2016-2018 Farmland Conversion Report

Photo of Hay Bale with scenic view of hills behind.


Summary of Farmland Change from 2016-2018​

Irrigated farmland in California decreased by 56,186 net acres. The highest-quality farmland, known as Prime Farmland, decreased by 38,683 net acres, coupled with a Farmland of Statewide Importance decrease of 30,052 net acres. The addition of 12,549 net acres of irrigated crops on lesser quality soils, mapped as Unique Farmland, partially offset these losses of farmland.​

What Farmland Was Converted Into

  • Urban development in California totaled 37,583 net acres for this period, taking 11,4​65 acres out of irrigated farmland (Prime, Statewide, and Unique Farmland).  Southern California led the way in urbanization with 21,046 acres of development. 

  • Solar facility development accounted for 17,192 acres of urban development between 2016 and 2018.​ Solar facility construction was a significant component of the urban increases in Imperial (91%), Kern (73%), Los Angeles (67%), and Fresno (63%) counties.​​​​

  • Land was removed from irrigated categories—to uses aside from urban—at a rate 19 percent higher than compared with the prior update (128,105 acres in 2014-2016 and 152,627 acres in 2016-2018).

  • Land idling, where irrigated land was converted to nonirrigated land due to a lack of irrigation over time, conversion to dry farming, or in advance of a planned use for urbanization, was responsible for the conversion of 117,927 acres or 77 percent of the land removed from irrigation for uses aside from urban.​

New Irrigated Lands Decreased Since Last Report

Conversions of range and other lands to new irrigated land between 2016 and 2018 totaled 108,909 acres, a decrease of 16% from the prior cycle.  Sixty-seven percent of these new irrigated lands did not have soil qualities that meet the Prime Farmland criteria. All of the counties in the San Joaquin Valley had irrigated land expansions greater than 5,000 acres except Kings County.  However, in contrast to last update, new plantings did not exceed 10,000 acres in any county in this region. Sacramento Valley counties exhibited substantial new additions of irrigated land with plantings exceeding 4,000 acres in Glenn, Sacramento, and Yolo counties.

The Department of Conservation has recorded the conversion of over 1.6 million acres of agricultural land in California to nonagricultural purposes since 1984.  This represents an area larger in size than Ventura County.   The largest losses in agricultural land have been from Prime Farmland (-816,123 acres), Farmland of Statewide Importance (-455,287 acres), and Grazing Land (-423,565 acres)—some of California's best farmland.​

Report split to facilitate download:

Each file name below redirects to an email request form so files may be sent directly instead of downloaded, unless file type noted in parenthesis.

2016-2018 Farmland Conversion Report (PDF): Acknowledgements; Executive Summary; Table of Contents; Program Introduction; 2016-2018 Improvements; Understanding the Data; and Land Use Conversion 2016-2018.

All Appendices, A, B, C, D, and E: County Conversion Tables; 2016 and 2018 County Acreage Tallies; County and Regional Conversion Summaries; Rural Land Use Mapping Summaries; and Farmland of Local Importance Definitions 2018.

Note: County Conversion Tables and Rural Land Use Conversion Tables are also available by​​​ using the county links provided on the Search for Maps, Reports, and Data page.

Appendix E Note: Santa Clara County changed their Farmland of Local Importance Definition in 2018. See files below for the 2016 and 2018 versions.

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