Protect Farmland and Promote Compact Growth - American Farmland Trust

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Protect Farmland and Promote Compact Growth

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Advancing regenerative farming practices is not enough.

With every acre of farmland paved over due to development, we lose the opportunity to sequester carbon.

In addition, low-density development generates more emissions than compact development or farmland. So, protecting farmland and limiting sprawling development can curb one of the largest sources of carbon emissions: transportation.

Yet, farmland is under constant threat. AFT research shows that between 2001 and 2016, 10.9 million acres of the nation’s irreplaceable agricultural land was lost or compromised. That is approximately 2,000 acres per day where farmers and ranchers can no longer grow food or sequester carbon.

Farmland preservation, more than any other management activity, will likely have single greatest impact in stabilizing and reducing future emissions.

Source: Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions 
Report: Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities in California Agriculture

AFT studies in New York and California show that protecting farmland and promoting compact growth can help reduce future emissions and sequester carbon. For example, in New York, if the annual loss of farmland were reduced by 80 percent, that could reduce emissions equal to the removal of one million cars from the road.

AFT’s Farms Under Threat initiative has identified which U.S. agricultural lands have the highest potential for growing food and the greatest resilience to climate change. Now, AFT is projecting threats to agricultural land in 2040, including poorly planned development, sea-level rise, and new stresses from increased temperature and unpredictable rainfall. Our findings will help both policymakers and producers prepare for a changing climate, safeguard food security, and accelerate efforts to reverse greenhouse gas emissions.

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AFT research has shown that preventing the conversion of farmland to sprawling development can play an important role in curbing emissions.

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AFT Regional State Policy

Find AFT's policy work and staff by region.

AFT works with states and local partners to support policies that steer development away from the best agricultural land and ensure farmland protection and smart growth are key pillars in state climate plans.

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