Results from a recent study indicate significant losses in agricultural land acreage in Texas between 1997 and 2007. You might be surprised to learn that fragmentation of rural land can lead to much more than just a loss in capacity to produce food and fiber. Joe Brown has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.

"If we look at just the value of that land, that farm and ranch land, just for aquifer recharge, then that’s a big portion of the land value if we were to be able to monotize that. Of course, those are ecosystem services that are most times provided for free by rural lands. Just as nutrient cycling is provided for free, protection against storm surges on the coast, flood plain protection."

Neal Wilkins is the director of Texas A&M’s Institute of Renewable Natural Resources.

"We’re faced with demands that can only be met on these private lands. Everything from carbon sequestration to water quality, water quantity, maintaining bio diversity, recreation, all of those things that are valuable off of land. Usually we only think of food and fiber."

Wilkins emphasizes that his position is not anti-growth, but one of striving to make smarter decisions about where growth occurs.

"We’re at the point where we’re going to have to start putting together some policy innovations that recognize the public good that comes from private lands, or we will squander those things that are providing the public good."

And the key to maintaining those public benefits, says Wilkins, lies in private land ownership.

"It seems that we’d be better off providing some incentives to private land owners to maintain those services, so that when they fall into tough economic times the only alternative isn’t to simply sell for development."

I’m Joe Brown, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.

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