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Saving Farmland, Growing Cities

California stands at a crossroads. The state is experiencing a long-term housing supply crisis, with housing demand far outstripping supply. At the same time, California is losing 50,000 acres of farmland annually, while also experiencing climate-related disasters that threaten our nation’s food system and local communities.

It is vitally important to protect this farmland, while growing California cities effectively, for the state’s future and our nation’s food security. Often overlooked, farmland protection is a valuable tool for mitigating climate-related natural disasters such as flooding and wildfires. Urban sprawl not only increases greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, due to longer commutes, but this sprawl also encroaches on agricultural lands that both store carbon and sustain our economy.

There are practical solutions and approaches that can help communities protect valuable agricultural land, while promoting smart growth. Effective conservation of farmland is possible and there are a variety of ways to accomplish it if localities summon the political will to do so.

Santa Monica Farmers MarketA Triple Bottom-Line for California’s Communities and Nation’s Food System

The work of local and regional governments is central to the kind of growth that California communities want, including strong regional economies, greater mobility with less traffic, lower household and government costs, cleaner environments, and attractive open spaces.

California’s agriculture provides a triple bottom-line of economic, environmental, and public health outcomes for the state.

The more than $50 billion industry yields vast benefits such as abundant nutritious food year round for the nation, clean water, healthy soil, resilient landscapes, climate change mitigation, and local economic development.

To support local and regional governments in conserving this precious agricultural land, AFT creates resources, convenes meetings, and provides technical support. AFT’s Saving Farmland, Growing Cities study set forth six key strategies for protecting the state’s agricultural land. The report focused on the San Joaquin Valley, but these strategies are applicable to the entire state.

Key Strategies to Support Local and Regional Governments in Conserving Agricultural Land:

  • Avoid development of the highest quality agricultural land.
  • Minimize agricultural land loss with more efficient urban development.
  • Ensure stability at the urban edge.
  • Avoid rural residential development.
  • Mitigate the loss of agricultural land loss with conservation easements.
  • Encourage a favorable agricultural business climate.

San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Strategy

The San Joaquin Valley is the nation’s agricultural powerhouse with more than 300 crops and livestock products. Learn more about AFT's San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Strategy to protect these valuable agricultural resources and conserve groundwater.

San Joaquin Valley Strategy

Greener Fields

The California Greener Fields project is a community-outreach campaign highlighting a variety of actions communities can take, from planning to policy to on-the-ground efforts, to support farmers, farmland, and climate-smart agriculture.

Greener Fields

Bay Area Greenprint

Created in collaboration with regional partners, the Bay Area Greenprint is an online tool that maps and measures the values that natural resources and agricultural lands contribute to the ecosystem, the economy, and the regional community.AFT promotes the use of the Bay Area Greenprint to build farmland protection and natural resource conservation into policies and plans.

Bay Area Greenprint

Strategies for Conserving Farmland

Specific strategies to support local and regional governments in conserving agricultural land in the nation's leading food-producing state.

Read more.

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