Focus Group Summary –
Columbia County Agriculture & Farmland Protection Plan
Since late January 2011, seven focus group meetings have been held in locations throughout the county to gather questions and comments from the public about issues that should be addressed by a county farmland protection plan. Notes from each focus group are available.
- A “Living Plan:” The farmland protection plan should be a “living plan” and not just sit on a shelf.
- Land Use and Zoning: Our agricultural landscape is a commodity that we need to preserve. We need to be smart about planning – once a large tract is subdivided into 5-acre lots, it is no longer feasible to farm.
- Markets and Profitability: Profitability is the most essential element to “protect” farmland. How to support the farm and the farmer?
- Meat Processing: We need a local slaughterhouse option, a USDA facility. The long-distance options stress the animals and raise the costs of processing, and thus the product cost.
- Food Systems: Much of our locally produced food leaves the area and the State. We produce more than we consume presently, but it leaves the county.
- Taxes and Regulation: Property taxes are a major issue for farm viability, and land is excessively taxed in New York State. Farms do not receive value for their low cost of community services.
- Farm Transitions and Landowner Relationships: Large portions of active farmland in the county are leased, not owned. We need to understand that “web of relationships” that exists throughout the county.
- Education and Communication: We need to make agriculture a part of a county dialogue. The public needs to be educated about agriculture. A new generation of farmers needs training and education.
- Shared Resources: We should look at what can be done better on a shared scale, by pooling resources, than we can by working alone.