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Peer-reviewed Article

Can we stop farmland losses? Population growth threatens agriculture, open space


Albert G. Medvitz, Harvard University in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy
Alvin Sokolow, Department of Human and Community Development, UC Davis

publication information

California Agriculture 49(6):11-17. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v049n06p11. November-December 1995.


California, the nation's top agricultural producer, also leads the states in the number of new residents added annually. California's population is projected to double to 63 million by 2040. If the resulting increase in urban acreage replaces farmland, California agriculture will lose nearly 5 million acres — 17% of today's total farmland base. With it will go open space, which is now a refuge for some wildlife.

In the past, population growth did not reduce farmland acres because there was always more land to convert to agriculture. That scenario no longer exists due to limited cultivable land and water. Adaptations in farming practices and urban form such as higher densities and more compact development could limit the conversion of farmland to urban uses.

author affiliations

A.G. Medvitz, a rancher in the Rio Vista area of Solano County, has an Ed.D. degree from Harvard University in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy; A.D. Sokolow is Public Policy Specialist, Cooperative Extension, Department of Human and Community Development, UC Davis.

Further reading

Arrow , Kenneth , et al. Economic growth, carrying capacity, and the environment. Science. 1995. 268:52. doi:10.1126/science.268.5210.520 [CrossRef]

Bank of America, California Resources Agency, Greenbelt Alliance and Low Income Housing Fund. Beyond Sprawl: New Patterns of Growth to Fit the New California.. 1995.

Bouvier Leon F. Fifty Million Californians.. Center for Immigration Studies 1991.

Cohen Joel E. Population growth and earth's human carrying capacity. Science. 1995. 269:46. doi:10.1126/science.7618100 [CrossRef]