ANDERSON, Ind. (AP)
- Agriculture in rural Indiana has been negatively impacted by residential
and commercial sprawl.
Data from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture show that between 1982 and 2012, residential and
commercial developments claimed more than 740,000 acres of land that had
previously been cropland, forest land and prairie.
destroy wildlife habitat, increase environmental contamination and decrease
the capacity to grow food, The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin reported. The
farmland decrease can also lead to non-environmental problems, such as food
The rate of rural
land conversion slowed after the housing market crash of 2008, but data from
the department show the pace is picking back up as the economy recovers.
“You can see in
Indiana, when things (economically) were starting to recover, it still shows
pretty steady growth in acreage of developed land and more farmland and
forest being lost,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier
Environmental Council. “Conversion has slowed down, but it certainly still
is a problem.”
professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, said the answer
isn’t to stop building homes and businesses outside of large cities, but to
better plan development to avoid uneven and unnecessary sprawl.
“Certainly, this is
a trend that has been going on probably since the country was founded,” he
said. “So what we can do to prevent excess comes in the form of planning on
the boundaries of how a city or town grows.”
He said many
Indiana counties and communities have set zoning ordinances that encourage
development near the community’s center while discouraging development on
the rural outskirts.
Maloney said the
most recent development trends include younger home buyers who wish to live
in small communities instead of purchasing large plots of former farmland to
“We had policy that
encouraged sprawl, and now it seems that trend is reversing and you see a
lot of new urban development and redevelopment focused on bringing people
back to the cities,” he said. “From our standpoint, and the environment’s
standpoint, those are all positive things.”