Spending $135,000 a year to promote farming is not a big sum compared to the estimated $277 million the industry generates annually in Langley Township.
That’s according to a staff report that called the projected cost of the the Agricultural Viability Strategy (AVS) a “relatively small investment.”
At least one member of council was concerned it may not be enough to implement the recommendations of the strategy, a long-range plan to boost agricultural activity while at the same time easing conflict between urban and rural neighbourhoods.
“That’s maybe going to hire one or two people,” said Councillor Kim Richter.
“It’s a start,” said Councillor David Davis, a fourth-generation Langley dairy farmer.
Davis said agriculture “is a bit of sleeping giant right now” that could potentially boost the local economy far more than it does now.
“It’s unbelievable, the potential,” Davis said.
Council wrapped up more than three years of consultation and public meetings by unanimously endorsing the AVS at its Monday (July 15) meeting, but postponed a decision on finding the funding until future budget discussions.
Dave Melnychuk, the chair of the task force that developed the strategy, told council agriculture could contribute even more to the local economy through encouraging local processing and other initiatives.
“It is a big business,” Melnychuk said.
More than three-quarters of the Township’s 316 square kilometres is reserved for farming and Langley has one-half of all the farms operating in Metro Vancouver.
The proposed strategy is a four-part plan to provide a “welcoming business environment for farming,” services to encourage “agri-industrial hubs” that would process locally grown food within Langley, a secure agricultural land base, and rules to ensure “best farm management practices” are used by local farmers under a “good neighbour policy” that requires farmers to be “sensitive to the needs of other citizens.”
Proposals include possible creation of a farmers’ institute to represent agricultural interests modelled on similar groups in Delta and Richmond, regulations that would require notifying home buyers “of the presence of active farm operations using normal farm practices” and offering incentives to encourage food processors to build plants in Langley to process locally grown food.
The revised strategy document approved by council directly refers to the continuing propane cannon controversy by saying the Township should “continue to work with the Propane Cannon Task Force” that created recently-enacted regulations to restrict use of the bird scare devices.
The AVS also suggests using the Township website to inform residents about “the presence of normal farm practices that result in noise, dust or odours occurring from time to time” and to also use the site to “educate residents about normal farm practices occurring at specific times (e.g. bird control activities on fruit farms) and other practices that may create issues for citizens due to lack of awareness and understanding of agricultural practices.”