By Dan Shapley
Suburban Sprawl Is Part Of The Reason For Increase, So Where Will Food Grow?
Farmland values doubled nationwide from 1996 to 2006, including a 40% rise in just the last two years. "The increases were propelled by good crop markets, a rash of outside investors, favorable interest rates and tax incentives and a strong housing market," as USA Today summarizes it. In communities at the suburban-rural interface -- so-called exurbia -- this fact is nothing new. There, housing tracts have been carving up productive farmland as farmers capitalize on the real estate exuberance at the same time many farmers face tough prices. That has some advocates in those areas worried about the viability of "foodsheds" -- the area of land surrounding communities that can keep food on its kitchen tables. While the food system today is international, and New Zealand berries are often easier to find than those grown down the road, these advocates worry about a future when energy isn't so cheap
, and the economics of worldwide food distribution make less sense. In other words, those farms may well be valuable beyond measure -- simply as farms -- in the future. Of course, a different scenario is playing out in the West, where corn is being grown for ethanol at a record pace -- 93 million acres planted, the most in more than half a century. As new reports show, however, corn-based ethanol is not a panacea -- and neither is exurban sprawl. Related Stories Report: Corn Ethanol Not A Viable Energy Option Gulf Of Mexico Dead Zone Approaching Record Size Tequila Is Latest Victim Of Corn Ethanol Boom Is Ethanol Behind High Food Prices? U.S. Biofuel Tax Credit Benefits European Drivers CSI: Gulf Dead Zone Beer vs. Biofuels Fertilizer Firms Are Flush. Thanks Ethanol Grains Of Truth About Ethanol Ethanol Drives Up Food Costs Alternative Fuel -- With More Pollution?