The Population Debate

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1998

Last revision: Oct. 28, 2010


These new industries can transport their products by telecommunication and can locate their plants based on the cost of living and the quality of life; they don't need to be in the middle of a big city, and they don't need rail or barge transportation at hand.

"That's why Missouri is growing," Hobbs says. The location of pharmaceutical and other technical plants in small Missouri towns is an example of how this is working.

What about the future? "In the next 15 or 20 years the trends going on right now will continue," Hobbs says. "We are going to see more geographical dispersion across Missouri." The increasing size of both big metro areas and smaller towns is going to continue to gobble up farmland and wildlife habitat. Missouri has gained about 400,000 acres of forestland since a survey in 1972, which is good, but the state continues to lose farmland to development.

Loss of farmland and its wildlife habitat seems to be a symptom of suburban growth. In a March 20, 1997, article in the New York Times, Barnaby J. Feder wrote that "It has long been an iron law of the real estate market that if farmland stands in the path of urban expansion, no crop is valuable enough to keep it out of developers hands." The article described the efforts of Pittsford, N.Y., to slow the expansion of nearby Rochester. The city issued $10 million in bonds to buy the development rights to 1200 acres of farmland from seven local farmers.

The article points out that, "By arguing that farms provide more than food and fiber-the list includes environmental benefits, soul-soothing scenery, diversity for the local economy and especially tax savings-advocates of farmland preservation are forging the political ties and financial tools to steer developers' backhoes away from farmland." A graphic with the article shows that 29 percent of the land developed in Missouri between 1982 and 1992 was farmland.

What will happen if the U.S. continues to pave over prime farmland? Farm products make up 15 or 20 percent of the food and goods that the U.S. sells to foreign markets, and the impact might be felt more overseas than in this country. "Some products now produced domestically would become imports," Feder writes, ". . . food prices could climb substantially, and other food-short regions of the world would be politically and economically less stable."

According to the article, simply increasing the density

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