AFT Presents ‘Palmetto 2040’ Results, Proposals

Farmland is an endangered species, and that’s especially the case in the Carolinas, a fact which brought together residents, stakeholders, ag and business leaders, and others into a pilot project called Palmetto 2040 focusing specifically on the risk to farm and timberland in Lexington County, South Carolina. Billy Van Pelt is the National Director of Strategic Initiatives and Senior Advisor with American Farmland Trust, which spearheaded the effort. He tells SFN rich farmland in Lexington and elsewhere is being lost.

“Threats are from low density residential development and from urban highly developed land. Between 2001 and 2016 we lost 11 million acres of farmland in this country. We’re losing farmland at a rate of about 2000 acres a day. So that’s a national perspective. A state level perspective is that on based on recent trends between 2016 and 2040, South Carolina will pave over, fragment or compromise over 436,000 acres, and 51% of that conversion what happened on South Carolina’s best land.”

Van Pelt says Lexington would be one of the top three at risk counties for farmland loss in South Carolina, along with Spartanburg and Anderson. An analysis of risk and priorities led AFT to suggest a headwater protection zone be recognized.

“An area which would help uphold ecosystem services, permanently protect agricultural lands, and prevent against development onto high priority lands. Land within this area provides abundant agricultural services while also buffering downstream urban areas.”

In addition to creating a protection zone for prime farmland, AFT suggested that more data is necessary for local leaders to know how to proceed.

“A cost of community services study which quantifies how much growth is costing per dollar in taxes paid and how much ag pays per dollar in taxes paid and showing that difference. A community Quality of Life Survey that assesses what the citizens of the county really want and ranking them in priority. An infill availability study, this is an analysis of all the available land in the urban areas that’s available for infill and redevelopment before there is expansion on to farmland.”