Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Applied Economics

Department name when degree awarded

Agricultural Economics

Committee Chair(s)

W. Cris Lewis


W. Cris Lewis


Jay C. Andersen


E. Bruce Godfrey


Basudeb Biswas


Terrence L. Glover


Allen D. LeBaron


Land resources are essential to the production of many goods and services, including food, fiber, housing, and recreation. Often, these alternate uses are thought to be incompatible, and the conventional wisdom holds that in a place such as Utah, where rapid population growth is occurring near farming activities, at least some agricultural land must be converted to developed uses. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the strength of the relationship between population growth and change in farmland, especially cropland, in Utah.

Theoretically, population growth has been assumed to affect the amount of land in agricultural use. An empirical model is formulated to explain changes in the quantity of various types of agricultural land as a function of four hypothesized explanatory variables, one of which is the percentage change in population.

The conclusion reached is that population growth is not statistically related to changes in the amount of land in agriculture in Utah. Although some land at the urban fringes is converted to developed uses every year, it is replaced in other locations by new farmland. Therefore, the increase in population that resulted in some cropland conversion is not directly related to the change in cropland. Moreover, none of the other explanatory variables are consistently related. Even in a hypothetical "worst-case" scenario, in which all future development is assumed to take place on cropland, little of Utah's cropland would be lost by the year 2000. If Utah state and local planners desire to encourage retention of land in agriculture, further study should be directed towards finding the relevant explanatory variables, and policies should be based on an understanding of the significant relationships.