The amount of land dedicated to crops in the United States has dropped for the second straight year in 2010, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report, which shows total cropland has declined 6 million acres since 2008, is further evidence that growth in ethanol production is not leading to cropland expansion, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

While 2010 corn acres increased 1.6 percent from 2009, the uptick was more than offset by reductions in acreage for other coarse grains and wheat. USDA estimates total 2010 crop acres at 318.9 million, down from 319.3 million in 2009 and 325 million in 2008. For the sake of comparison, RFA noted that total planted acres averaged 327 million during the decade of the 1990s. A record corn crop of at least 13.3 billion bushels is expected in 2010, despite the fact that farmers planted nearly 6 million fewer acres of corn than in 2007 when the first 13 billion bushel crop was achieved.

“The data clearly show that crop acres in the United States continue to trend downward,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “That’s because new technology and dramatically increasing yields are allowing farmers to produce more crops on less land. Today’s report reinforces the fact that the nation’s farmers simply don’t need to expand cropland to meet global demands for food, feed, fiber, and biofuels.”

RFA also noted that corn plantings were down from last year in many states with high levels of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage, which challenges the notion that grain ethanol expansion is leading to increased CRP conversion. For instance, corn acres dropped 4 percent in Texas, the leading CRP state in the nation. Corn acres also fell 7 percent in South Dakota, 4 percent in Nebraska, 3 percent in Iowa, and 1.3 percent in Minnesota.

USDA’s Acreage Report is available here.