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Farms are part of the backbone of the United States. Many plots of farmland have been passed down from one generation to another, making them a family legacy.
They provide food for the country and for the world.
Yet even as the need for farms and their products rises steeply, the sheer number of farms is declining. Farmland acreage has fallen by more than 13.6 million acres since 2014.
Why is farmland losing acreage? The answer to this question is one word: development.
Agricultural land is quickly and continuously being swallowed up by urban sprawl, which includes commercial, industrial and residential development.
Some experts are saying the amount of usable farmland could be cut in half by the year 2050.
What do these sobering statistics mean for the US and the world at large? To truly understand how the decline in the number of farms impacts the world, we will need to take a look at how farms benefit society.
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Benefits Of Farmland To Society
Farming, farmland and agricultural businesses impact the society at large in several ways, including:
- Providing jobs for everything from planting seeds to harvesting crops
- Giving people access to local organic products
- Preserving natural spaces by resisting development
Agriculture also provides the vast majority of the world’s foods and fabrics such as cotton and wool.
So, in a nutshell, farmland is crucial to our global and local economies.
The Growing Need For Small Farms
Smaller farms with less acres make the best use of what they have, and that tends to be growing heirloom and unconventional varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Right now, the world’s population is subsisting primarily on 12 plant species and 5 animals. That’s very risky!
What would happen in a severe blight or disease among plants and animals? Or natural disasters that destroy farms and ranch land?
Many small farms partner with others to hold Farmers Markets. This brings high-quality foods to smaller urban areas that might not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Prices tend to be reasonable compared to commercially packaged items. And the produce is fresh because it has not been transported from other states or even different countries.
In addition, many local municipalities allow EBT Food Stamps to be used for local produce at farmers markets.
Environmental Benefits Of Farming
Pastures and crop fields occupy nearly half of the earth’s usable land.
This land provides habitat and food for a large number of species from birds to butterflies to smaller land animals. The effects of preserving and even increasing these natural habitats is priceless.
There are other specific ways farming benefits society and the environment.
Farming practices have been shown to:
- Reduce erosion
- Increase the amount of pollinators such as the bee population that is rapidly shrinking
- Help with water conservation through carefully planned irrigation systems
- Mitigating flood risks by reducing runoff
- Minimal use of transportation uses less fossil fuels
- Preserving valuable ecosystems threatened by development
- Open meadows are safe places for native wildflowers and other species
Agriculture also increases the health of the soil. Crop rotation, cover cropping with grasses, and the use of compost are all key ways the soil is enriched as more topsoil is formed.
The process of photosynthesis helps cut down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As plants flourish, they also add oxygen to the environment.