American Farmland Trust and Partners Identify Recommendations to Help Conserve Lexington County, South Carolina’s Farmland - American Farmland Trust

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American Farmland Trust and Partners Identify Recommendations to Help Conserve Lexington County, South Carolina’s Farmland 

Geospatial mapping and policy analysis finds Headwaters Protection Zone may protect against development 

(Washington, D.C.) American Farmland Trust in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, Lexington County Farm Bureau, and Sustain SC launched the Palmetto 2040: Visioning Session, a geospatial mapping, and policy analysis to identify future threats to South Carolina’s farmland, jobs, and quality of life. With the state’s Lexington County as a pilot, the analysis projects land precisely at highest risk of development by 2040, accounting for both rapid population growth and climate change impact on settlement patterns and agriculture.  

The pilot project sought to identify how Lexington County’s agriculture, business, quality of life, and environment would fare under the alternative scenarios modeled; discuss tradeoffs among these factors; agree on the most optimal path for future development; and to identify potential policy solutions.  

South Carolina is at high risk for future farmland loss, according to AFT’s Farms Under Threat: 2040 data, with over 280,000 acres of farmland converted between 2001 and 2016, giving the Palmetto State the eighth highest “threat score” in the nation. Lexington County led the state in conversion, with over 29,000 acres of farmland paved over, fragmented or compromised by sprawling commercial, industrial, and residential development. 

AFT administered a survey during a visioning session for the analysis asking attendees to rank their land-based conservation priorities, and they indicated a high preference for the conservation of waterways and wetlands, followed by the conservation of farms and forests.  

Lexington County specifically may capture its land protection and farmland conservation goals through a Headwaters Protection Zone, or an area which can help uphold ecosystem services, permanently protect agricultural lands, and prevent against development onto high priority lands. Land within this area provides abundant agricultural services while also buffering downstream urban areas.  

AFT recommends 8 general recommendations for Lexington County: 

  • Cost of Community Service Study 
  • Community Quality of Life Survey 
  • In-Fill Availability Study 
  • Economic Loss Due to Farm Loss 
  • Farmers Spokespersons from Trusted Resources 
  • Entire Business Viable Solutions for Farmers 
  • Link Ecosystem Services to Farmland Protection 
  • Ongoing Education and Communication  

AFT recommends the following policies for Lexington County: 

  • Create a Headwaters Protection Zone as a priority area within a larger comprehensive plan. 
  • Create a local Agricultural Conservation holiday as part of a K-12 education campaign.  

While AFT is the lead contributor, a team of regional, state, and local organizations have supported efforts in implementing the project.  

“American Farmland Trust is grateful for the generous funding for this project provided by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the Lexington County Farm Bureau, and the Winthrop Family Fund for Farmland Preservation in the Southeast,” said Lea Harvey, AFT Vice President of Development, and native South Carolinian.  


American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 7.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.  


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