If there’s anything Valley citizens have learned from the passionate support for preserving Wood Colony, it’s that people value our prime farmland. But despite consistent public support for farmland preservation, California has averaged a loss of 30,000 acres of farmland per year for at least the last thirty years.
Now there’s an opportunity for action that would stem the tide of destruction. Assemblymember Susan Tallman Eggman has introduced the Sustainable Farmland Strategy Act (AB 1961). The bill would require California counties to develop a sustainable farmland strategy.
While it’s actually past time we found a way to protect our vanishing farmland, AB 1961 offers a big step forward. At the very least, it would bring more public awareness to the ongoing loss of this finite and critically necessary resource.
The bill might also encourage people and politicians to include sustainability in their deliberations about land use. Much of the expanded acreage for irrigated farmland in recent years is not sustainable, especially the orchards on the Valley’s east side.
South and west, San Joaquin Valley farmland is plagued by problems with salinity, contaminated groundwater, and ever less productive soil. When we account for factors like sustainability, adaptability (capacity to grow many different crops), and productivity, we find that the best farmland is also the farmland that is disappearing fastest.
Assembly Bill 1961 will offer California the chance to develop strategies to inventory and protect one of our greatest natural resources. Here in the San Joaquin Valley, where we’re losing prime farmland almost daily, AB 1961 is especially relevant.
The Legislative Digest for AB 1961 can be found here. Among the things recommended as best practices are farmland mitigation and urban growth boundaries.