Prime Farmland

Prime farmland is one of several kinds of important farmland defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is of major importance in meeting the Nationís short and long-range needs for food and fiber. Because the supply of high quality farmland is limited, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes that responsible levels of government, as well as individuals, should encourage and facilitate the wise use of our Nationís prime farmland.

Prime farmland, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops and is available for these uses. It could be cultivated land, pastureland, forestland, or other land, but it is not urban or built-up land or water areas. The soil qualities, growing season, and moisture supply are those needed for the soil to economically produce sustained high yields of crops when proper management, including water management, and acceptable farming methods are applied. In general, prime farmland has an adequate and dependable supply of moisture from precipitation or irrigation, a favorable temperature and growing season, acceptable acidity or alkalinity, an acceptable salt and sodium content, and few or no rocks. Prime farmland is permeable to water and air, is not excessively erodible or saturated with water for long periods, and either is not frequently flooded during the growing season or is protected from flooding. The slope ranges mainly from 0 to 6 percent. More detailed information about the criteria for prime farmland is available at the local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

About 245,000 acres in the area, or nearly 33 percent of the total acreage, meets the soil requirements for prime farmland. Most areas of this land are in the eastern part, the Sacramento Valley. The crops grown on this land, mainly rice, tomatoes, almonds, prunes and wheat, account for a large part of the countyís total agricultural income each year.

Most of the soils in the upland valleys would meet the requirements for prime farmland if an adequate and dependable supply of irrigation water were available.

A recent trend in land use in some parts of California has been the loss of some prime farmland to industrial and urban uses. The loss of prime farmland to other uses puts pressure on marginal lands, which generally are more erodible, droughty, and less productive and cannot be easily cultivated.

The map units in the area that are considered prime farmland are listed in table 8. This list does not constitute a recommendation for a particular land use. On some soils included in the list, measures that overcome a hazard or limitation, such as flooding, wetness, and doughtiness, are needed. Onsite evaluation is needed to determine whether or not the hazard or limitation has been overcome by corrective measures. The extent of each listed map unit is shown in table 4. The location is shown on the detailed soil maps at the back of this publication. The soil qualities that affect use and management are described under the heading "Detailed Soil Map Units."

Additional Farmland of Statewide Importance

This is land, in addition to prime and unique farmlands, that is of statewide importance for the production of food, feed, fiber, forage, and oilseed crops.

Criteria for defining and delineating this land are to be determined by the appropriate State agency or agencies. Generally, additional farmlands of statewide importance include those that are nearly prime farmland and that economically produce high yields of crops when treated and managed according to acceptable farming methods. Some may produce as high a yield as prime farmlands if conditions are favorable. In some States, additional farmlands of statewide importance may include tracts of land that have been designated for agriculture by State law.

The map units in the survey area that are considered additional farmland of statewide importance are listed in table 9. This list does not constitute a recommendation for a particular land use. On some soils included in the list, measures that overcome a hazard or limitation, such as flooding, wetness, and doughtiness, are needed. Onsite evaluation is needed to determine whether or not the hazard or limitation has been overcome by corrective measures. The extent of each listed map unit is shown in table 4. The location is shown on the detailed soil maps. The soil qualities that affect use and management are described under the heading "Detailed Soil Map Units."