With which harvest can a farmer always make a profit? Houses. Unfortunately, this takes land out of production. Since no more land can be produced, that’s a problem. So how do we ensure that land is protected for agricultural use?
The quick answer is, put it in an Ag district. In 1971, New York State first passed laws protecting agricultural land. Each county was tasked with creating an agricultural and arable land protection committee. Districts were created and agricultural land was placed in a district to protect it. Today there are seven such districts in Niagara County and they are reviewed every eight years.
Who is on such a body? The law stipulates that each board must consist of 11 members, four of whom represent active farms. Others include an agribusiness representative, a member of a land conservation organization, the district chairman for soil and water conservation, a district legislature, a district cooperative advisor, the district planning director, and the district director for property tax services.
Although the districts must be reviewed every eight years, the board will meet to consider changes in the district. Each county chooses an annual period of 30 days during which additions can be considered. Land can only be removed during the eight year review. In each case there is a system of checks and balances with public hearings and other notices. As the name suggests, the main focus of the board is on protecting the land.
To this end, Niagara County has a plan to protect agriculture and arable land. Updated in 2019, members of various stakeholders have been involved in its creation. Farmers were interviewed and participated in surveys. Consumers were interviewed. Many farms were visited and input was asked at the annual district festival.
The report concluded that “Agriculture is one of Niagara County’s major industries. More than 760 farms in Niagara County have a market value of more than $ 122 million in sales and employ approximately 1,000 people. Its high-quality soils and the relatively temperate climate in the north of the state along Lake Ontario make it one of the most productive agricultural areas in New York state. “
In developing the plan, the group considered four main areas: (1) productive agriculture; (2) agrotourism and local and regional food markets; (3) attract new farmers and keep existing ones; and (4) marketing and education. Her stated vision is, “Agriculture is a key component of the Niagara County’s economy and future economic development activities; The protection of agricultural and arable land is important to preserve opportunities for economic development and create jobs; and promoting current farming activities and future farming opportunities will facilitate the long-term viability of agriculture in Niagara County. “
The plan contains many recommendations and possible projects. As much as I enjoyed reading it and I would like to add more here, the report is 92 pages long! Instead, I’ll think about other aspects in the future. If you’re too impatient and want to read the full report, here is the website: http://cceniagaracounty.org/agriculture/niagara-agriculture-plan.
Last month I gave you a quiz about farming in Niagara County. This month we have the plan for the future. Because no matter what role we have in life, the farmer feeds us all.
Margo Sue Bittner, aka Aggie Culture, has been involved in agriculture in Niagara County for 40 years. She has experience in dairy farming, fruit production and wine agritourism. Ask her every question about local farming and if she doesn’t know the answer herself, she’ll know who to get it from. Email to [email protected].