News Brief

More U.S. Farmland Lost to Development

By Emily CatacchioOne-third of all developed land in the U.S. was developed between 1982 and 2007, according to the National Resources Inventory (NRI)—a survey of non-federal land conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service along with Iowa State University. American Farmland Trust (AFT), a U.S. farmland conservation organization, reviewed NRI data and reported that every contiguous state lost agricultural land to development, with losses totaling 23 million acres. By area, Texas, California, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina lost the most farmland; by percentage, New Jersey (26.8%), Rhode Island (22.5%), Massachusetts (18.1%), Delaware (14.3%), and New Hampshire (13.2%) lost the most. AFT also reported that 44% more prime agricultural land (land where crops can be grown with the fewest inputs and least erosion) was developed than non-prime land. The rate of farm loss declined over the 25-year period assessed, especially between 2002 and 2007. According to AFT, this decline could be due to increased smart growth and efficient development, since both these strategies use less land and often rely solely on previously developed sites. Vermont, Maryland, and Delaware protected more than one acre of land for every acre developed, while five other states protected half an acre for every acre developed.

Published March 30, 2011

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