A recent report from American Farmland Trust (AFT) highlights the speed at which agricultural land is being paved over or otherwise displaced. In California alone, nearly 800,000 acres of farmland could be compromised over the coming years if current trends continue. The report, Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future, notes that 2,000 acres of agricultural land were lost every day in the U.S. between 2001 and 2016. In order to continue meeting the demand for food production, the authors of the report recommend a more comprehensive strategy for growth.
“For too many Americans, it is easy to brush off farmland loss or view it as inevitable. This puts our future at risk,” said John Piotti, AFT president and CEO. “We need farmland not just to feed a growing population, but to provide essential ecological services that nurture wildlife, cleanse water and capture atmospheric carbon. If we remain on our current development path, we will ultimately run out of land to grow our food; but long before that, I fear we will run out of the farmland we need to heal an environmentally degraded planet.”
The report notes that the U.S. is on track to lose 18 million acres of farmland and ranchland for a variety of reasons by 2040. California stands to lose approximately $1 billion in farm output and approximately 13,000 jobs if development of farmland is not mitigated. AFT is hosting a state-specific webinar explaining details of the report and how California could be impacted by sprawling development.
Three paths for development are detailed in the report, highlighting how different scenarios will impact the future of farmland. The Better Built Cities scenario lays out a more thoughtful and symbiotic approach to development. California can maintain more than 400,000 acres of farmland and ranchland by adopting that approach over Runaway Sprawl. AFT notes that keeping agricultural land in production is critical for ensuring the nation’s food security and the environment.