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NR 2004-14
May 17, 2004

Contact: Anita Gore
Ed Wilson
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
(916) 323-1886

NAPA COUNTY GAINS IRRIGATED FARMLAND

SACRAMENTO – While the urban areas of Napa County expanded between the years 2000 and 2002, so, too, did the agricultural economy, according to new data released by the California Department of Conservation.

New vineyards accounted for many of the 2,193 acres of irrigated farmland created in the county in that two-year span. Most of the new irrigated acres came from former grazing or pasture land. Additionally, 280 acres were added to the urban total.

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP), part of DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection, documents land-use conversion on 45.8 million acres of California’s private and public land every two years. The maps and statistics are designed to help local governments evaluate land-use planning decisions. The 2000-2002 mapping – the clearest look yet at state land use thanks to improved digital mapping processes -- is ongoing throughout the state.

“This information helps counties and cities see the patterns and make informed choices about how they want to direct growth in the future,” Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young said. “The population of California will continue to grow. It’s vital that we ensure there’s enough room both people and agriculture.”

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program classifies land as either farmland (prime being the best of four types of farmland), grazing land, urban land, other land or water. The “other” category includes low-density "ranchettes," wetlands, and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

Examples of recent urbanization in Napa County include the 130-acre La Vigne Homes development in American Canyon and a 60-acre industrial development near the interchange of highways 29 and 12.

Since the 1990 FMMP survey, Napa County has gained 2,057 urbanized acres and 10,664 acres of irrigated farmland. Grazing and pasture land have decreased by nearly 12,000 acres to accommodate these changes.

The agricultural land in Napa County will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects that the county’s population will increase from 125,800 in 2000 to 158,400 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Napa County’s agricultural production was $388 million in 2002.

To help local governments make the best choices regarding agricultural land, FMMP upgraded the maps in 2002 by incorporating new digital soil data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Accurate soil information is the basis for determining the quality of land for farming.

The maps have been sent to county planning officials and organizations such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, city planners, irrigation districts and county resource conservation districts. Printed copies, enlargements, or digital versions of the maps are available to the public. Call (916) 324-0859 or email fmmp@consrv.ca.gov for more information.

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1998-2000, was released last June. More than 91,000 acres were urbanized throughout the state – a 30-percent increase from the 1996-98 mapping cycle – and 27 percent of that total came from irrigated farmland.

Through the Department of Conservation, the state offers programs that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use. The California Farmland Conservancy Program makes grants available to local governments, land trusts or resource conservation districts to purchase permanent agricultural conservation easements from willing landowners. These easements prohibit future development. Farmland Security Zone and Williamson Act contracts provide potential tax benefits to landowners who commit to keeping their land in agricultural use for periods of 20 or 10 years, respectively.

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