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Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Agricultural Lands

Based on the findings of the National Agricultural Land Study of 1980-81 and the 1981 Congressional report, "Compact Cities: Energy-Saving Strategies for the Eighties," Congress passed the Farmland Protection Policy Act (FPPA) as part of the Agriculture and Food Act of 1981. Recognizing the need to protect farmland and combat urban sprawl, the FPPA intends to minimize the impact of Federal programs on the conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses.

Under the FPPA, agricultural land includes the following:

  1. Prime - land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, fiber, forage, oilseed, and other agricultural crops with minimum inputs of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, and labor, and without intolerable soil erosion. (7U.S.C. 4201(c)(1)(A))
  2. Unique - land other than prime farmland that is used for the production of specific high-value food and fiber crops; such as, citrus, tree nuts, olives, cranberries, fruits, and vegetables (7 U.S.C. 4201 (c)(1)(B))
  3. other than prime or unique that is of statewide importance
  4. other than prime or unique that is of local importance

When a proposed project impacts agricultural land, the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) should:

  • summarize the results of early consultation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and, as appropriate, State and local agriculture agencies where any of any of these four types of agricultural land could be directly or indirectly impacted by any alternative under consideration
  • contain a map showing the location of all farmlands in the project impact area
  • discuss the impacts of the various alternatives
  • identify measures to avoid or reduce the impacts

Questions and feedback should be directed to Marlys Osterhues (marlys.osterhues@dot.gov, 202-366-2052).

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