NR 2004-20
June 25, 2004

Contact: Anita Gore
Ed Wilson
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO -- The rate of both farmland loss and urbanization in San Joaquin County accelerated since 2000, according to a new map released by the California Department of Conservation.

Urban land increased by more than 6,200 acres between 2000 and 2002, with agricultural land declining by a similar amount. Sixty percent of the newly developed land was prime farmland. This compares to 2,555 new urban acres observed during the 1998-2000 mapping cycle.

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP), part of DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection, documents land-use conversion on 45.8 million acres of California’s private and public land every two years. The maps and statistics are designed to help local governments evaluate land-use planning decisions. The 2002 analysis is nearly complete statewide, while 2004 mapping is underway.

“This information helps counties and cities see the patterns and make informed choices about how they want to direct growth in the future,” Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young said. “The population of California will continue to grow, and it’s vital that we ensure there’s enough room for people and agriculture.”

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program classifies land as either farmland (prime being the best of four types of farmland), grazing land, urban land, other land or water. The “other” category includes low-density "ranchettes," wetlands, and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

In San Joaquin County, according to the most recent FMMP report, 6,211 acres were urbanized – an area larger than the recently flooded Upper Jones Tract. Since the initial FMMP survey in 1990, the county has gained 16,600 urban acres.

The net loss of farm and grazing land, which includes conversions such as ecological restoration or low-density rural development, was 20,700 acres between 1990-2002.

In addition, cities within San Joaquin County reported that nearly 6,800 acres – 63 percent of which is prime farmland – have been committed to future non-agricultural use due to the approval of subdivision maps, the sale of bonds for infrastructure, or other permanent commitments.

Examples of recent urbanization in San Joaquin County include about 1,000 acres of new homes and commercial buildings in the Tracy area; a 480-acre Dunmore Homes development in South Lodi; the 580-acre Spanos West Development; 415 acres of new residential in West Stockton; 172 acres including the Jack Tone Golf Course and new homes in the Ripon area; 200 acres of new homes and freeway exchanges in Lathrop; and 173 acres of new homes and commercial buildings by the Stockton Airport.

The agricultural land in San Joaquin County will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects that the county’s population will increase from about 573,600 in 2000 to nearly 890,000 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of San Joaquin County’s agricultural production was more than $1.3 billion in 2002.

The maps have been sent to county planning officials and organizations such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, city planners, irrigation districts and county resource conservation districts. Printed copies, enlargements, or digital versions of the maps are available to the public. Call (916) 324-0859 or email for more information.

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1998-2000, was released last June. More than 91,000 acres were urbanized throughout the state – a 30-percent increase from the 1996-98 mapping cycle – and 27 percent of that total came from irrigated farmland.

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.