Following months of public engagement and research, and a final meeting in early February, Leduc County council has decided to move ahead with drafting a new, more highly focused agriculture strategy.
“Of course agriculture has always been important in Leduc County,” said steering committee member and county councillor Tanni Doblanko.
The principals of the agriculture strategy are: formally recognize agriculture’s important role in Leduc County, recognize and protect the priority agricultural land, limit land fragmentation in priority agricultural areas, and implement multi-pronged support for long-term success.
Doblanko says fragmentation of agricultural land is also a personal concern of hers as well as a pillar she ran on.
“We believe the vision and principles accurately represent what was heard during the public consultation and support the consultant’s research. We now can continue with the development of the agriculture strategy,” said Audrey Kelto, Agricultural Service Board chair and division seven councillor in a press statement released by Leduc County.
Doblanko says having this agriculture strategy will give the county better opportunities to explain how important agriculture and ag land are to the present and future of the county.
“The Capital Regional Board (CRB) also added agriculture to one of its areas,” said Doblanko. “If CRB is going to have a policy then Leduc County should have one too.”
Doblanko says Leduc County is far from being the only county in the area increasing the importance on agriculture in recent times. “I think there’s really been a notion that it’s becoming more and more important.”
From the public response, Doblanko says there was some opinions revealed that were a bit of a surprise; including a belief system that farm land carries a higher value than what it can offer economically. This system includes farmers have the right to farm and what farmland can produce in its time is more valuable than what a developer will pay for it.
Once the strategy is in place it will be able to inform the county’s Municipal Development Plan. “It will be a vision for policy and bylaws,” said Doblanko.
“It will impact on how we look at subdivisions … It’s really being mindful,” she added.
The agriculture plan will help council think and operate more strategically when it comes to development or linking like endeavours. Doblanko says there are many businesses that can operate in different locations while farmers can only farm successfully on agricultural land.
She adds while some strategies will take a while to implement it gives council a vision to “hang its hat on.”
From the county
Please note, the strategy is a draft only at this time. At this time, Leduc County council has approved the draft agriculture strategy, which will be presented to the public at a series of open houses starting next week. Based on the feedback received from attendees at the public consultations, the draft will be modified and bought back to council in April for possible final approval and implementation.