By Gene Krebs. When I first started in the smart growth arena back in 1997, few seemed to realize the value of farmland. It was often considered a blank pallet for development. I tried to explain that farmland holds value beyond simply land preservation in and of itself.
A lobbyist actually once told me that she had been in the grocery store, and there was plenty of food. Therefore there was no need to preserve farmland, and in fact, that land would be better used for housing. I tried to explain that, when looking in the long term, not only would there be the possibility of global food shortages, but also the housing market was vastly overbuilt to the point where it would become a false economy. Ever pour water on a rock? It looks wet but nothing has soaked in? That was my impact with her.
In addition to all these reasons to preserve farmland, a recent article from the Wall Street Journal entitled "Resource-Rich States Surge" makes the financial case for the value of farmland and the need to preserve it. Not only does this article explain the obvious, detrimental effects of overbuilt housing, but more importantly it shows that commodity-rich states, including primarily those with farm earnings, are faring the best.
The most relevant quote from the article states, “In the third quarter, commodity-rich states continued to gain ground compared with other states. Overall farm earnings, for instance, grew 12% on average in the period, which made South Dakota, Kansas and Minnesota among the nation's fastest gainers in overall income during the quarter.”
Therefore, farmland adds tremendous value to the states prudent enough to preserve it. It even gives a competitive edge. Hopefully Ohio can learn from this and acknowledge the importance of farmland preservation.