For Immediate Release
May 18, 1997
Contact: Brian Johnson
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release
December 6, 1999
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE RELEASES NEW FIGURES SHOWING
ACCELERATED LOSS OF FARMLAND TO DEVELOPMENT
Proposes Increased Funding for Voluntary Programs to
Protect Threatened Farms
Washington, DC -- Vice President Al Gore today released
new figures showing that the conversion of farmland and
other open space to development more than doubled in recent years. The Vice
President said the Administration will seek a significant increase in funding
for voluntary programs to preserve farms threatened by sprawl.
The new figures, contained in the USDA's 1997 National
Resources Inventory, show that nationally nearly 16 million acres of forest,
cropland, and open space were converted to urban and other uses from 1992 to
1997. The average rate for those five years -- 3.2 million acres a year -- is
more than twice the rate of 1.4 million acres a year recorded from 1982 to
"These new figures confirm what communities across America
already know -- too much of our precious open space is being gobbled up by
sprawl," Vice President Al Gore said. "We need to help communities grow in ways
that work. We can build more livable communities, with a strong economy and a
high quality of life, without forcing family farmers off the farm."
The Vice President said the new figures show that the loss
of farmland is no longer centered predominantly around major metropolitan
areas, but is affecting growing numbers of small- and mid-sized cities in
virtually every part of the country.
States with the highest acreage conversion rates include:
California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas (State chart attached).
While the conversion of agricultural land does not
threaten America's food supply, haphazard development patterns result in the
fragmentation of agricultural land, the loss of family farms that raise fresh
produce for urban markets, and the elimination of vital open spaces, the Vice
"Every time a farmer is squeezed off the land, a valuable
way of life is eroded," the Vice President said. "We can help preserve our
communities, and our environment, by keeping farmers on the land."
The Vice President said the Administration's FY 2001
budget would propose a significant increase for USDA's Farmland Protection
Program, which provides resources to state and local governments to enter into
voluntary agreements with farmers to preserve farmland. Typically, the funds
are used to purchase "conservation easements" that ensure that farmland remains
in agriculture and is not developed.
"This voluntary program is enormously popular -- for every
dollar available, we have $10 in requests from state and local governments. Yet
Congress has repeatedly denied the Administration's requests for increased
funding," the Vice President said. "We will again call on Congress to give
farmers, and their communities, the help they need."
The Vice President said the Administration will also
continue to help communities address sprawl through its Livable Communities
initiative, a broad array of programs that provide tools and resources to help
ease traffic congestion, protect open space, revitalize urban neighborhoods,
and strengthening local economies.
"Our role is to expand the choices available to communities
-- not to dictate solutions," the Vice President said. "By providing new tools
and resources, we can help communities create the future they want."
The full National Resources Inventory will be released
Tuesday, December 7th by Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman at the National
Summit on Private Lands Conservation in Ames, Iowa. The summit, hosted by USDA,
will examine conservation and forestry issues facing the nation's private lands
and gather ideas for targeting federal assistance.
The resources inventory covers non-federal land in the
United States -- some 75 percent of the country's land base -- and is conducted
every five years by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in
cooperation with Iowa State University. It captures data from 800,000
statistically selected locations on land cover, land use, soil erosion, prime
farmland, wetlands, habitat diversity, selected conservation practices, and
other natural resource information. The information is statistically reliable
for national, regional, statewide and multi-county use. NRI land conversion
information is available on the web at <http:www.nrcs.usda.gov>.
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