Group calls for state action to reduce California farmland loss
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2014 - The California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment (CRAE) is calling on the state to take action to preserve the state's farm and ranchland which lost almost 170,000 acres to development between 2008 and 2010.
About 61 percent of those acres were prime farmland, which accounted for most of the $42.6 billion of agriculture's contribution to the state's economy last year. According to the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, nearly 1.4 million acres of farmland in the state - the biggest U.S. agricultural producer -- has been converted to non-agricultural purposes since it began monitoring the losses more than a quarter century ago.
In a recent report, the Roundtable noted that the state agricultural lands - its ranches, farms, vineyards and dairies - are a foundation of the state's economic health and quality of life.
“But the relentless conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses is eroding those values and benefits and threatens our capacity to produce adequate and needed amounts and types of food, our environment, our health and our economy,” it said.
The ongoing multiyear drought is putting additional pressure on California farmland, as are other threats, including increased oil and gas development and development of high speed rail lines, according to the Roundtable, an alliance of agricultural, environmental groups and local regulatory agencies.
CRAE also points out that there is no single government agency monitoring the cumulative effects of the losses. “Indeed, the state's Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (CFMMP), the only and best effort to track the loss of agricultural land, has been crippled by funding cuts,” the group says in its report.
Included among CRAE recommendations to mitigate further farmland loss are the following:
• That the state provide adequate funding for the CFMMP and expand its capacity to measure the agricultural and other impacts of farmland conversion.
• That a thorough study and analysis of California's future land and water needs be conducted.
• That the Governor's Office of Planning and Research require that local land use elements include policies that will meet locally-determined, measurable objectives for reducing agricultural land conversion.
• That the office implement a law passed in 2002 that calls for all state investments in infrastructure to advance priorities including the conservation of agricultural land and open space.
• That the state provide agricultural land mitigation guidelines for development projects, consistent with existing state law, to reflect the importance of various agricultural lands and discourage conversion of the most important agricultural lands.
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