San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Strategy - American Farmland Trust

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San Joaquin Land and Water Strategy

Protecting the Nation’s Leading Farming Region 


Find in-depth information on the work surrounding the San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Strategy.

For more than 35 years, AFT has examined and responded to the challenges facing the nation’s leading agricultural region. In fact, AFT opened our first regional office here and the San Joaquin Valley remains an important strategic focus for our national organization.

In 2018, AFT released the comprehensive San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Strategy. AFT and the Conservation Biology Institute assessed the capacity and resilience of the valley’s agricultural production by analyzing the distribution, quality, and future impacts on the region’s farmland and water resources. AFT and CBI used the San Joaquin Valley Gateway, part of CBI’s Data Basin online mapping platform, to determine where prime agricultural land and reliable water resources intersect.

AFT’s research revealed some alarming trends about the important agricultural region.

Challenges for Nation’s Leading Food Producing Region

The San Joaquin Valley is the nation’s agricultural powerhouse with more than 300 crops and livestock products. Water scarcity, changing climate conditions, new regulations, and growing populations are just some challenges farmers and ranchers face here. The region is among the state’s fastest growing, with development happening on the highest quality agricultural land. Consider these facts: 

  • Only four in 10 acres of the Valley’s agricultural land is determined to be of the highest quality.  
  • Only 9% of the Valley’s irrigated farmland is high quality and experiencing low-water stress. 
  • As many as 323,000 acres are projected to be converted into low-density urban and rural residential uses by 2050 in the San Joaquin Valley, according to spatial analysis research conducted 2015 to 2018 with AFT and Conservation Biology Institute.  
  • An estimated  55% of the Valley’s high-quality farmland has a high risk of development. 

This level of conversion jeopardizes sustainable food production, economic opportunities, public health, biodiversity , and environmental benefits afforded by well-managed farmland and ranchland.  Learn more. 

Implementing Action on the Ground

AFT has a long-term, holistic approach to addressing these large-scale challenges.  AFT has an action plan to stem loss of the most productive, versatile, and resilient agricultural land in the Valley, protect soil, water, fish and wildlife resources, and support a new generation of farmers.

Together with our partners, we are spearheading farmland protection, regenerative agricultural methods, groundwater recharging, and water conservation throughout the region.

San Joaquin Valley Five Year Goa;s

Agricultural Land Protection in California

As an early national leader in the agricultural land protection movement, AFT has worked in partnership with interested landowners in California and across the country to develop innovative agricultural easement projects.

Read more.

Project Prioritization Tool

The Project Prioritization Tool (PPT) is a conservation decision-making tool to increase the adoption of water infiltration practices, improve groundwater recharge, and protect agricultural land in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV). SJV stakeholders can use the PPT to select and support projects that have the greatest potential to effectively infiltrate and conserve water.

Learn More

Innovations in Agricultural Land Protection

Watch this webinar for local planners, land trusts, and other key stakeholders engaged in agricultural land protection with a special emphasis on effective tools in drought-stricken regions with depleted and over-drafted water supplies affecting agricultural land. This event featured American Farmland Trust experts, Justin Brice from Conservation Biology Institute, and Vicky Espinoza, PhD from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a panel discussion and presentations on innovations in agricultural land protection in California. Dr. Espinoza discussed California's Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP), and Justin Brice gave a presentation of AFT and CBI's Project Prioritization Tool. AFT's Paul Lum explained how this tool was used to protect a San Joaquin Valley farm.


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