Earlier Studies and Reports
In 1993, American Farmland Trust released results of a study that mapped how farmland on the urban edge was being swallowed up by development. The study, the first "Farming on the Edge," charted how much food was in the path of urban expansion and showed that an alarming 56 percent of U.S. agricultural production came from counties on the edge of cities. The study's release helped, among other things, to galvanize the launch of the federal Farmland Protection Program in the subsequent farm bill.
In 1997, AFT did it again, mapping the relationship between high-quality farmland and land development pressure in the United States. To do this, AFT used the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Resources Inventory. That study, also known as "Farming on the Edge," ranked Major Land Resource Areas to determine where the most threatened farmland lay throughout the United States. The study results helped legislators and farmland protection professionals direct their efforts.
But how is each STATE doing? This 2002 map, Farming on the Edge: Sprawling Development Threatens Our Best Farmland analyzes how actual land use changes are affecting each state's share of the nation's high-quality farmland. State by state, the areas in red represent concentrations of prime and/or unique farmland coinciding with that state's most rapidly developing areas.
Each year, the data AFT can use gets better and better. But the picture the data paints—of a nation wasting its best land for growing—remains grim.