Group calls for new study of farming's future

July 04, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Ten years ago, the Carroll commissioners created the Future of Agriculture Subcommittee to conduct a study and recommend ways the county government could support the success of farmers.

The results included additional funding to preserve farms, an ordinance protecting farmers' rights amid encroaching development and, most recently, an on-staff agricultural marketing specialist.

"I think there were only two recommendations that nothing came of, and a lot of times, that doesn't happen with these committees," said Paul Lynch, chairman of the County Agricultural Commission, which advises the three county commissioners.

Now it's time for another committee and study, say members of the agricultural commission, itself a product of recommendations from 10 years ago.

"There are so many changes coming up in agriculture that we really feel a plan is needed," Lynch said. Like the previous plan, he said, this one should guide the county commissioners for 10 years.

The 26-person panel convened in 1989 included several farmers, bankers, a real estate agent, a developer, a lawyer and a marketing expert.

The recommendations and resulting action by county commissioners included:

Improving funding for easements in the existing Agricultural Land Preservation Program. The county's annual spending on farm preservation has increased since the 1980s, and Carroll is one of the leading counties in the nation in preserving farmland.

Providing interim funding to purchase easements when sellers can't wait the two or more years it can take to get the state to purchase them. As a result, the county began the Critical Farms Program, which purchases easements to farms that are for sale, stipulating that the money be reimbursed when the new owner sells an easement to the state.

Establishing a county agricultural commission, which started in 1990 and meets quarterly.

Adopting a county right to farm ordinance. The ordinance, adopted in 1994, protects farmers' rights in the face of new neighbors who may object to manure odor or other aspects of farming that are necessary.

Appointing an agricultural representative to the County Economic Development Commission, which now includes a farmer. The county also hired this year Gabriel Zepp, an economic development staff member specializing in agricultural marketing.

Pub Date: 7/04/99

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