NR 2002-23
June 3, 2002

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


SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization in Sutter County from 1998-2000 increased compared to 1996-98, and a significant amount of farmland was reclassified as being non-cultivated in 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 (FMMP), 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.

In Sutter County, 692 net acres of land were urbanized during the current mapping cycle compared to 51 acres during the 1996-98 period. Much of the development came near the communities of Sutter and Yuba City, and most of it was commercial in nature. The average increase in urban land in the county from 1988-98 was 215 acres per year.

All told, 4,876 acres were reclassified from farmland to the non-cultivated categories of urban, grazing or “other” land – a category that includes wetlands, low-density “ranchettes” and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing. The idling of farmland for three or more update cycles in many locations around the county accounted for most of the reclassification. Low-density development on farmland was noted in several locations, and four new wetlands areas of 200 or more acres were mapped.

Since 1990, 9,333 acres of farmland have gone out of production in Sutter County and 2,354 acres of new urban land have been created.

Looking ahead, the county reports that 226 acres of farmland and 114 acres of grazing land are committed to future non-agricultural use. Often, this is land earmarked for development. In some cases infrastructure development, such as sewer installation, may be underway.

Of the 389,439 acres in Sutter County, 77 percent were farmland, 13 percent were grazing land, 6.2 percent were “other” land and 3 percent were urbanized. The remainder is water area.

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

"We do this mapping to help counties plan and prepare for their expected growth in the coming years," explained Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young. "This information is a tool that can help Sutter County and other local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Sutter County's agricultural land will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects the county's population will grow from its current 84,200 to 161,600 in 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Sutter County's agricultural production was nearly $343.5 million in 2000, ranking it 21st among the state's 58 counties.

Following are examples of farmland and grazing land being urbanized in Sutter County:

  • New developments around the community of Sutter, including Sweco Products Inc. and other businesses (15 acres), an expansion of Helena Chemical Company (15 acres), and new buildings on about 45 acres of former grazing land at the Sutter Industrial Park.

  • In and around Yuba City, the Calpine Power Plant (25 acres), a 15-acre expansion of the Wildwood West housing community, new car dealerships (10 acres) and the Sri Guru Narak Sikh Temple (5 acres).

  • The 140-acre Rio La Paz Golf Club near Nicolaus along the Feather River.

  • About 20 acres were developed in Pleasant Grove for a Teichert facility and Consolidated Dealer Systems Inc.

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. A new statewide report will be released this summer.

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 grants 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 benefits to landowners who commit to keeping their land in agricultural use for periods of 20 or 10 years, respectively.

In addition to administering agricultural and open-space land conservation programs, the Department of Conservation ensures the reclamation of land used for mining; promotes beverage container recycling; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; and studies and maps earthquakes and other geologic phenomena.