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California and the West

Pace of urbanization increases in California

February 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

TULARE, CALIF. — In just two years, more than 18,800 acres of farmland in several San Joaquin Valley counties became subdivisions, shopping malls or other developments, setting a state record for loss of farmland, according to newly released state data.

A healthy real estate and construction market spurred farmers in Fresno, Kings, Madera, Tulare and Merced counties to sell 18,801 acres from June 2002 to June 2004, said Molly Penberth, manager of the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program of the California Department of Conservation.

Preliminary data from the program that tracks land development found about 26 acres of farmland were removed from production each day in the two-year period, Penberth said.

Fresno County, the nation's No. 1 agriculture county in production value, lost the most farmland as parking lots at Cal State Fresno, new schools and 100 acres of new homes in Selma replaced crops, Penberth said.

"A couple of generations ago, Los Angeles County was the leading agriculture county in the nation. Not anymore," said Bridgett Luther, director of the Department of Conservation. "One generation ago, Silicon Valley was known as 'The Valley of Heart's Delights' because of all the agriculture production."

Farm groups are working with the Great Valley Center in Modesto on a plan for growth in the valley, funded by the state and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

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