Smart growth and investment in Midwest downtowns and main streets must occur now to secure the land that grows our food, according to American Farmland Trust’s new report Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future and the accompanying web mapping tool.
“It is urgent we safeguard the land that grows our food,” said Mitch Hunter, AFT research director and lead author of the report. “In recent years, the global food system has been severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and widespread drought — pushing millions more people into severe hunger. The mounting effects of climate change and the rising global population will make it ever harder to ensure a stable food supply in the coming decades.”
AFT’s Farms Under Threat research has shown that by 2040, as many as 3,165,000 acres — nearly 5,000 square miles of farmland may be lost to urban and low-density conversion across the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin). Six Midwest states, including Ohio, make the top 10 list of states when assessing acres of farmland converted to urban development by 2040. This loss will disproportionately impact smaller farms that often serve local markets with fresh produce, eggs, dairy and meat. Small and peri-urban farms also tend to incubate new farmers and are instrumental in navigating supply chain disruptions currently experienced at grocery stores across the nation.
By 2040, agriculture in the Midwest will also be significantly constrained by water due to impacts of climate change. As temperatures continue to rise in the Midwest, precipitation is expected to become more intense in late winter and early spring, followed by drier summer months. The Midwest is also experiencing a market surge to meet renewable energy goals. These climatic factors will lead to increased flooding, compromised drinking water, reduced air quality and greater pressures on agricultural land.
Of the seven Midwest states studied, Ohio farmland will be most impacted, followed by Wisconsin, and then Michigan.