Économie et Statistique n° 444-445 - 2011Land and agriculture, recent developments
Regional Rural Land Markets Caught Between the Dynamics of Farm Holdings and Urbanization
Farmland and farm buildings are in demand from many competing players in the rural land market. When land is purchased for farming purposes, it is disputed between existing farmers-who seek to consolidate or expand their holdings-and potential entrants. But farmland is also a land reserve for accommodating infrastructure and non-farm urban and rural expansion. Farm buildings are in great demand for conversion into residential properties, while many plots are purchased to extend private space around houses. Two geographic dynamics are at work here: first, the dynamics of agriculture, shaped by such factors as land tenure, the specialization of local areas and production systems, and the prevalence of private or incorporated farms; second, the dynamics of urbanization, driven by entirely different criteria such as proximity of communication links and employment areas, and attractiveness due to a sunny climate, the coast, building quality, landscape, and so on. The combination of these two dynamics has direct consequences on farmers' access to land, land-market trends, urbanization patterns, and the preservation of agriculture in certain areas under heavy urban pressure. The extent of urban encroachment into rural space varies considerably from one region to another, depending on the income generated by farming and on the market supply of buildings. An analysis of regional rural land markets in terms of farming dynamics and urbanization reveals, at a subtler level, the broad regional trends in local development and in the evolution of rural landscapes.