime farmland and its location in Indiana including the total number of acres in the state. According to USDA, in 2017 Indiana had approximately 12.56 million acres of prime cropland, pastureland, forestland, and other rural land. The federal government defines prime farmland,
    • “Prime farmland is land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops, and is also available for these uses (the land could be cropland, pastureland, rangeland, forest land, or other land, but not urban built-up land or water). It has the soil quality, growing season, and moisture supply needed to economically produce sustained high yields of crops when treated and managed, including water management, according to acceptable farming methods.”
  3. Involve local units of government in the farmland preservation conversation. Indiana is a home-rule state, and most land use decisions are made at the local level. No two counties are the same and neither are their comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances or land use decisions. Local units of government should be empowered to identify land use trends in their area and use all available information when making land use decisions. ISDA would also encourage local units of government to be proactive rather than reactive as big decisions or projects come forward. Communities should revisit their comprehensive plans and ensure they have a strategic vision for the future of their community including agriculture as a consideration.
  4. Consider what is an alarming level of lost farmland acres as it pertains to food security. When should a county, state or the country be concerned? Task the legislature to consider the threshold in which the lost number of acres significantly reduces access to food.
  5. Consider advances in technology and innovation that have allowed farms to produce more with less acres.
    • Despite the loss in acreage, yield data from USDA NASS shows that Indiana’s production of its cash crops has increased. In 2012, Indiana produced over 597 million bushels of corn for grain, and in 2022 yielded over 1 billion bushels. Indiana produced nearly 219 million bushels of soybeans in 2012 and saw that number increase to over 326 million in 2022.

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