America’s Farmland Future

Tomorrow, I’m planning to attend a Smart Growth Online webinar highlighting a recent American Farmland Trust report entitled:   Farms Under Threat 2040:  Choosing an Abundant Future.   I missed this report when it was released this Summer, but it’s definitely worth a look.  This in-depth analysis examines three future scenarios for the preservation and stewardship of US farmland between now and 2040.   Not surprisingly, the general picture is not promising as climate change and sprawl continue to eat up precious agricultural land.  In fact, between 2001 and 2016, the US lost 2,000 acres of farmland and ranchland every day. 

The report highlights the role of smart growth and development as a means to slow these processes.  These efforts will entail supporting more high-density development in urban areas, protecting agricultural land through land trusts and other means, managing new solar development to protect farmland, and encouraging new generations of farmers. 

The report contains lots of useful data, including maps of farmland areas at greatest risk.  It also highlights the important role that our current development policies—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—play in affecting agricultural systems across the US.  Currently, my home community in Arlington VA is engaged in a heated debates about new planning and zoning rules related to “missing middle” housing.  While the current debates are primarily focused on how these proposed shifts will affect Arlington’s current housing mix, we should recognize that they may have larger repercussions as well.