Stem the Loss of California Farmland

California Farm Landscape, Environment

Stem the Loss of California Farmland

July 10, 2014

Diverse Coalition Calls for Action to Stem the Loss of California’s Farmland

California loses an average of 30,000 acres of farmland per year to non-agricultural uses. The relentless, permanent conversion of agricultural lands threatens our food production capacity, environmental health, and economy. In response, the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment (CRAE) today issued a report calling on policymakers to take urgent action to stem the loss of farmland.

Key policy recommendations from A Call to Action to Preserve California Agricultural Land include:
Fully fund efforts to understand the scope of the challenge, such as the California Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program.
Strengthen state and local land use policies that prioritize the conservation of California’s agricultural lands, such as updating general plan guidelines to conserve agricultural lands and creating policies that discourage urban sprawl.

Finance long-term and permanent conservation of agricultural land by reinstating Williamson Act subvention payments, dedicating on-going AB 32 auction proceeds to farmland conservation, and providing statewide agricultural land mitigation guidelines.
Keep farmers farming by ensuring strong markets for agricultural products, appropriate regulations, adequate labor force and infrastructure, and community support.

The recently released California Farmland Conversion Report for 2008-2010 confirms the urgency of this call to action. It found that during the deepest recession in a generation, the state still lost more than 20,000 acres of farmland to urban development. It also noted new threats to farmland, such as high-speed rail, oil and gas development, and utility-scale solar energy projects.

“The current severe drought demonstrates the vulnerabilities of agriculture to a changing climate and the need to protect its land base,” says CRAE member Jeanne Merrill of the California Climate & Agriculture Network. “This year alone, it is anticipated that 410,000 acres will be fallowed in the Central Valley and climate change is predicted to further stress agriculture with more extreme weather events. This places a premium on conserving and protecting our remaining farmland.”

Although state and local policies have not been successful in stemming the loss of agricultural land, the members of CRAE believe that opportunities do exist for strategic and effective agricultural land conservation and that it is imperative that we act upon them.

Holly King, a principal of King & Gardiner Farms, LLC and a CRAE member, indicates, "Protecting our farmland is protecting our food supply – not only for California, but for our nation. Implementing these recommendations will combat the cumulative consumption of farmland by the multiple uses that convert our prime farmland. We need to quit talking about protecting farmland and actually do it."

John Lowrie, of the California Department of Conservation and a CRAE institutional partner, explains, “It’s particularly important for decision makers to hear from diverse groups like CRAE in considering new policies. Because the members represent all sides of an issue, we can rely on the recommendations being thoroughly vetted, which enables us to move forward with more confidence.”

A Call to Action to Preserve California Agricultural Land is available for download at http://aginnovations.org/images/uploads/CRAE_AgLand_CallToAction3.pdf.

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