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Small farmers losing acres

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Dwindling acreage isn't just the farmer's problem Steve Troxler, North Carolina agriculture commissioner, has to care: It's his job. But how about the rest of us? Does anyone else care that North Carolina lost more than 600,...

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Dwindling acreage isn't just the farmer's problem

Steve Troxler, North Carolina agriculture commissioner, has to care: It's his job. But how about the rest of us? Does anyone else care that North Carolina lost more than 600,000 acres of farmland in five years?

If that's a trend, the state will lose a million more in well under a decade, pushing the state's farmland inventory down to 7.5 million acres.

The number of farms is down, too, but that's a different kind of math. Most small farmers were driven from the scene long ago, leaving only medium, large and 2XL. The disappearance of 1,000 between 2002 and 2007 is a fairly sedate pace, compared with what preceded it.

Troxler doesn't know what happened to that land. But, working from U.S. Census of Agriculture data, he offers a plausible guess: development. Urban counties lost 5,000 to 20,000 acres each, and several coastal counties, along with Moore in the Sandhills and Buncombe in the mountains, lost more than 20,000 each.

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In the end, it's not about data. It's about what you see -- and do not see -- when you look out your car window or plan a move. It's about aesthetics, environmental quality and the ability to sustain ourselves. That deserves some consideration in our long-range planning.

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