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News Release
September 25, 2002

Contact: Greg Kirkpatrick, Am.. Farmland Trust
(559) 967-7838
Don Drysdale, DOC
(916) 323-1886

FARMLAND SECURITY PERIMETER
TO SAFEGUARD CENTRAL VALLEY FARMS
Project a nationwide model for farmland protection,
 urban growth management

Madera, Calif., September 25, 2002—Eight landowners have banded together to create a “farmland security perimeter” just outside of the City of Madera, which will permanently protect 440 acres of Central Valley farmland and greatly reduce development pressure on thousands more. The protected vineyards and field crops form an urban growth boundary that will prevent the westward growth of Madera toward 40,000 acres of productive farmland.

"The Madera farmland security perimeter marks the first time that so many adjacent landowners in the western United States have protected their farms from development in this type of simultaneous, mutually-binding transaction,” said American Farmland Trust President Ralph Grossi. “If one landowner had decided not to proceed, the whole deal would have come apart. This goes to show that a group of dedicated farmers, working together, can protect their agricultural livelihoods and shape the future of their community.”

The willing landowners had an experienced partner in American Farmland Trust, a nationwide farmland conservation organization. AFT brought the farmers together to craft a strategy for the perimeter. AFT then worked with local, state and federal agencies, acquiring grants from the California Department of Conservation’s California Farmland Conservancy Program (CFCP) and the USDA National Resources Conservation Service’s Farmland Protection Program (FPP) to purchase agricultural conservation easements on the farms. Through easement transactions, farmers relinquish the non-agricultural development potential of their land while retaining control of their operations.

The CFCP grant was $2.2 million, the largest in the program’s history. The $1.1 million federal grant was the largest FPP conservation easement USDA has awarded in California. The landowners involved in the perimeter donated $1.25 million to the effort by accepting less than full value for the easements.

“These farmers recognize the importance of agriculture to the Central Valley and California’s economy,” said Darryl Young, director of the California Department of Conservation. “We salute them not only for making this decision, but also for setting an example that other agricultural landowners in the county and state can follow.”

“Placing an easement on the farm was not only an alternative to selling for development, it has also helped my bottom line,” said farmer Dennis Prosperi. “By allowing a farmer to cash in on the equity of the farm, easements can be a sound business decision.”

“The landowners had a vision for protecting the things they value—their farmland, their lifestyle and their communities,” said Chuck Bell, state conservationist for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, which administers FPP. “The community confirmed that protecting prime farmland was also their goal. The USDA and the State of California provided the tools to make that vision a reality.” Bell said that protecting farmland has received greatly increased visibility and support through the new farm bill, which increases FPP easement funds by over 1,100 percent from $50 to $569 million over six years.

Both the City and County of Madera have passed resolutions supporting the creation of the farmland security perimeter. While more than 40 percent of Madera County is in agricultural usage, the California Department of Finance projects that its population will grow from its current 124,300 to 203,200 by 2020. By protecting a large region of agricultural land on the western edge of the city, the farmland security perimeter directs Madera’s growth toward less productive land to the east and north.

“The Madera farmland security perimeter will allow the city to accommodate growth while protecting its high quality farmland, an investment that will pay off for years to come,” said John McCaull, American Farmland Trust’s California regional director.

“As California's population continues to grow, our efforts to preserve and protect prime farmland becomes ever more important. The cooperation of these farmers here today in Madera demonstrates that we can maintain the viability of our agricultural economy by keeping these lands in agricultural production,” said Senator Costa, author of the legislation that created the California Farmland Conservancy Program.

According to the California Department of Conservation, nearly 43,000 acres of agricultural land—an area about the size of the City of Modesto—was urbanized between 1996 and 1998. Nationally, American Farmland Trust reports that an area of farmland the size of Delaware is taken out of production each year.

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American Farmland Trust is a private, nonprofit farmland conservation organization founded in 1980 to stop the loss of productive farmland and to promote farming practices that lead to a healthy environment. AFT’s national office is located in Washington D.C. AFT’s Visalia field office is located at 1002 West Main Street, Visalia, CA 93291. Telephone number is (559) 627-3708. For more information, visit AFT’s homepage at www.farmland.org.