Using Recent Land Use Changes to Validate Land Use Change Models

Bruce A. Babcock, Zabid Iqbal
November 2014  [14-SR 109]

Economics models used by California, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the EU Commission all predict significant emissions from conversion of land from forest and pasture to cropland in response to increased biofuel production. The models attrib-ute all supply response not captured by increased crop yields to land use conversion on the extensive margin. The dramatic increase in agricultural commodity prices since the mid-2000s seems ideally suited to test the reliability of these models by comparing actual land use changes that have occurred since the price increase to model predictions. Country-level data from FAOSTAT were used to measure land use changes. To smooth annual variations, changes in land use were measured as the change in average use across 2004 to 2006 compared to average use across 2010 to 2012. Separate measure-ments were made of changes in land use at the extensive margin, which involves bring-ing new land into agriculture, and changes in land use at the intensive margin, which includes increased double cropping, a reduction in unharvested land, a reduction in fallow land, and a reduction in temporary or mowed pasture. Changes in yield per harvested hectare were not considered in this study.

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