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NR 2004-27
August 18, 2004

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

GREATER SACRAMENTO AREA LOSES FARMLAND

SACRAMENTO -- The amount of agricultural land in the six-county greater Sacramento area continued to decrease as urban areas grew, according to new maps released by the California Department of Conservation.

More than 12,600 acres were urbanized between 2000 and 2002 in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) counties: Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba. When all factors affecting agricultural use were combined, farm and grazing land acreage experienced a decrease of nearly 29,000 acres during the two-year period. Additional factors include more detailed mapping of low-density rural residential uses, ecological restoration projects, and land idling.

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.

“These maps are designed to help counties and cities see the patterns of land-use change and make informed choices about how they want to direct future growth,” Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young said. “It’s critical to ensure that the needs of both a growing population and agriculture, a mainstay of the economy, can be met.”

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 the SACOG counties, the latest report documents urban land increases of 12,614 acres and the net loss of 28,959 acres from agricultural categories. Since 1990, urbanized land in the counties increased by more than 53,400 acres – an area larger in size than the western Placer county cities of Roseville, Rocklin, Lincoln, and Loomis combined. During the same period, nearly 104,000 acres were reclassified out of agricultural categories.

In addition, cities within Placer, Sacramento, Sutter and Yolo counties reported that more than 8,400 acres – 87 percent of which are currently in agricultural use -- 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. No information was available from Yuba and El Dorado counties.

A closer look at each of the six counties:

♦ In Yolo County, the amount of urbanization more than tripled, from 353 to 1,260 acres. Most of the conversions of farmland to urban land were due to new home construction in and around Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento - for example, the 500-acre Bridgeway Island housing development and Southport Business Park in West Sacramento. Total irrigated farmland acreage remained relatively stable, primarily due to new vineyards and other crops in the northwestern portion of the county. More detailed mapping of rural residential areas and ecological restoration in the Yolo Bypass contributed to a larger net decrease in total farm and grazing land than in the prior period.

♦ Placer County gained 5,408 urban acres, more than 90 percent of which had been farm or grazing land. This was a 40 percent increase in the urbanization rate compared to the 1998-2000 figures. The largest conversion noted was the Woodcreek West development in north Roseville. That city itself added about 1,300 acres of new housing and commercial development.

♦ El Dorado County’s urbanization rate increased substantially, with 2,425 acres converting in 2000-02 versus 441 acres in 1998-2000. The vast majority of new urban land occurred on former grazing land. There were numerous new or expanded housing developments noted, including Serrano (600 acres), Crown Valley (80 acres) and Stonebriar (65 acres) in El Dorado Hills and the Milton Ranch Estates (115 acres) in Shingle Springs.

♦ In Sacramento County, fewer acres were converted to urban land in 2000-02 (2,741) than in the prior cycle (6,430). Conversions affected each of the incorporated cities, ranging from expansion at the Sacramento International Airport to the Lakeside Community area of Elk Grove, where the new Elliott Ranch Elementary School, AAA Call Center building, and housing covered about 375 acres. Farm and grazing acres decreased by 4,551 in the 2000-02 cycle due to urbanization and improved mapping of rural residential areas, a decrease from the 5,729-acre drop in 1998-2000.

♦ Urbanization was also slightly down in Sutter County, where 488 acres urbanized between 2000-02, compared with 692 acres in the prior cycle. Examples of new development included a new Home Depot and Applebee’s at Colusa Junction in Yuba City and about 223 new acres of houses at California Homes south of Yuba City. More detailed mapping of rural residential and commercial land contributed to a larger net decrease in agricultural land than in 1998-2000.

♦Yuba County experienced lower rates of conversion activity as well. In the latest mapping cycle, urban land increased by 292 acres; the 1998-2000 figure was 362 acres. Increases in building density near Marysville contributed nearly 100 acres to the new urban total. Net losses to farm and grazing land declined from 2,242 to 1,419 acres, and consisted primarily of more detailed rural residential and wetlands delineation.

The agricultural land in the SACOG counties will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects that the area’s population will increase from about 1.9 million in 2000 to 2.8 million by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of agricultural production in the six-county SACOG area was more than $1.1 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 fmmp@consrv.ca.gov 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.

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