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December 2, 2010

 

Towns completing farmland protection plan

Public meetings will be held next year on the plan that covers Homer, Preble and Solon

Farmland

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer, Preble and Scott are developing a joint a farmland protection plan that will guide development around agricultural areas such as the Weddle farm on Route 281 in Homer, which is pictured above.

By JEREMY HOUGHTALING
Staff Reporter
jhoughtaling@cortlandstandardnews.net

Public meetings will be held early next year for the Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan for Homer, Preble and Scott, as the plan is on track for completion next summer.
The three towns are the first in Cortland County to have farmland protection plans.
The combined plan is being put together by the American Farmland Trust, a group committed to protecting the nation’s farms and ranches, and is guided by a steering committee with representatives from each town, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Cortland County Planning Department.
“It’s a guide for the future of agriculture for the three towns,” county Planning Department Director Dan Dineen said. “It would establish areas where the towns would like to protect.”
American Farmland Trust consultant Judy Wright said the initial data gathering through interviews with members of the local farming community has been completed, and the group has looked at maps to see where developmental pressure could occur, either from hydraulic fracturing or industry.
The draft of the objectives and goals will be reviewed by town residents and they will provide input at public meetings in early 2011, although no dates have been set.
“There are still steps to take, but we’re just about at the point to share with the public,” Wright said.
After getting input from the public, revisions will be made and then the final plan will be released. After that, the three towns, the Cortland County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets would need to adopt the plan.
Debra Brock, a Preble Town Board member, said the plan is slightly different for each of the towns because of their proximity to cities, highways and lakes.
Wright said she expects the project to wrap up by midsummer.
The group’s final goal is to provide a series of recommendations for the towns to keep their farm communities.
Recommendations for each town might include the formation of an agricultural advisory committee with representatives from each town, adoption of a local Right to Farm law, and possible changes to current zoning.
Wright said at this point there is no anticipation of switching the tax burden from agriculture to other parts of the town.
Brock pointed out that the plan affects all residents, and not just farmers, because of various issues with zoning and other economic factors.
“It protects the way of life we all have,” Brock said.
The plan was projected to take 14 to 18 months to develop, and Wright said despite falling behind early, it is on track.
The state Department of Agriculture and Markets awarded each of the three towns with $25,000 grants in August 2008 to develop a plan to prevent the loss of farmland and support the business of agriculture.
“I just think it helps agriculture and other businesses to have a general plan going forward,” said Homer Supervisor Fred Forbes, a local dairy farmer in East Homer. “Agriculture plays a main role in the community, and pooling resources just makes things easier.”
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Staff reporter Matthew Nojiri contributed to this article.

 

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