|Davis, Calif., January 17, 2013 — Despite their good intentions, local governments in the San Joaquin Valley are not doing enough to conserve irreplaceable farmland as cities continue to expand at low density over the most fertile land in the region, according to a new report by American Farmland Trust.
Saving Farmland, Growing Cities: A Framework for Implementing Effective Farmland Conservation Policies in the San Joaquin Valley proposes six ways of measuring how successfully local land use plans and polices are conserving farmland and, using data from official sources, evaluates how each county in the Valley stacks up.
The report finds that 61 percent of all development in the Valley is taking place on high quality farmland, primarily along the Highway 99 corridor. This development is consuming an acre of land for every 6.4 new residents, the lowest density of any region in California except the remote mountains and deserts. At this rate, by 2050 the San Joaquin will lose another 570 thousand acres of farmland, which could drain between $100 and $190 billion from the region’s agricultural economy over the period.
“It is time to get serious about farmland conservation in the most important agricultural region of California—one on which the entire country and a good deal of the world depends for fruits, vegetables and other staples of a healthy diet,” said American Farmland Trust California Director Edward Thompson, Jr.
“For nearly two decades, communities in the Valley have insisted they want to conserve farmland. The general plans of most cities and counties reflect official commitments to encourage more efficient development on less productive land. But few communities are even keeping track of how well they are – or, in most cases, are not – living up to their good intentions,” Thompson continued. “If we are actually going to save San Joaquin Valley farmland and the economic value it represents, this must change. And self-awareness is the first step in that direction.
The report concludes by recommending that counties and cities begin tracking their progress at saving farmland by adopting their own variations of the measurements of success proposed by American in Farmland Trust.
Saving Farmland, Growing Cities: A Framework for Implementing Effective Farmland Conservation Policies in the San Joaquin Valley is available at www.farmland.org/sjvcommunities.
American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT’s national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.