Agriculture in the Comprehensive Plan
Why address agriculture in the comprehensive plan?
Agriculture is an important component of many Maine communities. This makes it important to ensure that the comprehensive plan clearly reflects the full range of benefits and value placed on agriculture in the community, as well as enumerates the specific land use strategies the community plans to use to protect farm viability and farmland.
What should be included?
The state has recognized the importance of agricultural resources as well. It is one of the required elements of a comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan must include an inventory and analysis of agricultural land. In addition, it is required that the implementation section of the plan ensure the protection of agricultural resources. Each municipality shall discourage new development that is incompatible with uses related to agriculture.
The comprehensive plan should also describe:
- The fiscal (cost of community services) and economic benefits of local agriculture, including for tourism, employment, and farm-service and value-add industries.
- Contributions to food security and the resilience of local food systems.
- Ecosystem services, wildlife habitat, and GHG emission benefits.
- Scenic, recreational, cultural and historical value of farms and farmland to the community.
- Map of prime soils, soils of statewide and local significance, as well as active farms.
- The key challenges and opportunities to be a “farm-friendly” community.
- The plan should also make recommend specific measures for farm viability and farmland protection.
Take a holistic view
Agricultural concerns and issues should not be restricted to the chapter on Agriculture in the comprehensive plan. It is important to recognize that agriculture is a part of, and will be impacted by, planning and land use decisions in other sectors and zoning districts. For example, by creating policies and density incentives that direct future development to designated growth areas, development pressures on farmland can be reduced.
Involve the farming community
Involving farmers in the planning process is essential. Consider using surveys or checklists to review current policies and land use strategies and to generate proposals for improvements. Enlist local “farming-friendly” organizations, consider establishing an Agricultural Advisory Committee, and reach out to state or regional organizations that may have relevant expertise, such as land trusts.
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