BOISE — Boise State University researchers are developing a map that will project how much farmland will be lost in the Treasure Valley through the end of the century and where it will occur.
The map will project farm ground loss in southwestern Idaho in 10-year increments beginning in 2021, said Jodi Brandt, an assistant professor in BSU’s Human-Environment Systems Department. She is part of a team of professors and students developing the map.
She will use data on growth patterns and development that occurred in the Treasure Valley area from 2001-2011 to help project future farm ground loss.
The project sounds interesting and could be useful to the local agricultural community, said George Crookham, chairman of the Coalition for Agriculture’s Future, which formed in 2008 as a result of the rapid development that is occurring in this area.
“I think it could be very beneficial,” he said. “I’m curious, and possibly horrified, at what her projections will show.”
According to the Ada Soil and Water Conservation District, there were 244,218 acres of farmland in Ada County in 1974 but that total dropped to 144,094 in 2012.
Total farmland in adjacent Canyon County is holding steady at about 206,000 acres but some people fear the rapid development will eventually cause farm ground to disappear in that county as well.
Crookham said Brandt couldn’t have picked a better range than 2001 to 2011 to demonstrate the effects of what he called “un-smart growth,” which led to subdivisions being plopped in the middle of farmland.
“That was the un-smartest growth we have ever experienced,” he said.
He said CAF supports smart growth, from the cities out.
Brandt said the project came about as a result of recent BSU surveys that show people in the region “overwhelmingly value agricultural land. It came up that agriculture is something people really care about.”
She said the cropland loss map will be completed in about a month. Over this summer, it will be expanded to show how specific crops will be impacted by the projected loss of farm ground.
For example, “It will show that we’ll lose so many bushels of corn production or so many tons of alfalfa production,” she said.
For that product, researchers will incorporate USDA data that shows what types of crops are being grown, where.
The Treasure Valley is a major seed producing region.
Crookham, CEO of Crookham Seed Co., said some seed production in the region has been moved to other areas because many vegetable seeds need minimum buffer zones to ensure cross-pollination doesn’t occur and that’s been a challenge because of rapid development.
“With the minimum isolation distances that many crops (in the area) require, I think the model is probably going to show that we are going to get forced out of certain areas” in the valley, he said.