Massachusetts Agricultural Census 2012
Cropland is one subset of total agricultural land, the most productive subset of our agricultural land. Total cropland acreage decreased in Massachusetts by 16 percent between 1997 and 2002, by 10 percent between 2002 and 2007, and by 14 percent between 2007 and 2012. All Massachusetts counties except Nantucket and Norfolk saw a reduction in total cropland acres between 2007 and 2012 (Figure 3.7). The losses ranged from 5.7 percent in Plymouth County, to an astounding 30.4 percent reduction in cropland acres in Middlesex County. Worcester County, the county that had the maximum acres harvested in 2007, saw a decline of more than 9 percent in its cropland acreage. Nantucket County saw a significant 38.9 percent increase in total cropland, and Norfolk County a modest 3.4 percent increase in total cropland.
Harvested cropland has similarly decreased every census year since 1997 (Figure 3.8). Harvested cropland acreage decreased by 13.6 percent between 1997 and 2002, 3.3 percent between 2002 and 2007, and 11 percent between 2007 and 2012. Only Norfolk and Dukes Counties increased harvested cropland, by 7.6 percent (Figure 3.9). Dukes County went from 0 harvested cropland acres in 2007 to 478 acres in 2012, which accounts for their 100 percent increase. Decreases in harvested cropland range from 2 percent in Plymouth County to 19.4 percent in Middlesex County. Reductions in harvested cropland acres can be attributed to increased population expansion pressures, including development and suburban sprawl, which has been observed throughout the state. As more and more people migrate to coastal counties, harvested cropland acres will continue to diminish. Depressed commodity prices, increased costs of production and the aging farm population all play roles.