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Kentucky’s growing farmland crisis

What does the future of farming look like? Take a peek ahead to 2040.

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Farmland and a housing development

The development of subdivisions and large-lot housing threatens the future of farming.

Photo provided by Fayette Alliance

3,200. That’s roughly how many Kentucky farms could be lost by the year 2040. We’re digging into why — and what KY can do about it.

The ground that supplies our increasing global population with nourishment does more than feed us. When stewarded well, farmland and ranch land can store carbon in its soil, protect water quality, and provide a habitat for diverse wildlife and native species.

The development of scattered subdivisions and large-lot housing threatens these benefits by fragmenting the agricultural land base. This type of development also limits land available to purchase and can reduce marketing and management options for existing farms and ranches. If this trend continues, ~3,200 KY farms could be lost by the year 2040.

Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future, a report conducted by the American Farmland Trust, maps out three potential development outcomes based on land development trends from 2001-2016. Factors studied include state policy, historical and current development trends, and land distribution.

Here’s what they learned, by the numbers:

  • 456,500: The acreage of Kentucky farmland (or a loss of $183 million and an estimated 7,600 jobs) if a “business as usual” approach continues without any change.
  • 639,000: The acreage of land converted if a “Runaway Sprawl” situation occurs and low-density housing continues to displace farmers and ranchers at a more rapid pace.

The good news?

  • 389,700: The acreage of Kentucky farmland that can be saved (the equivalent of 2,700 farms, $149 million in farmland output, and 6,300 jobs) by opting for “Better Built Cities” (think: more housing in urban and highly-developed areas) where policymakers and land-use planners promote compact development and reduce sprawl.

Farmers and communities are taking to action to protect farmland and strengthen opportunities for agriculture. Farmers and landowners can learn more here and community leaders can get help here. Learn how one family is committed to protecting 2,200 acres of farmland in Kentucky and Indiana here.*

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