Monday, March 11, 2013

Township's Agricultural Viability Strategy

The Township of Langley is truly the supermarket to Metro Vancouver. With 75% of the community within the Agricultural Land Reserve and with over 50% of the farms in the region, the Township is one of the few places where you can get every item for every meal grown or raised locally (and that even includes the wine.) Agricultural in the Township of Langley generates $277 million annually in farm gate sales. With the economic importance and ecological imperative of local agricultural production, the Township of Langley started talking about developing an agricultural strategy in 2004 with work starting in 2008. Almost a decade later, the Township has a draft Agricultural Viability Strategy that, if council approves, will be open to public comment before the strategy is adopted.

The strategy contains 34 initiatives in the following broad categories:

Providing a welcoming business environment
This area emphasizes the need to nurture a supportive attitude for agricultural expansion. Specific actions are recommended for Council, the AAC, staff and organizations external to the Township. The initiatives address pertinent issues such as promotion of agriculture, agri-tourism, intensive agriculture, training and education, labour supply, mentoring and succession planning, and crises and disasters planning.

Providing the required services and infrastructure
This area focuses on the provision of the required services and infrastructure for the continual expansion of agri-business. Examples of services and infrastructure include water, drainage, roads, dyking, farmers’ markets and agri-industrial hubs for value-added processing.

Providing a secure agricultural land base
With Sustainability Objectives to strengthen the agricultural economy and to preserve the agricultural land base for food production, Langley farmers are encouraged to increase investment and production in the Township. This area of emphasis serves to increase certainty and security for Langley farmers by addressing issues such as protection of agricultural land, urban-rural edge planning to manage potential conflicts and the Salmon River watershed.

Ensuring farmer use of best farm management practices
This area identifies farming practices that may have an impact on other (non‐farm) citizens and provides guidelines for ensuring these farming practices do not erode the positive support for agriculture. This area of emphasis addresses key issues such as open air burning, chemical use, wildlife habitat, nutrient management, environ mental farm planning and land stewardship.

The strategy is a $2.7 million, 20-year plan. This means that implementing its recommendations will only cost $135,000 per year which to me is a great deal to grow and protect agriculture in Langley.

One of the interesting sections of the strategy speaks to the Salmon River watershed. I’ve talked about Salmon River uplands in the past as this area is not in the Agricultural Land Reserve. There will be continuing pressure to develop this area for population growth which not only impacts the viability of farming in the uplands area, but may also led to increased flooding and threaten the viability of farming in the Salmon River lowlands area.

Beside the Salmon River watershed, the strategy recommends that the Township update its Rural Plan to make sure that rural zoning becomes more supportive of farming, and to encourage population growth within existing urban areas and not within rural areas.

A draft copy of the Agricultural Viability Strategy is available in this afternoon’s council agenda.

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