Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Update: Township's Agricultural Viability Strategy

Back in March, Township of Langley Council was presented with a draft version of its proposed Agricultural Viability Strategy (AVS). The $2.7 million, 20-year plan lays out a framework for supporting the agricultural sector in the Township. If fully funded, the strategy would cost $135,000 annually to implement.

Agricultural is an important part of Langley’s economy and as noted in the strategy, the “Township of Langley is one of the richest agricultural areas in Canada containing high quality soils and a favourable climate for farming.” The agricultural sector in Langley is also growing. In 2006, 55% of land within the Agricultural Land Reserve was farmed. In 2011, that jumped to 65% or 14,978 hectares. Gross farm receipts have also increased in that same time period from $228 million to $274 million. Some of the highest growth areas in farming are turkeys, greenhouse growing, mushrooms, and blueberries. Predictions from the Ministry of Agriculture say that farming will only increase in Langley. This means that the preservation of farmland is key in the Township (food for thought as farmland gets turned into housing and "districts.")

In March, Township Council authorized its staff to bring the AVS to open house to get final feedback on the strategy. Not surprisingly, the AVS received strong support in the community. Feedback from the Ministry of Agriculture was also incorporated into the final draft of the strategy. The AVS was endorsed by the Township’s Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Agricultural Advisory Committee. Yesterday, Township Council had the opportunity to adopt and fully fund the strategy.

Some of the short-term goals in the AVS are to bring more awareness about farming and farming practices in Langley, and support agri-tourism. Other shorts-term goals include assessing the services needed to support farming in the Township. Another short-term goal is to develop a water and drainage management plan. Of course the largest short-term goal is to protect farmland by reviewing rural zoning, and reviewing bylaws and regulations to make them consistent with provincial standards for farming.

The AVS lays out a good framework to support farming in Langley, but I wonder if the pressure to turn farmland into general urban development will trump this plan. Only time will tell.

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