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Agriculture and economic development can co-exist
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indiana Land Resources Council hopes to provide counties with much-needed tools to enable agriculture and economic development to co-exist.

“The biggest first step is providing tools for counties to work with agriculture,” said Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Andy Miller. “We want to provide a set of model ordinances that counties can use.”

The council discussed conflicts in land use - and solutions - at a recent meeting.

One issue facing the council is striking a balance between the need for economic development and agriculture. What may look like a good opportunity for someone moving into an area may not look good to the farmer who is established there.

“What we need to do is protect houses from the farmer as much as the farmer from the houses,” said Eric Damian Kelly, a Ball State University land use expert.

Bruce Everhart, an agriculture-banking manager, said land use issues center around sight, smell and taste (water impact) and that agriculture, like any industry, must address those issues to co-exist with development.

“But in the end, whoever has the most economic vitality will win, and agriculture cannot compete,” he said.

Shame on agriculture for not painting a better picture of the economic vitality of agriculture, Miller responded.

The council considered several model ordinance concepts from across the country and discussed ways to get that information to Indiana counties.

Deb Abbott, assistant director of communications and outreach at ISDA, said the idea is not to endorse any of the model ordinances, but to give counties examples of how other states are handling zoning issues. “We as a state respect local control and want local folks to make their own decisions on their own land use,” Abbott said.

She said the ISDA wants counties to decide what direction their county is going, not specifically in agriculture but the total picture in economic development. Counties should plan where each entity - agriculture, industry, development, housing, retail - will happen. “Plan ahead, and do it when they’re not focused on one farm, one housing development, one industry, or when a conflict arises,” Abbott said.

Valynnda Slack, co-chair of Purdue’s Land Use Team, told a group of Indiana Farm Bureau members last year that planning and communication are the keys to resolving land use issues.

Unresolved conflict can destroy people, relationships, and organizations and eventually contribute to a dysfunctional community.

She advises the farm community to be good neighbors and:

•Use new technology for odor, pest and pollution control

•Seek advice of experts in the field

•Implement responsible and defensible farm management practices

•Get involved in the community

•Keep health, safety and rights of neighbors in mind

•Get to know their neighbors

Likewise, communities can build bridges between farmers and nonfarmers if they:

•Sponsor a farmers market, farm tours and agricultural fairs

•Celebrate Agriculture Day annually

•Encourage problem solving that satisfies interests of both parties

•Support agricultural education for youth

•Encourage safe and sound farm practices

•Recognize that farmland generally contributes a large share of property taxes relative to services received

“You can be part of the solution by working with local officials to share thoughts and ideas,” Slack said. “If you’re just meeting your own needs, the issues will never be resolved in the best interest of the community.”

The next meeting of the Indiana Land Resources Council is scheduled for December 20 at 9 a.m. at the Indiana Government Center South in Indianapolis.

The public is welcome.

This farm news was published in the Nov. 15, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.