Farmland Conversion: Perceptions and Realities

Converting farmland into homes and other urban uses is a public issue in every agricultural region experiencing rapid urbanization. In California, the nation’s leading farm state, the issue is complicated by widely varying numbers about the extent of conversion and contrasting opinions about the causes and consequences of farmland loss. How extensive is farmland conversion in California and what are the consequences? Is farmland all-too rapidly disappearing as new homes, shopping centers, and office buildings move out into the countryside, threatening the continued viability of the state’s agriculture? Or are there so many acres devoted to agriculture–especially in the vast Central Valley–that the present pace of urban development can continue for decades without seriously affecting farm production? In this Issues Brief, we examine both the numbers that measure farmland conversions and the related public perceptions about the causes and consequences of conversion–the basis of arguments about the seriousness of the problem and its policy solutions. Our analysis draws from the most reliable sources of information about farmland trends and the economics of agriculture in California.

Downloadable Documents: 
Nicolai V. Kuminoff, Alvin D. Sokolow and Daniel A. Sumner
Davis, CA: University of California Agricultural Issues Center
Page Numbers: 
Publication Date: 
May 1, 2001
Literature Category: 
Reports and Studies