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Agricultural Land Loss
Farming is still one of the major economic sectors of the New Jersey economy and an important part of the Garden State's heritage. Over the two decades of the study, agricultural land shrank by 178,337 acres (279 square miles) to development and abandonment. In only 21 years, one-quarted of the state's total farmland that existed in 1986 has disappeared. However, on a positive note, the rate of agricultural land loss has consistently declined over the same period from an annualized rate of 9,485 acres per year lost in T1 ('86 - '95) to 7,933 acres per year in T2 ('95 - '02) to the most recent 5,730 acres per year in T3 ('02 - '07). This trend is closely related to two factors: there is less farmland consumed by urbanization and less farmland is being abandoned and allowed to regenerate to forest. Likewise, over this time period farmland preservation has made significant gains in protecting farmlands.
Like forest, farmland is a dynamic land use and changes significantly between time periods. While the majority of change is due to loss, some expansion of farmlands can be seen. The map viewer progresses through the four time periods with farmland depicted in yellow. The animation concludes with the total farmland loss specifically to urban growth over the entire 21 year study period, depicted in red. The map shows that there are some major hotspots of farmland loss to urban growth particularly in southwestern Gloucester County, western Burlington County, Monmouth, Somerset and Hunterdon Counties as well as some significant losses in Warren and Sussex Counties. While the slowing of farmland loss is certainly a positive trend, it must be gauged against the bleak reality that agricultural land lost one-quarter of its land base over the 21 year period of the study.