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Time to Think About Farmland Again

Touch the Soil News #605

(Feature photo – Shanghai, China with a metro population of over 35 million is consuming farmland on its outer edges).

We all understand that civilization began in the most fertile areas and then expands out. Accordingly, a large sector of the world’s best farmland has been urbanized. Estimates are that the best farmland that has been urbanized and is about to be urbanized around mega-cities is almost twice as productive as farmland farther out.

Recently, a group of scientists from Yale, Texas A&M, the University of Maryland and research institutions in Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Austria gathered to study the loss of farmland mega-trend.

Their findings project that over the next 13 years, the world’s mega-cities (cities of over 10 million people) will devour 86 million acres of prime farm ground. There are over 25 mega-cities in the world with metro populations over 10 million people.

Given that this prime land close to cities is twice as productive as the average farmland, the food loss could be equivalent to the loss of 172 million acres. This is equivalent to a farm 50 miles wide and 5,375 miles long.

While these numbers are mind-numbing, consider that they don’t represent the loss caused by urbanization of hundreds of thousands of smaller cities.

According to the American Farmland Trust, America is losing about 350,000 acres of farm and ranch land every year (40 acres an hour – 24 hours a day).

Since 1954, the peak farmland year in America, the nation has lost close to 350 million acres of farm and ranch land. This loss is equivalent to a farm 50 miles wide and 11,000 miles long. America has about 40 million acres of lawn it could turn back into food production – a farm equivalent to 50 miles wide and 1,250 miles long.

Many experts are putting in their two cents worth as to what is causing this loss. More important might be what you think is causing this loss.

Following are two short video clips on farmland loss and urbanization:

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