Many people believe that suburbanization in Michigan increased dramatically in the
1980s. Part of the reason for this belief is that farmland loss data are typically only
reported for recent decades rather than through long-term historical trends. For example,
Governor Engler’s task force on farmland preservation popularized the term "10
acres an hour" as a rallying cry for constraining suburban development by citing data
from 1982 to 1992.
While the task force’s report mentioned that the period of the fastest decline in
farmland was between 1954 to 1974, it failed to show that the rate of farmland loss has
declined steadily since then and that urban land development may account for less than
one-third of this decline. A more critical analysis of state and national land use trends
suggests that suburbanization and farmland loss are, in fact, moderating. Thus, historical
loss rates may be misleading unless they account for moderating influences and the
dynamics of land markets.