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Land Use: Are Farms in Danger?

Farms are being bought and destroyed at a fast rate. Farmland is being bought by big business so they can expand. Farmland is being subdivided and sold to individuals to buy land for homes. Farmland is also destroyed to start animal reserves. This could eventually have an effect on the economy of the United States. If the United States keeps losing farms at this rate there may not be enough food produced to support the United States. This would mean our imports would increase and our exports would decrease in the food industry. If that were to happen the price of food would increase making it even harder for low-income families to feed themselves.

Developers have been buying up farmland and turning it into shopping centers, business offices and factories. However several states have set up programs to protect farmland. These programs help farmers sell their land to other farmers. These states, they have also been giving farmers different ways to make their land more profitable. The problem is farmers are still selling their land. Businesses have the money to buy the land from the farmers. The big businesses can offer the farmers far more money for their land then any other farmer, or even the government. This gives the businesses the upper hand.

When farms are sold there are some economic effects. The loss of jobs has an impact on the locals who have lived in the area for years. Most of these people only know how to farm so working at the factor is not a realistic option. There is also a change of industry that affects the locals of the town. The town will shift from being an agriculture industry to a retail or factor industry. In most cases this shift creates new jobs and draws more people to the rural area. Schools are effected by this change because with more people comes more kids. Most rural schools only have enough room for a few numbers of students. Then the problem occurs that schools do not have enough money build bigger schools. Small businesses are then in competition with the new big corporate businesses and most do not last. The impacts that just one or two farms selling to developers can have on a community can be devastating to the locals.

There are some programs in effect to help slow this process down in rural areas. The program discussed next is in effect in Pennsylvania and few other states. See appendix A.

Pennsylvania has a program by the name of PDR. PDR stands for purchase of development rights program. This program is set up to preserve farmland and agricultural land. This program was started in1987 and is funded through the state cigarette tax. This money is used then by the state to purchase development rights to farmland. Pennsylvania ignited this program to ensure food production and the preserve open spaces and clean air. This program has helped farmland because it is taking money from the state to buy and help farms ( Kline, 1994).

Another factor hurting farmland is reserves. In some states they have been taking farmland and turning into a wildlife reservations (Beck, 1999). This source does not take away much farmland. Though in some states by taking farms and making them wildlife reservation has hurt that area economically. When looking at the environmental issue, the economic impact also has to be accounted for. In most cases wildlife reservations will not have a positive economic impact. This is because there is no way to achieve monetary value for the land and animals that are being saved. In the case of farms though the economic impact could be felt for several years. Not only are you taking away a source of income for that family and area but also now they have to buy food from an outside source.

There are those who believe that preserving farmland is hurting the over economy (Kline, 1994). Some economists believe that farmland is being preserved and it should not be preserved. They believe that by preserving the farmland it is not allowing the industry to grow like it should. If industry were to grow then that would create more jobs and promote economic prosperity. Economists believe businesses will not eventually buy up all the farmland. They feel by preserving the farmland there is land that could be producing more goods and services for the public. Farmers produce goods and services but factors can produce more jobs and more goods then a farm. The industries would promote a better economy because there would be more jobs available.

The other side to that argument is the fact that the businesses will take up more land if there are no limits. This land even if it is not used to its fullest capacity to farm, is home to several species of wildlife. The other factor is that the businesses or housing developments are likely to create more pollution then a farm. Though farms do use pesticides and tractors the amount they use will not equal the amount of a town. This fact would vary also depending on what kind of farm there used to be in that spot. Over crowding can occur and this can lead to the depletion of natural resources in that area. This could have bad environmental impacts.

One impact that could happen several years down the road is that the recourses for factors may disappear. A paper mill may have to close because the number of trees would not be enough to produce paper. This could happen from polluted water and air. The destruction of forests could also cause them to shut down.

All of these factors would have social impact on the community. The communities in a once rural area have higher crime rates and more poverty. This can lead to a culture clash (Smith, 2000). The one clash that occurs is that the old mama and papa stores that the locals are use to go out of business. With that occur the locals have adjust a corporate way of life.

The data that is on record with census bureau shows a decline in the number of farms in United States. It also shows the number of acreage per farm has gone down. The number of harvest corps has gone down too. With the trend it shows it is possible that farms could be in danger. See appendix b.

From my own experience I have seen an area that use to be nothing but farms turn in to town houses and Wal-Marts. The community that I live use to be a farm. It was bought back in the 70’s. The man who bought made a lake and sold land to elderly who wanted and quiet place to retire. Only 30 years later and this community are now at full capacity with all types of families. Right outside my development will be another development because a farm was just sold and subdivided. All this growth had an impact on the school I attend. They are running out of space to expand and money. Every year they have to purchase at least two buses to and to the routes. Just in the three years I have been out the class sizes have doubled. For example, I graduated with 99 in my class this years class with graduate with close to 200 hundred. In the town I shop their use to be one mall and nothing but farms. In the 10 years I have lived there they have sold three farms and built Wal-Marts, K-Marts, car dealerships, and restaurants. I know this is just one sample but from my readings I am finding I am not the only community this happening too.

In conclusion the use of farmland is a battle that may never end. The battle is economy verses environment. In either case society will have to deal with the positives and negatives. For example industries provide jobs for several people. On the other hand farms provide the people with the food that is needed for survival. If we were to import most of our food, the price of most products would go up. This would make it even harder for those who are from low-income families to get meals. The quality of land would not be good if there were nothing but factories. There would be little wildlife and little open space. There has to be a stopping to explanations of the developers before farmland becomes extinct.



Axelrod, Lawrence. (1994). Balancing Personal Needs with Environmental Preservation:

Identifying the Values that Guide Decisions in Ecological Dilemmas. Journal of

Social Issues 50(3), 85-104.

Beck, R.J.(1999). Is the Conversion of Land from Agricultural Production to a Bioreserve

Boon or Bane for Economic Development? Journal of Soil and Water

Conservation 54(1). 394-401

Cvetkovich, George. (1994). The Construction of Justice: A Case Study of Public

Participation in Land Management. Journal of Social Issues 50 (3), 161-178.

Heimlich, Ralph. (1994). Changes in Land Quality Accompanying Urbanization in U.S.

Fast-Growth Counties. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 49(4), 367-74.

Kline, Jeffrey. (1994). Using Referendum Data to Characterize Public Support for

Purchasing Development Rights to Farmland. Land Economics, 70(2), 223-33.

Laituri, Melinda. (1994). Finding Fairness in America’s Cities? Search for Environmental Equity in Everyday Life. Journal of Social Issues 50(3), 121-139.

Looker, Dan. (2000). Will Congress Listen to Farmers? Successful Farming 98 (9), 24-


Smith, Michael. (2000). “Culture Clash” revisited: Newcomer and Longer-term

Residents’ Attitudes Toward Land Use, Development, and Environmental Issues

in Rural Communities in the Rocky Mountain West. Rural Sociology 65(3), 396-


Stern, Paul. (1994). The Value Basis of Environmental Concern. Journal of Social Issues

50 (3), 65-84.

Young, Douglas. (1994). Comparing Performance of the 1985 and the 1990 Conservation

Reserve Programs in the West. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 49(5),



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