Concern among state legislators about rural development and rural land use is not new. In many states, agriculture remains an important feature of the economic, cultural, and political landscape. As rural incomes, populations, and prosperity have declined, states have adopted a variety of policies in response. Rural land and development policies in most states, however, are often more symbolic than influential, poorly integrated, and grossly misguided (Audirac, 1997). For rural areas, very few states mandate or facilitate rural comprehensive planning, often due to opposition from rural legislators. Farmlands (cropland and grazing land) constitute the largest share of land use by acreage in the country and have an even higher share in the rural areas (USDA, 2000). Although a relatively smaller and decreasing part of the overall economy, farmland uses employ 21 percent of the nation’s workforce (including processing, wholesale and retail trade of farming goods) and about 7 percent of nation’s workforce in production (2002 numbers). Therefore, focusing planning on urban land use alone is unfortunate, because rural areas, perhaps even more than their urban counterparts, have much to gain from comprehensive planning.


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