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NR 2004-24
August 3, 2004

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

MONTEREY COUNTY LAND CONVERSION RATE SLOWS

SACRAMENTO – Both urbanization and agricultural development have slowed in Monterey County compared with the late 1990s, according to a new study by the California Department of Conservation.

Between 2000 and 2002, urban land increased by 1,576 acres, compared with 2,457 acres from 1998-2000. Net increases in irrigated land dropped to 1,536 acres from the staggering 14,611-acre increase reported in the 1998-2000 report.

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 2002 analysis is nearly complete statewide, while 2004 mapping is underway.

“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, and it’s vital that we ensure there’s enough room for 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.

In Monterey County, irrigated farmland categories saw increases, primarily due to new vineyards and row crops. More than 86 percent of the net increase in irrigated land occurred on lesser-quality soils, known as Unique Farmland. Grazing land was the only category that experienced a net decrease, as more than 3,000 acres were converted to irrigated, urban, or other low-density rural uses.

In addition, cities within Monterey County reported that more than 1,000 acres – including 618 acres of prime farmland – have been committed to future non-agricultural use due to the approval of subdivision maps, the sale of bonds for infrastructure, or other permanent commitments.

Examples of recent urbanization in Monterey County include five developments involving homes, commercial buildings or parks around Salinas, ranging from 26-38 acres; a 104-acre housing development in Soledad; increased housing density in Seaside and Prunedale affecting 138 and 135 acres, respectively; and a 33-acre development in Monterey.

The agricultural land in Monterey 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 about 408,700 in 2000 to more than 590,000 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Monterey County’s agricultural production was more than $2.8 billion in 2002, ranking it behind only Fresno and Tulare among the state’s 58 counties.

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.

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