DENVER—A new report, released today by Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center, analyzes agricultural land loss and the statewide environmental and economic impacts. The report —”Losing Ground: Colorado’s Vanishing Agricultural Landscape”—documents Colorado’s loss of 1.26 million acres of agricultural lands since 1997. The report forecasts that an additional 3.1 million acres will be lost if current trends continue.
“Colorado is losing the equivalent of five family farms every week.” said Pam Kiely, Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center’s Land Use Associate and author of the report. “Loss of farm lands impacts the environment, the economy and the very landscapes that define us as a state.”
The report highlights the importance of productive agriculture to the rural economy, the environment, and to tourism. It details the value that these lands provide to the state’s overall economic health. Agribusiness is a $16 billion sector of Colorado’s economy, providing 13.2% of total jobs. “One third of Colorado counties are dependent on agricultural income and employment,” explained John Stencel, President of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “The loss of prime farmlands should concern everyone.”
Open agricultural lands are also critical to maintaining the state’s biodiversity as well as preserving the natural cycles that clean and renew our air and water. “The continued loss of farm and ranch land results in significant environmental harms,” said Kiely. “Wildlife habitats are jeopardized by landscape fragmentation and water quality also suffers.”
Farmers and ranchers are facing new challenges as this trend of agricultural land loss accelerates. “When the land has been in your family for four generations, you think that you are always going to be there,” explains Adams County farmer Barb Marty, “but it is difficult to remain optimistic when suburban and industrial development is closing in around you.”
The report calls on all stakeholders to come together to develop strategies to promote agriculture and rural development. “Farmers and ranchers are essential stewards of Colorado’s landscapes,” concludes Kiely. “There is a great deal at stake, and now is the critical time for key leaders to unite around an agenda that promotes agriculture and rural prosperity.”