California Farmland Conversion Summary

Did you know…

  • Farm and Grazing lands in California decreased by more than 1.4 million acres between 1984 and 2010.  This is larger than the size of Merced County.  This loss averages just under 54,000 acres per year, or about one square mile every four days.  
  • The type of farmland with the largest decrease has been Prime Farmland, the best soils for agricultural production.  Prime Farmland losses were just under 662,000 acres between 1984 and 2010, larger than the size of Yolo County. 
  • Urbanization accounts for the vast majority of this loss, nearly 1.1 million acres over the 1984-2010 timeframe.  This is nearly the size of Sonoma County. 
  • Other major causes for farmland loss include low density rural residences, mining, and ecological restoration projects.  These totaled more than 291,000 acres between 1984 and 2010; nearly one quarter of the scale of urbanization. 
  • A more detailed statewide 1984 to 2010 conversion summary and component charts are available (XLS). 
Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program
1984-2010 Conversion Summary

Total Change

Annual Average



Irrigated Farmland

-1,027,184 -39,507

Dryland Farming and Grazing Land 

-367,530 -14,136

Urban and Built-up Land

1,084,734 41,721

Other Land 

290,856 11,187

Water (1)

19,698 758

(1) Water increase primarily due to construction of Diamond Valley Reservoir, Lake Sonoma, Los Vaqueros Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, flooding of Liberty Island, and reclamation of former gravel pits into permanent water bodies in Alameda County.