Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study provides an inventory of the prime agricultural lands of Louisiana and analyzes the process of urban encroachment onto these productive soils. The study also discusses the merits of prime agricultural land preservation and reviews various policies and programs directed toward that end. Louisiana has about 12.5 million acres (43 percent of total acreage) of prime agricultural land. On a parish basis, acreages of prime land range from a high of 536,303 acres in Calcasieu to a low of 14,332 acres in Orleans parish. Every parish contains some prime land acreage but the greatest concentrations of prime land are found in the Mississippi River Delta, the Red River Valley, and the Southwest Rice Area. As of 1977, about 1.5 million acres of prime land had been converted to nonagricultural uses; leaving a total of about 11 million acres available for agricultural purposes. Between 1960 and 1970, approximately 93,000 acres of prime farmland were converted to urban use. Urban population growth explained more than 72 percent of the change in loss of prime agricultural land. Of the three factors: (1) Price of land, (2) Level of Family Income, and (3) Population, hypothesized as greatly influencing the rate of conversion of prime land to nonagricultural uses, only population growth proved to be significant. The marginal urban land occupation coefficient was 0.60 acres per capita for the small size communities compared to 0.46 acres for the larger urban centers. No significant difference in structural demand for prime agricultural land was found to exist between SMSA urban centers and non-SMSA urban centers. Projections of urban population growth indicate that approximately 270,000 acres of prime land will be converted to urban uses between 1980 and 2000, if current trends continue.