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Farms Under Threat

Farms Under Threat is AFT’s multi-year effort to advance cutting-edge solutions for farmland protection. We use high-resolution spatial analysis tools to identify exactly where agricultural land has been converted to urban and low-density residential land uses, and we have done a deep analysis of every state’s policies for protecting farmland and ranchland, promoting agricultural viability, and helping transfer land to the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

"Farms Under Threat: The State of the States"

Our latest report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States,” provides actionable information on the location and quality of agricultural land, the threats posed by development, and state-level policies that can help protect farmland and ranchland. It shows that 2,000 acres of agricultural land are converted every day—including our most productive, versatile, and resilient land. Surprisingly, we found that low-density residential land use is as much of a threat to farmland and ranchland as traditional urban and suburban development.

And while every state has responded to the threats, all states can, and must, do more. The leading states have a comprehensive suite of programs and link them strategically to simultaneously protect land, support farm viability, and transfer land to the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Responding to Agricultural Land Conversion

AFT is taking decisive action to slow the loss of farmland to development and to permanently protect vulnerable land with agricultural conservation easements. Our goal is to double the amount of permanently protected farmland by 2040 and drastically reduce the rate that farmland is converted to other uses—by 50% by 2030 and 75% by 2040. And to do it all with a priority focus on our best agricultural land—the most productive, versatile, and resilient.

And while private development drives much of the conversion of agricultural land, the federal government plays an important role. AFT has developed a roadmap for a more robust response from the federal government.

Farms Under Threat: Past and Future

“Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland” examined the irreversible loss of agricultural land to development between 1992 and 2012.

Our newest report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States,” analyzes state-level data on past farmland conversion and the effectiveness of state-level farmland protection policies.

The extensive spatial and policy databases underpinning “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States” hold the promise of countless additional insights. We plan to unlock them through future research endeavors.

Our next report will forecast potential impacts of future threats—including development pressure and climate change—through 2040. We must answer the question: What will happen to our agricultural land as the population continues to grow, consumer housing preferences change, coastal flooding causes in-migration, and farmers and ranchers adapt to raise crops and livestock in the face of worsening droughts, floods, fires, and temperature extremes? This information will help counties, states, and the federal government prepare for future threats and save the land that we will need in 2040 and beyond.

We also will update our state policy scorecard to include policies aimed at promoting on-farm conservation, regenerative production practices, and climate resilience.

We plan upcoming analyses on:

  • Wildlife habitat quality and connectivity on agricultural lands, building off of extensive background research;
  • Other ecosystem services provided by agricultural lands; and
  • Agricultural viability as influenced by availability of land and infrastructure, farm profitability, and the demographics of farmers and farmworkers.

Finally, we’re collecting and compiling data from states and land trusts to produce a Protected Agricultural Land Database, which will provide better coverage and consistency than existing national databases. This unique data resource will underpin all of our own analyses and will also be available to land protection organizations, whether land trusts or government agencies, to help guide their work.

Learn about the history of Farms Under Threat.

Have a question or want to collaborate? Get in touch with our team: