Tag Archives: farmland loss

Innovation Through Collaboration at the National Agricultural Landscapes Forum

The nation has its eyes on agriculture, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently celebrating National Agriculture Week and countless state and local organizations recognizing the importance of our working lands and the farmers and ranchers who manage them. However, since 1982, the U.S. developed 41 million rural acres—that’s one out of three acres ever developed in this country! Looking forward, with a third of farm operators now older than age 65, a huge transfer of land and resources is imminent. Given an estimated world population of nine billion people in 2050, even greater competition for land and water is looming on the horizon.

With this expected population growth, how much land and water do we need to meet present and future demands for food, energy and environmental services? Have we already converted/diverted too much? How do we ensure conservation outcomes while preserving land and water rights?

Recognizing tight budgets and multiple resource demands, 21st century solutions will require greater cooperation among agricultural producers, all levels of government and private-sector partners to focus on conservation outcomes instead of jurisdictional authorities. Toward this end, American Farmland Trust has partnered with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Foundation NFP to host a National Agricultural Landscape Forum in Washington, D.C., on April 7–8, 2011.

Guided by a Blue Ribbon Panel of leaders in agriculture and conservation, authorities from around the country will debate new policy approaches that are needed to sustain agriculture as a vital component of the nation’s landscape and to protect the health of the precious natural resources upon which our nation’s security depends.

Regional roundtables are currently being held by Farm Foundation NFP to bring diverse “on-the-ground” perspectives to inform forum discussions. Outcomes from the roundtables and national forum are part of the public input process required by the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA) and will be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal programs aimed at improving environmental quality and rural development.

Creating opportunities to work together in a strategic, coordinated fashion is essential. How do we redesign the institutional structures we have now to reduce silos and promote partnerships among agencies, levels of government and producers? Finding ways to increase collaboration and share scarce resources is a sentiment shared by our national leaders. As Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Ranking Member of the Senate Ag Committee, recently explained in a National Ag Day address, the future of federal agricultural programs is dependent on everyone working together. Sen. Roberts is forming plans with Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to hold farm bill hearings around the country to illuminate key issues in agriculture. With the pending opportunity to share opinions that could inform the outcome of the 2012 Farm Bill, the National Agricultural Landscapes Forum will provide an early incubator for ideas and solutions from a broad spectrum of agricultural and conservation interests.

Engaging with a strong lineup of speakers and presenters, forum-goers will be involved in discussions that will shape future policy and determine the course of agriculture over the coming years. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan will carry on the energy of National Ag Week and kick off the forum as keynote speaker. A G Kawamura, former California Secretary of Agriculture and partner with us in the ground-breaking Ag Vision 2030 initiative, will present on “Foodsheds, Energy Sheds and Watersheds.” NRCS Chief Dave White will provide a venue to share a wide range of concerns as Blue Ribbon Panelists recap what they heard at the Farm Foundation NFP Regional Roundtables.

Please join us, our partners and the Blue Ribbon Panel in a vigorous discussion about how to ensure the health and prosperity of the nation’s agricultural landscape.

Register now for the opportunity to take part in this critically important dialogue.


About the Author: Julia Freedgood is Managing Director for Farmland and Communities at American Farmland Trust.

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Farmland By the Numbers!

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2007 National Resources Inventory story of our nation’s farm and ranch land loss in numbers. The 2007 National Resource Inventory is the most comprehensive natural resource database in the United States—tracking conditions and trends on non-federal land from 1982 to 2007.

Farmland Loss map
Map: Every State Lost Agricultural Land.
Bright Spots Chart Bar Chart: States with the biggest farmland loss
Chart: California vs. Florida Farmland Loss
Pie Chart: States that Developed the Largest Percentage of their Land

The analysis behind these graphics was conducted by our Farmland Information Center (FIC) and first appeared in our Winter 2010 issue of American Farmland magazine.  Stay tuned as we release more information on farmland loss across the nation.

Want to do something about it? Send a letter to your state lawmakers today and tell them to protect the precious farm and ranch land in your state! Feel free to re-post these images, but please link back to us.

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Farmland Is at Risk in Every State

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.

Visit the Farmland Information Center for the full report and state by state data.

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.

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