Central Valley Land Use Report
[Agricultural Production in an Urban State] [Goals] [Basic Principles]
[Sidebar: Can the Central Valley Learn from the Experience of Los Angeles?] [Task Force Membership] [Acknowledgements] [Footnotes]
Agricultural Production in an Urban State
California has led the nation in total farm production every year since 1948. In its 50th consecutive year as the nation's top agricultural producer, California agriculture reached a record, totaling $24.5 billion in 1996.
In addition, California agriculture is a major contributor to U.S. export trade, exporting more than $12 billion in agricultural products. Every $1 billion in exports creates an estimated 27,000 jobs for Californians.
Nearly five hundred miles long and an average 50 miles wide, the Central Valley is an integral part of California agriculture, with a farm gate market value of over $16 billion in 1996. With regard to the value of agricultural production, nine of the nation's top ten counties are in California and six of these are in the Central Valley. (2)
Even though fewer than one percent of California's 32 million people are actually farmers, their impact on the economy is great:
- About 30 percent of the Central Valley's total personal income derives from agriculture;
- Farming is a renewable economic resource for California, creating income that is replenished each succeeding year;
- California farmers are one of the state's major sources of new income. (3)
While this state is first in the nation for the value of its agricultural production, it also has the largest population. The Central Valley has become a major recipient of the state's continuous population growth, with many Central Valley counties experiencing faster growth rates than most counties in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 1940 the Central Valley population was one million. Today it is well over five million. According to Department of Finance projections, population in the 18 Central Valley counties will reach more than 14 million by 2040. (4)
These rates of growth along with the current urbanization patterns will result in the loss of more than one million acres of productive agricultural land in the Central Valley by 2040.
Other problems from increased urbanization have occurred as well:
- Intense demand on existing water supply and distribution systems has resulted in the taking of water from agriculture to accommodate urban growth.
- Air quality has deteriorated. Because the Central Valley is an enclosed air basin, achieving necessary improvements in air quality is difficult. Studies by the University of California have documented 25 to 30 percent yield losses in many crops in the Central Valley due to air pollution. Projected population growth and corresponding increases in vehicle miles traveled will make it much more difficult to solve this economic and public health problem.
- Current patterns of urbanization have contributed to revenue shortfalls in local government budgets. The high cost of infrastructure and services demanded by urban development can't be met under the current level of fees and taxes levied to cover these costs, forcing local governments to choose between raising fees, assessments, and taxes to cover the shortfall, or reducing their level of services, neither of which is very popular. Communities that grow in predictable, concentric patterns at higher densities are better able to meet their fiscal obligations without resorting to increases in fees and taxes.
Although the value of agricultural production appears to have increased while losing farmland to urbanization, at some point we reach diminishing returns. (5) During California's post World War II sprawl, new agricultural technologies and additional irrigation allowed more intense agricultural production to occur while prime soils were being urbanized. This is no longer a viable option. We cannot expect the same kinds of yields nor remain competitive in a global market if agriculture is pushed onto lower quality soils that require higher inputs. Furthermore, environmental concerns and the lack of water make bringing these lands into intense agricultural production impractical, in not, impossible.
Agriculture in the Central Valley brings important economic and environmental aspects to this state, but these will be severely diminished if we continue to make decisions as we have in the past. Current growth and economic pressures coupled with inadequate resource and land use policies are leading the Central Valley to a similar destiny as that of Los Angeles, Orange, and Santa Clara counties. (6)
Projected population growth for the Central Valley and improvements in the state's economy will only increase the pressure to convert agricultural land to urban uses. Clearly, urbanization brings a multitude of issues that affect the future of agriculture and the future quality of life for citizens in the Central Valley. Therefore, we must act now to protect our resources and conserve agricultural land for production agriculture.
|County||1996 Market Value of
|County||1996 Market Value of
|County||1980 Population||1990 Population||Percent Growth|
Table 3. Current Population and Projected Growth in the Central Valley
* Although a significant portion of Solano County is in the Central Valley, it also borders the San Pablo Bay and is a Bay Area county. These population figures reflect growth in the entire county.
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