Protecting Farms and Promoting Innovation to Feed a Growing Population

According to USDA’s estimates, 6.6 million acres of US Farmland has been lost from 2008 through 2015, with a 1 million acre decline in 2015 alone. Closer to home, USDA estimates that both Alabama and Georgia lost 100,000 acres, and 50,000 acres were lost in Florida in 2015. The US farming base has shrunk 7% in eight years, yet the world population is continuously growing.
People Impacted
$ 107B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

The world already has millions of people starving, and the population is growing while the amount of farmable land is dwindling. To feed a swelling population both the productivity and efficiency of existing farms is going to have to improve significantly. Certainly technology will continue to play a major role in this progress.  Commercial industries will continue to invest in the development of better machinery, chemicals, and crop varieties, but not every needed advancement has major profit potential.  Research in things like irrigation and fertilizer management, pest and disease management, integrated crop rotation, cover crops, and many other topics of importance to boost productivity will likely not be areas of major corporate research investment. It will take considerable public investment into the science of agriculture to feed a growing population both in the US and abroad (University of Florida, IFAS).

Symptoms and Causes
  • More than 2,000 acres of agricultural land are converted every day—including our most productive, versatile, and resilient land. Surprisingly, we find that low-density residential land use is as much of a threat to farmland and ranchland as traditional urban and suburban development (AFT).

  • Too many farms are still losing topsoil and discharging nutrients, polluting rivers and contributing to dead zones in coastal waters. And we are forgoing restorative work that could rebuild soil health and sequester carbon (AFT).

  • Extreme weather from climate change is damaging land and wildlife that helps naturally maintain that land at a higher level than ever before seen in modern history (AFT).

the impact
Negative Effects
  • We need farmland to grow our food—and the demand for food will only grow. Experts predict that we will need to increase food production by 60 percent by the year 2050 (AFT).

  • We also need farmland to restore our planet. When properly managed, farmland and ranchland support wildlife and biodiversity, recharge aquifers, clean water, and—of paramount importance in our fight against climate change—sequester carbon (AFT).

  • We now know that we can’t meet global climate goals unless we take steps that go beyond reducing emissions. We need to remove carbon already in our atmosphere. And when we lose farmland, we reduce this ability. We also put more pressure on the farmland that remains in production, because with less land available to grow the food we need, we can’t manage all the remaining farmland for optimal environmental benefit. It’s a double hit (AFT).

Economic Impact

Research suggests that people clearly desire farmland preservation programs and express a willingness to pay for the environmental and rural amenities provided. Some evidence has been found that farmland preservation programs can benefit the local economy and/or have no negative impacts relative to other economic development opportunities. The programs appear to slow farmland loss and thus may be having an impact on local government expenditures and orderly development (Duke and Lynch, University of Maryland)

Success Metrics
  • Drastically reducing the rate at which we lose farmland daily.

  • Implementing loss prevention programs in areas at risk of urban sprawl nationwide.

  • Investing in ways to implement current and new technology to reduce dependence on modern farming, and improve productivity concerning current farmland practices.

  • Further establish how protecting and growing farmland can help combat climate change as a main factor, instead of just an after thought.

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • American Farmland Trust

  • USDA

  • City and County Zoning Commissions

  • Farmers

  • Agriculture workers

  • Innovators in farming tech

financial insights
Current Funding
  • The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP

  • The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

  • The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP

  • The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

  • The Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)

Ideas Description

1) Implementing and promoting alternatives to traditional farming can reduce the burden to produce felt by modern farmers.

Alesca Life cultivates crops in old shipping containers, using LED lights instead of sunlight and growing them hydroponically. The crops grown have no pesticides, no chemical additives and no GMOs. Their process uses less than 1%  of land used in traditional agriculture, results in huge energy savings and 95% less water usage.

Farmlogs is powerful software for running a modern farm. Plan, manage, monitor, and market from any device.

2) Ensure farmers have access to aid and technology that helps prevent land loss.

When farmers feel like they are out of options they sell their land off to other parties that often convert the land into non-agricultural purposes. Putting improved tech into the hands of struggling farmers, and connecting them with grants and federal aid can help prevent the selling and conversion of precious farmland.

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