Expansion of ethanol production in the United States has raised concerns regarding its land-use change effects. However, little is known about the extent to which observed land use change in the United States can be attributed to ethanol plant proximity or is caused by changes in crop prices that may be partly induced by expansion in ethanol production. This study aims to examine the determinants of changes in corn acreage and aggregate crop acreage by simultaneously identifying the effects of establishment of ethanol plants serving as terminal markets for corn and the effects of changes in crop prices in the United States between 2003 and 2014. Our results show that corn acreage and total acreage are fairly inelastic with respect to both changes in ethanol capacity in the vicinity, as well as changes in crop prices. Our estimates of acreage elasticity with respect to corn ethanol production are smaller than those obtained by previous studies that disregard the price effect on crop acreage. We find that, ceteris paribus, the increase in ethanol capacity alone led to a modest 3% increase in corn acreage and less than a 1% increase in total crop acreage by 2012 when compared to 2008. The effect of corn price and aggregate crop price on acreage change from 2008 to 2012 was more than twice larger than that of effective ethanol production capacity over this period; but this price effect was largely reversed by the downturn in crop prices after 2012. This study shows that land-use change is not a static phenomenon and that it is important to examine how it evolves in response to various factors that may change over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-491
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Journal of Agricultural Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Aggregate cropland acreage
  • biofuel
  • corn acreage
  • ethanol plants
  • land use change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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