Over 70 crops are harvested from 415,000 farmed acres in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Since 2014, about 2,000 acres of farmland were converted to urban development.

The Measure

No change in farmland land use due to urban development.  

  • Expectations

    Farmland in the Delta is preserved and local government general plans maintain land designated for agricultural land use.

  • Performance Metrics

    • Conversion of farmland acres to urban development
    • General Plan land designation change from agricultural land to urban land

Farmland in the Delta

The bar graph below shows the cumulative acres of farmland lost since 2014 in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Marsh. It also shows planned farmland loss from 2014 to 2018, designated to change for future urban development in city and county general plans. Additionally, the map below displays the land use changes of farmland, other land, and urban development by interactively swiping between 2014 and 2018 statuses. Since 2014, there has been an overall farmland loss of 12,386 acres. Of the overall loss, around 2,150 acres were lost to urban development.

Disclaimer: The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program data recently underwent major spatial improvements for accuracy. Due to linework improvements, county boundary line updates, and general land use changes; there was an increase of land use conversions. For more detailed information please visit the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program county conversion reports and tables.

Next Data Update: The Department of Conservation is processing remotely sensed data to update the 2020 Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP). The release date for the 2020 data for the Delta counties is expected by 2024.

Agriculture is the largest and most vital industry in the Delta. However, even though agriculture is the principle land use in the Delta, the total area of farmland has declined by about 20,000 acres during the last 30 years (DOC, 2015).

Under current local government general plans, substantial farmland will change to urban development, resulting in up to 28,000 acres of additional lost farmland (Delta Plan, 2013). Reductions in the Delta farmland will impact businesses, jobs, and communities because cultivated farmland is critical to the Delta’s significant agricultural economy. Preserving farmland promotes community and small family farms and retains the Delta’s rural heritage. This measure tracks how much farmland is being converted to urban land and how much is planned for conversion.

Each chapter of the Delta plan includes strategies to achieve the goals of the plan. These strategies are general guidance on achieving the objective laid out in the plan and in the Delta Reform Act of 2009. Associated with these strategies are recommendations. The recommendations describe more specific and implementable actions to support the achievement of Delta Plan strategies. Strategies may also have associated performance measures. Delta Plan performance measures track progress in achieving desired outcomes for the Delta Plan. Below are the strategies and recommendations associated with this performance measure. 

Delta Plan Strategies
  • Maintain Delta Agriculture
  • Plan to Protect the Delta’s Lands and Communities
Delta Plan Recommendations
  • Promote Value-added Crop Processing
  • Encourage Agritourism
  • Encourage Wildlife-friendly Farming
  • Plan for the Vitality and Preservation of Legacy Communities
  • Buy Rights of Way from Willing Sellers When Feasible
  • Provide Adequate Infrastructure
  • Plan for State Highways
  • Subsidence Reduction and Reversal

To be evaluated annually:

  • Conversion of farmland acres to urban development, evaluated in conjunction with updates to the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program.
  • Conversion of land designated for agricultural use to urban land use, under General Plan land designations, evaluated annually.

Number of acres of Delta farmland designated for agriculture in Delta Plan regulations at the time of Delta Plan adoption in May of 2013.


By 2025, no conversion of farmland to urban development as defined by Delta Plan regulations.

Data Source
  • The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP) from the Department of Conservation
  • City and County General Plans

For every year, the Delta counties data was downloaded from the FMMP FTP. The county shapefiles were merged, then clipped to the legal Delta and Suisun Marsh using arcGIS. The areas were calculated for each polygon. Then the areas of interest were summed by category. Acres were then exported in tabular format, and inter-annual differences calculated for each of the land use categories. Land conversion table analyses has been calculated for years 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. The difference from agriculture to urban and built-up land is reported as the loss of farmland in the legal Delta and Suisun Marsh.

Delta farmland is the summed area of all the agricultural categories. Data in the following categories were included to calculate the amount of agricultural land:

  • Confined Animal Agriculture
  • Grazing Land
  • Farmland of Local Importance
  • Farmland of Local Potential
  • Prime Farmland
  • Farmland of Statewide Importance
  • Semi-Agricultural and Rural Commercial Land
  • Unique Farmland

Urban and Built-up Land is identified as structures with a building density of at least 1 unit to 1.5 acres. Common examples include residential, industrial, commercial, institutional facilities, cemeteries, airports, golf courses, sanitary landfills, sewage treatment, and water control structures.

Other Land is land that does not fall under farmland or urban and built-up land. Typical uses include low density rural development, heavily forested land, nonagricultural and natural vegetation, mined land, vacant or disturbed land,  or government land with restrictions on use.

Planned farmland loss by general plans, or farmland designated to urban development is tracked by staff reviewing city and county general plans for planned zoned changes from agriculture to urban development. General plans are largely updated every 5 years, but evaluated annually between the Delta Counties.

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