Sell My Land Across the Country
“The Hidden History of Rural Land in America” by Ralph A. Walker is a book that sheds light on the ways rural land has been utilized and regulated in America over the centuries, and how those decisions have impacted our nation’s history. This insightful volume offers a multifaceted exploration into boundaries between public and private lands, as well as rural land’s role in shaping American society and culture.
He begins with the nationalization of land in America. In 1787, when the Constitution was signed and ratified by thirteen states, all federal lands were to be sold for profit. The pre-Revolution colonial era had been characterized by a legal system based on royal grants; private property rights derived from individual ownership of rural land. But these titles got thrown into question after independence because many Americans believed that any nation should own its territory as commonwealth rather than letting individuals control it privately. As Walker explains: “The colonists contended that they possessed an unalienable right to their homes which could not be taken away without just compensation.” Moreover, some thought this same logic extended to the new country’s public domain–“land belonging to no one [including the native americans]. Ralph A. Walker ‘s essay traces the history of rural land ownership in America from 1776 to 1934, when Congress passed a law that eased some of the restrictions on non-Indian landownership. This is a fantastic study.
This leads to another interesting topic on rural land development in America: the enclosure movement. This was a process in which people enclosed agricultural land for private use, and it started around 1750. (The term “enclosure” also means to fence off an area of public property–for example, someone might enclose part of a golf course so that only those who pay may visit.)
There are many reasons why rural landowners wanted such control over their surroundings. For one thing, they were often trying to establish supremacy on what had been contested ground during colonial times–such as the frontier or areas with large Native American populations. Others sought economic security by fencing out competitors from access to resources like timber, water power sites, fishing spots and mineral deposits while holding onto these resources themselves.”
As the population of America shifted to urban areas in the 1800s and 1900s, rural land became more valuable for its natural resources than as locations where people would actually live. One indication of this trend is that there are still many forested acres in every region–most importantly from Maine all the way south through Georgia.”
A map showing US counties with at least one tree per acre on average; data from USDA Economic Research Services’ “Forest Inventory and Analysis” 2005 database (FIA)
The best estimate of rural land’s value comes from a study by Nicholas Komanoff which estimated it at about $200 billion dollars as of 2009–which is not much less than what economists say rural landowners received far little. Land values in rural areas are worth more for timber and minerals than they are for agriculture, which is the reason why some counties have 42% of their land in forest cover.
The average person drives about 11 miles a day on county roads while driving to work or running errands but often doesn’t think much about these places because it’s too difficult to get from one place to another without getting back into a car. There has been an increasing trend where people will move closer to big cities so that they can access jobs, schools, and other resources with ease–and this means when there isn’t enough affordable housing available near city centers many families must resort to living in rural communities instead.”
– “Rural Land In America” by David Dudley.
The history of the rural landscape in North America has been shaped by many factors, but some key ones are its geology and geography. For example, two-thirds of rural lands–or about 600 million acres–are made up of cropland that was cleared from forests or prairies for farming purposes centuries ago. It’s easy to see why this happened because when Europeans first arrived at what would eventually become the United States their main motivation was economic: they wanted to be able to grow enough food so as not to have to rely on supplies from Europe. Settlers also needed timber for construction and fuel sources like coal and oil didn’t exist yet. Plus they may have needed to clear the land for settlements and towns that would eventually grow into cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit.
A second major factor in rural America’s history is its ethnic makeup. In 1790, a little more than half of Americans were of European descent while about one-quarter were African American slaves or free people from Africa–that was just before Congress passed legislation outlawing slavery for good with the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. In other words, when Europeans first arrived at what became North America their main motivation was economic: they wanted to be able to grow enough food so as not t have to rely on supplies from Europe. Settlers also needed timber for construction and fuel sources like coal and oil didn’t exist yet.
One of the most important rural development initiatives was President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1956 legislation that created a program to support farmers in developing their land and keeping up with new agricultural technologies. It eventually led to the creation of what we now know as conservation easements, which restrict how people can use their property while still allowing them to own it. The federal government has also made major investments over the years for infrastructure projects like dams and levees, electrical grids, telephone networks–you get the idea–to create jobs in rural America.
The third factor is simply population growth: by 1900 there were more than 92 million Americans living on farms and ranches outside urban areas; today there are only about two-thirds as many people in cities.
Rural land in America is underused, but there are a lot of reasons why.
First off: rural areas have always been marginalized by the federal government and local municipalities. Over time, this has led to wealth inequality between urban and rural areas (urban populations not only typically earn more money than their counterparts in rural communities–they also pay higher property taxes). This imbalance can be traced back to colonial times; during the 1600s early English settlers required Native Americans to relinquish most of what they owned for less-productive plots that would allow them to live near European settlements “in exchange” for goods like guns, steel tools or blankets.
Secondly: as agriculture became more mechanized in the mid-1800s, rural communities lost a significant number of jobs. For example, in the last 50 years some 395 million acres (or about 60% of U.S. agricultural land) has been converted into housing developments or shopping malls–resulting in fewer potential livelihoods for people living outside urban centers and greater competition among existing farmers for produce that’s now more difficult to grow.
Thirdly: as we became less dependent on railroads during World War II, tens of millions of acres were sold by cash-strapped railroad companies to compensate for capital losses attributed to declining freight traffic due to automobiles and trucks; this had an even stronger impact than mechanization because it led not just to job loss but also caused many individuals who depended on crops to not be able to sustain themselves to lose access to prime land, as well.
Fourth: this trend has only increased since the 1980s and 1990s, when new legislation of banking practices led banks to offer loans against rural land at an unprecedented rate–prompting many farmers who couldn’t afford cash sales or who were ineligible for credit in other ways (such as those with bad credit) into mortgage agreements that they could barely meet without borrowing more money.
Fifth: this was compounded by a flood of foreign investment in U.S. farmland after passage of NAFTA-like trade policies during Republican administrations gave producers outside the country greater opportunities for export markets; it’s estimated that nearly one third of all American agricultural exports now originate from farms owned by foreigners through a variety of methods, including lease agreements.
Sixth: all this has led to a situation in which rural land is now more valuable as collateral–and therefore available for loans and mortgages–than it’s ever been before, at the same time that so many people are losing their homes because they can’t afford payments on those very loans or mortgages.”
Rural Land on the coasts was of greater interest to foreigners than rural land in the middle of the country.
The agricultural trade policies that were pursued by Republican administrations gave foreign investors more opportunities for markets abroad, and some analysts suggest it’s been nearly a third of all American exports since NAFTA has passed.
This has led to many rural landowners who are now able to take out loans or mortgages on their property because they can use it as collateral–even though so many homeowners are losing their homes nationwide.
This suggests that rural land is much more valuable today than its ever been before,” Sixth said.”It becomes an asset worth fighting over there was always tension between farmers and ranchers about what kind of development would be good for them where they lived” “but with the advancements in technology, rural land in America is becoming more valuable.
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