Who can implement this: County and city lawmakers, and communities
Agricultural commissions are standing committees, created by individual cities, that strive to increase the visibility of agriculture in communities. They represent and advocate for the farming community, encouraging the pursuit of agriculture, promoting economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers, and preserving their community’s agricultural businesses and lands. Agricultural commissions are primarily focused on connecting local farmers and ranchers to resources that help agriculture flourish in each individual community.
Utah County farmers should continually take advantage of the increased networking, educational, and economic opportunities provided by agricultural commissions. These commissions allow farmers to be more involved in the decisions of local government, increasing communication between farmers, politicians, and city leaders. Improving the often-lacking dialogue between farmers and local leaders is important in identifying and resolving challenges and will ultimately strengthen the agricultural industry in Utah.
Agricultural commissions are formed by a vote during a county or city council meeting. Massachusetts, where agricultural commissions have significant support, lists the following steps for the creation of an agricultural commission:
- Identify leaders and organizers to explore the possibility of an agricultural commission in the area.
- Assess interest for an agricultural commission in the community. Talk to farmers, residents, boards and committees, and community decision makers.
- Gather the support of farmers and town leadership.
- Organize a public informational meeting.
- Invite farmers, residents, and the public through written letters of invitation, press releases, and newspapers articles.
- If possible, request that members of established agricultural commissions speak about why they organized, what they do, and the benefits to agriculture.
- Answer the questions: Is an agricultural commission important for our town? Do you think we should organize an agricultural commission in town?
- Gain commitment from participants to serve on an agricultural commission steering committee.
- Publicize newly established steering committee meetings.
- Draft an agricultural commission by-law and town meeting warrant article with input from town boards and town counsel.
- Research advocates and opposition.
- Present articles at a town meeting for discussion and vote. This presentation is provided by well informed and prepared advocates.
More information can be found in the Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions’ Toolkit for Organizing a Town Agricultural Commission.
In several of its cities, Massachusetts has agricultural commissions that focus on the unique agricultural issues facing each town and community. The Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions supports agricultural commissions by coordinating the commissions’ resources and relations with state and federal agencies, private and nonprofit organizations, and elected officials. Existing agricultural commissions tackle a range of issues ranging from marketing coordination to local disputes, and their budgets range from $0–$1,000 per year.
The Utah Association of Conservation Districts fills a somewhat similar role, establishing separate districts across Utah and incentivize landowners to protect soil, water, and other natural resources. However, conservations districts do not focus specifically on agriculture.