Is Farmland Preservation Worthwhile?

Preserving farmland has always been a major issue in the U.S. But as Bill Fulton discusses, the local economic results don't quite justify the efforts.

"The longtime farmers say they're losing money. Even the organic farmers, who are making money, fear that proximity to urban development - and the complaints that arise - will drive them out of business. The farmland is worth far, far more for development than for farming. So why save it? Is there an economic development purpose to farmland preservation?"

"This debate is being played out in counties all across America. As an economic development strategy, agriculture usually looks like a loser. It consumes enormous amounts of land, which is far more valuable in the marketplace if it is used for something else. It employs few people, often on a seasonal basis and at very low wages. And it creates low value-added products."

"Still, farmland preservation is a strong state or local policy in many locations. The arguments in favor are almost never economic in nature. Rather, local residents often favor farmland protection over subdivision development because they think it will reduce traffic and maintain their community's traditional lifestyle even though they often complain about the noise and smells from farm operations. Environmentalists argue that organic farming can be economically successful because of farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture, a new trend in which local residents contract with local farmers for food."

Full Story: Down on the Farm

Comments

Comments

This article barely comes to

This article barely comes to any kind of conclusion. The thesis that it hints at seems antithetical to common-sense.

Fulton suggests that the "food security" argument is the only reason for preserving American ag capacity when there are environmental factors to it as well.

In a world with rising fuel costs it could very soon very well be cheaper to buy fruits and vegetables locally and it is certainly much more efficient.

The conversation this article starts belongs in the 1980's.

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Mike G aka fullerton

Off the Mark...

Wow Bill, normally I agree with most of your commentary, however, this article, as the previous commentor stated, doesn't even really come to a conclusion. Not to mention I wholeheartedly disagree with the semi-conclusion it comes to. Incorporating agriculture into development can be economically viable, especially in this down housing market, where differentiation is everything. Whether we are talking about urban agriculture or suburban ag, the tangible impacts alone - creating food closer to the end user, creating more pervious land, aesthetic improvements, etc. - are worth it. The intanglible impacts - having people relearn how to interact with their environment, promoting healthier communities, especially in urban areas, providing a place for people to connect with each other - are even better.

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