2014-2016 California Farmland Conversion Report
Irrigated farmland in California decreased by 11,165 net acres between 2014 and 2016. The highest-quality farmland, known as Prime Farmland, decreased by 18,312 net acres, coupled with a Farmland of Statewide Importance decrease of 26,557 net acres. Partially offsetting these losses was the addition of 33,704 net acres of irrigated crops on lesser quality soils, mapped as Unique Farmland.
Urban development, which totaled 44,942 acres, was virtually the same as the 2012-14 update. The highest amount, 47 percent, occurred in the San Joaquin Valley region. This is the first time the San Joaquin Valley has taken the top spot in the State for new Urban and Built-up Land since FMMP began compiling regional conversion statistics in 1990.
During this period, new Urban and Built-up Land included solar facility construction contributing over 19,000 acres. Without solar facility construction, this update would have recorded one of the lowest levels of new Urban and Built-up Land since 1984 when mapping began.
Land was removed from irrigated categories—to uses aside from urban—at a rate 17 percent lower than compared with the prior update (153,766 acres in 2014 and 128,105 acres in 2016). Land idling, where irrigated land was converted to nonirrigated land due to a lack of irrigation over time or conversion to dry farming, was responsible for 85 percent of this type of conversion. Irrigated land conversions due to idling are often associated with water resource limitations, market conditions, and salinity-related land idling. The southern San Joaquin Valley was most impacted by land idling. There were 70,886 acres of land reclassified from irrigated land to Grazing Land or Farmland of Local Importance in the San Joaquin Valley due to idling, comprising 65 percent of the statewide total.
Conversions of range and other lands to new irrigated land between 2014 and 2016 totaled 129,494 acres, an increase of 9 percent from the prior cycle. Sixty-five percent of these new irrigated lands did not have soil qualities to meet the Prime Farmland criteria. Seven counties had irrigated land expansions greater than 5,000 acres which included all the San Joaquin Valley counties, except Kings County. Many of the San Joaquin Valley additions were orchards added in the valley and along the Sierra Nevada foothills. Sacramento Valley counties exhibited similar conversion patterns to the San Joaquin Valley with plantings of orchards, vineyards, and row crops exceeding 4,000 acres in both Tehama and Yolo counties.
During the 16 biennial reporting cycles since FMMP was established, nearly 1.5 million acres of agricultural land in California were converted to nonagricultural purposes. This represents an area larger in size than Merced County, or a rate of nearly one square mile every five days.
Report split to facilitate download:
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Main Report: Acknowledgements; Executive Summary; Table of Contents; Program Introduction; 2012-2014 Improvements; Understanding the Data; Land Use Conversion 2014-2016
Appendix A: County Conversion Tables
Appendices B, C, and D: 2014 and 2016 County Acreage Tallies; County and Regional Conversion Summaries; Rural Land Use Mapping Summaries
Appendix E: Farmland of Local Importance Definitions
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