American Farmland Trust’s Statement about Solano County, CA Model City
(Washington, D.C. — September 13, 2023) As the idea of a proposed new model city built in Solano County continues to generate attention, American Farmland Trust urges the proper balance between smart, necessary growth for people to live with the need to preserve land for agricultural purposes and the nation’s food supply.
The proposed area consists of 55,000 acres of farmland, nearly the size of two San Franciscos, and plans for the new city are set to be decided by voters next year with a ballot initiative that would allow for tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over one million new trees and more than 10,000 acres of parks and open space. Sixty-two percent of the land in Solano County is designated for agricultural use with 849 farms in the county, mostly small, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The land itself is AFT’s highest priority. Our research shows farmland across the nation is being paved over or otherwise removed from production at a rate of 2000 acres per day, and by 2040, we may lose another 18 million acres. Once this finite resource is developed, it will never return to agriculture. This will impact millions of livelihoods, including many in Solano County, as well as the nation’s food supply, therefore, protecting our farmland is crucial to maintain our way of life and health.
According to AFT’s Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future, if the latest trends continue, 797,400 acres of California’s farmland and ranchland will be paved over, fragmented, or converted to uses that jeopardize agriculture, including land proposed in the Solano County plan. This is the equivalent of losing 6,000 farms, $1 billion in farm output and 13,000 jobs.
AFT believes that the model city proposal in Solano County would be most effective and have the least negative impact by using a Better Built Cities model, where land use planners promote compact development and reduce sprawl, saving irreplaceable farmland and ranchland from conversion. If this development model is used statewide, Californians can save 413,000 acres of farmland and ranchland, the equivalent of 2,800 farms.
The marginalization of smaller-scale farms, including many in Solano County, has severe consequences. When farms are continually consolidated—when there is one 5,000-acre farm in a community, for example, instead of fifty 100-acre farms—fewer people remain in rural areas.
Environmental and agricultural impacts loom, too. Small farms tend to be more diversified than large-scale operations. That diversity supports healthier wildlife habitat, improved soil health and greater climate resiliency. These farms are essential for food security and local and regional food systems, where products grown in a community can stay in that community rather than being shipped across the country.
Small farms are the backbone of Solano County, and this proposal would threaten them. In this year’s congressional Farm Bill, AFT supports the creation of an Office of Small Farms within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would help protect many of the farms at risk in Solano County. Legislation to establish an Office of Small Farms has been widely endorsed by a diverse group of individuals and organizations.
“Small farms are the heart and soul of our agricultural landscape, contributing to our economy, food security and the resilience of our local food supply chains. It is time we do more to ensure that all farmers, regardless of the size of their farms, have equitable access to the support they need to flourish,” says Senator Cory Booker, a co-sponsor of the bill.
AFT encourages compromise with the new city plan in Solano County. The community should build what is deemed necessary, in a smart, compact way, without jeopardizing livelihoods, the land that grows our food or our very way of life.
It is vitally important to protect this farmland, while growing California cities effectively, for the state’s future and our nation’s food security. Learn how to save farmland and grow cities.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the “mystery company” building a new city in Solano County.
Mystery developer creates ‘Game of Thrones’-type drama with $800 million Bay Area land grab (San Francisco Chronicle.)
Read more about farmland loss in California in Western Farm Press.
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 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.