JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri counties with some of the state’s best cropland declined in population over the past decade.
Almost half the counties north of the Missouri River have fewer residents than were living there in 2000, and several Bootheel counties along the Mississippi River in the southeastern part of the state also lost population. It is a swatch of rural Missouri suited well for growing crops, although some people have drifted out.
Population figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that some of the most significant population losses were in Atchison County in the northwest corner on the Iowa and Nebraska border, in Carroll County along the Missouri River in the central region and in Pemiscot County in the Bootheel.
All three counties had much of their farmland classified in the state’s top categories for cropland, according to a 2004 survey from the State Tax Commission. More than 80 percent of the cropland in Atchison County was rated in the four highest categories while Pemiscot County in the far southeastern corner had around 96 percent.
For tax purposes, Missouri farms are divided into eight groups based on land quality, with the best in the low Grade 1 category and the worst in the higher Grade 8 category. In all, about half the farmland in counties that lost population over the past decade was in the four highest grades. In counties that added people since 2000, most of the farmland was in the lowest three grades.
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