Every day, farmland continues to disappear across America.
Newly released statistics show that in this country, we’ve been losing more than an acre of farmland every minute. That stacks up to nearly one million acres per year converted to highways, shopping malls and poorly planned development. The recent National Resources Inventory, conducted by the USDA, shows every state losing farmland during the recent 25 year reporting period.
States losing the most acres of farmland between 1982-2007 include Texas, California, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.
New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware and New Hampshire lead as states with the greatest percentage of farmland lost during the same period.
Food security and the country’s need to produce fresh food for healthy diets have become critical national priorities – and both are inextricably tied to having adequate, productive farmland in America. But the nation’s best and most productive agricultural land – including the land that grows fruits and vegetables – is disappearing the fastest.
America’s cities sprang up where the land was the richest. Today, the farms closest to our urban areas produce an astounding 91% of our fruit and 78% of our vegetables, but they remain the most threatened. In addition, many of these at-risk, urban-edge farms are the ones growing fresh food for farmers markets, CSA’s and other direct-to-consumer outlets. And our prime agricultural land – the farmland that has the ideal combination of good soils, climate and growing conditions – are being converted at a disproportionately higher rate.
What can communities do in the face of development pressure? The decline in agricultural land conversion from 2002-2007, despite record highs in building permits and housing completions, offers some encouraging news. Smart growth strategies, including more efficient development, can help slow the conversion and fragmentation of our farm and ranch land. At the same time, communities, states and the federal government can invest in permanent protection to ensure there is a future supply of agricultural land in America.
We’re continuing our analysis by taking a closer look at the biggest losers, the places making progress with winning strategies, and what it will take to save our important agricultural lands across the country.