Having led the conservation agriculture movement for four decades, AFT is all too aware of how much work remains to be done. Consider:
- Every day 2,000 acres of agricultural land are paved over, fragmented, or converted to uses that jeopardize farming.*
- Too many farms are still losing topsoil and discharging nutrients, polluting rivers and contributing to dead zones in coastal waters. And we are forgoing restorative work that could rebuild soil health and sequester carbon.
- In the next 15 years, one-third of America’s farmland and ranchland will likely change hands, as current landowners age and sell. The land is most at risk of being converted to a non-agricultural use when it is sold.
What’s at stake? Nothing less than our future.
First, we need farmland to grow our food—and the demand for food will only grow. Experts predict that we will need to increase food production by 60 percent by the year 2050.
Some people hold out great hope for technology. They believe that, in the future, far more food will be grown indoors or on rooftops, while the productivity of remaining field crops will soar. At AFT, we don’t believe technology alone will solve the problem. We suspect that the vast bulk of our food will continue to be grown on farmland. And although we do expect to see enhanced productivity, we don’t expect productivity to increase faster than demand.
But even more is at stake than our food supply. That’s because we also need farmland to restore our planet. When properly managed, farmland and ranchland support wildlife and biodiversity, recharge aquifers, clean water, and—of paramount importance in our fight against climate change—sequester carbon.
We now know that we can’t meet global climate goals unless we take steps that go beyond reducing emissions. We need to remove carbon already in our atmosphere. And when we lose farmland, we reduce this ability. We also put more pressure on the farmland that remains in production, because with less land available to grow the food we need, we can’t manage all the remaining farmland for optimal environmental benefit. It’s a double hit.
Long before we run out of farmland to grow our food, we may well run out of the farmland we need to restore our planet’s health.
AFT addresses these issues as no other organization does, with a direct focus on retaining our agricultural land and managing it using the right practices. At the same time, AFT recognizes that we will only retain the agricultural land we need, and be positioned to manage it wisely if we retain enough farmers and ranchers with adequate know-how and financial resources.
*Based on the daily average from 2001-2016. No Farms No Food and No Farms No Future are trademarks of American Farmland Trust.