Presenter: Carter Smith

Commission Agenda Item No. 3
Briefing
Texas Land Trends Study
August 27, 2009

I. Executive Summary: Executive Director Carter Smith will introduce to the Commission Ms. Blair Fitzsimons, the Texas Advisor for Policy and Program Development for the American Farmland Trust and Dr. Neal Wilkins, a Professor at Texas A&M University.

II. Discussion: Dr. Wilkins will present the Land Trends Study and Ms. Fitzsimons will present policy recommendations from the American Farmland Trust which commissioned the study.

Attachments - 4

  1. Exhibit A - Loss of Agricultural Lands
  2. Exhibit B - Trends in Ownership Size
  3. Exhibit C - Current Land Use Trends
  4. Exhibit D - 2009 Texas Lands Trend Study

For help in interpreting these exhibits, please contact Blair Fitzsimons or contact Dr. Neal Wilkins.


Commission Agenda Item No. 3
Exhibit D

2009 Texas Land Trends Study

Texas is home to over 142 million acres of private farms, ranches and forestlands, thus leading the nation in land area devoted to privately owned working lands. Accounting for 84 percent of the state, these rural lands provide significant economic, environmental and recreational benefits. However, these benefits are quickly disappearing. A recent study conducted by the Institute for Renewable Natural Resources at Texas A&M University for American Farmland Trust reveals that Texas lost 2.1 million acres of farms, ranches and forest land between 1997 and 2007.

Highlights of the 2009 Rural Land Trends study (www.texaslandtrends.org) include:

25 highest-growth counties. During this period, 861,765 acres were lost from the agricultural land base in these counties. As a function of population increase, roughly 149 acres of agricultural lands were consumed per 1,000 new residents.

Policy Recommendations:

With the country’s largest percentage of private lands ownership, Texas has a strong tradition of land stewardship, resulting in rich and diverse natural resources, which sustain the state’s economy and enhance quality of life for its citizens. But rapid urbanization and fragmentation threaten Texas’ $73 billion agriculture industry (second largest in the country), its sources of drinking water, and the habitat upon which a $10.9 billion wildlife-recreation industry depends. Moreover, large-scale infrastructure projects are often planned with little analysis of the public costs—economic, social and environmental—of losing vibrant rural lands.

The Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program, a statewide Purchase of Development Rights program created in 2005, is a key first step in recognizing public benefits of keeping working land in open space. But for this and other incentive-based conservation programs to effectively provide alternatives to fragmentation and urbanization, there must be a broad-based understanding of the public benefits—such as clean air, clean abundant water, carbon sequestration and others—provided by private lands. Furthermore, Texas policymakers need an objective framework for assessing the conservation values of lands to be impacted by proposed infrastructure projects.

Recommendations:

The study updates and expands the 2003 Texas Rural Lands: Trends and Implications for the 21st Century, a landmark study also completed for AFT by Texas A&M.The 2003 study showed that more than 2.2 million acres of rural Texas land were converted to urban uses over a 15-year period, between 1982 and 1997, and the annual rate of conversion was nearly 30 percent higher than in the previous 10 years.

The study was funded in part by The Brown Foundation, Houston Endowment, Inc., Shield-Ayers Foundation, Magnolia Charitable Trust, and The Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation and the members of American Farmland Trust.

American Farmland Trust is a national nonprofit organization working with communities and individuals to protect the land, plan for agriculture and keep the

land healthy. As the nation's leading advocate for farm and ranch land conservation, AFT has ensured that more than a million acres stays bountiful and

productive. AFT’s national office is located in Washington, D.C. The phone number is 202-331-7300.


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