NR 2002-14
April 9, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO – More than 1,600 acres of new farmland were created in Lake County from 1998-2000, according to a map released today by the California Department of Conservation. The map is designed to help local governments evaluate land-use planning decisions.

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, part of DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection, maps 44.5 million acres of California's public and private land to produce a major study every two years.

The FMMP noted numerous changes of land previously categorized as grazing or "other" land – wetlands, low-density "ranchettes" and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing. New vineyards and vineyard expansions, primarily in the eastern and southern parts of the county, accounted for 1,671 new acres of farmland. The individual changes ranged from 25 to 375 acres.

During the last mapping cycle, 1996-98, Lake County gained 900 new acres of farmland.

Lake County bucked the statewide trend in not only gaining farmland, but also experiencing a slower rate of urbanization. During the 1996-98 cycle, Lake County gained 787 acres of new urbanized land. In the most recent survey, the FMMP found only 75 new urbanized acres.

Since the 1996 FMMP survey, Lake County has gained 2,573 acres of farmland and 862 acres of urbanized land.

The new map has been sent to local planning officials. Interested parties such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, planning consultants and area resource conservation districts have received copies.

"We do this mapping to help counties plan and prepare for their expected growth in the coming years," Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young said. "Unlike most of the state, there’s more farmland in Lake County today than there was two years ago. However, urbanization can occur relatively quickly, and it’s important for local governments to have the information the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program provides as a tool to balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy and natural areas."

Of the 850,983 acres mapped in Lake County, 59 percent was categorized as "other" land, 28 percent as grazing land, just under 6 percent each as farmland and water, and less than 2 percent as urbanized land. The California Department of Food and Agriculture assesses the gross value of agricultural production at $53.6 million in Lake County in 2000, ranking it 40th among the state’s 58 counties, respectively.

While the amount of urbanization occurring in Lake County is relatively small, the California Department of Finance projects that the population will grow from its current 62,600 to 99,600 by 2020.

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1996-98, was released in the fall of 2000. About 70,000 acres were urbanized throughout the state; more than 43,000 acres of the new urban land, an area about the size of the city of Modesto, were developed on agricultural land.

Through the Department of Conservation, the state offers programs that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use. The California Farmland Conservancy Program makes monies available to local governments, land trusts or resource conservation districts to purchase permanent agricultural conservation easements from willing landowners. These easements prohibit future development. Farmland Security Zone and Williamson Act contracts provide potential tax breaks to landowners who commit to keeping their land in agricultural use for periods of 20 or 10 years, respectively.