Ag Policy Blog

AFT releases USDA-funded Study, Farms Under Threat

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Scenes of development in Michigan. It is one of the areas in the U.S. where farmland preservation has taken on greater importance. (DTN file photo)

The American Farmland Trust will release a new report today, “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland,” which it describes as “the most comprehensive assessment ever undertaken of the loss of U.S. farmland and ranchland.”

AFT said the report sounds a stark warning: The loss of farmland is serious and will accelerate unless we take action.

Among the report’s key findings:

- Between 1992 and 2012, almost 31 million acres of farmland were lost, equal to all the farmland in Iowa;

- Nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously shown;

- 11 million of those acres were among the best farmland in the nation;

- Development disproportionately occurred on agricultural lands, with 62% of all development occurring on farmland; and

- Expanding urban areas accounted for 59% of the loss. Low-density residential development, or the building of houses on 1-to-20-acre parcels, accounted for 41%.

“Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland” is the first step in a multifaceted initiative, AFT said. This national report will be followed by a separate report later this year that analyzes past farmland loss state by state and looks at the effectiveness of state farmland protection policies. Then AFT will assess a range of future threats, forecast potential impacts to 2040 at a county level and recommend effective policies at all levels that help conserve agricultural land.

“Maps of the contiguous United States released as part of the report show actual patterns of farmland loss within counties,” said Ann Sorensen, AFT’s research director. “It identifies the best agricultural land nationwide by determining which land is most productive, most versatile and most resilient.”

AFT is working with Conservation Science Partners, a nonprofit conservation organization, to ground the report’s findings in reliable data and science, the group said. Both financial and technical support has been provided by the USDA National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency that provides technical assistance to farmers and landowners and is responsible for improving, protecting, and conserving natural resources on private lands through a cooperative partnership with state and local agencies. A national advisory committee provides additional guidance.

AFT – “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland”…


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