Planning for agriculture highlights the importance of agriculture and food production to livable communities. It establishes a public policy framework to support agricultural economic development and to protect and conserve farmland for current and future generations.
What is Planning for Agriculture?
Planning for agriculture is a policy process to help ensure a future for agriculture in a given place over a specified time period. It steers growth away from active agricultural communities, reduces regulatory barriers, encourages appropriate infrastructure development and new opportunities and addresses sustainable use of agricultural resources.
Planning for agriculture establishes a public policy framework protect and conserve farmland for current and future generations and to support agricultural economic development. It can occur at the state, regional or local levels. Planning efforts typically address the threat of conversion with land use policies including agricultural protection zoning and limits on subdivision. But planning for agriculture also can help farmers and ranchers turn threats into opportunities—taking advantage of an expanding consumer base and changing consumer preferences. Examples include support for diversification to value-added agriculture and investments in infrastructure like cold storage, packing and processing plants. Enacting policies that allow on-farm processing, direct to consumer sales, promote local procurements and farm to institution sales and/or provide opportunities for agritourism also counter the threat of development by keeping farms economically viable.
Planning processes usually result in plans, comprehensive documents that set forth goals and recommended strategies to achieve them. Farms and farmland may be addressed in a stand-alone section of a comprehensive or master plan, integrated into more typical sections (e.g., natural resources and economic development), or both. In some states and communities the planning process focuses entirely on agriculture or protecting agricultural resources.
Regardless of the form it takes, a plan is only as good as the policies that are enacted and the investments that are made to fulfill its goals. Therefore, it is important to design plans with implementation in mind.