Hearing slated for county Farmland Preservation PlanA public hearing that will determine the future of agriculture in St. Croix County has Pete Kling and Ryan Sterry working to educate the public about its importance.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News staff writer, Hudson Star-Observer
A public hearing that will determine the future of agriculture in St. Croix County has Pete Kling and Ryan Sterry working to educate the public about its importance.
The public hearing, which will move forward the Farmland Preservation Plan - a piece of St. Croix County’s overall comprehensive plan, is set for Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
The present plan hasn’t been updated in 30 years, said Kling, University of Wisconsin-Extension community resource educator.
Kling and Sterry, UW-Extension agriculture agent, have different reasons they’re interested in the topic, they said. For Kling, the importance is educating the public and showing people how agriculture builds the community as a whole. For Sterry, it’s more about preserving agriculture and keeping it strong in St. Croix County.
“When people think about economic development, we think about job creation,” Kling said. “Agriculture is a job maintainer. It’s just as important as creating jobs – agriculture is a long-term investment.”
According to the UW-Extension office, agriculture provides 3,605 jobs in St. Croix County – more than 9 percent of the county’s workforce; accounts for $532 million in business sales – more than 11 percent of the county’s total business sales; contributes $158 million to county income – more than 4 percent of the county’s total income; and pays more than $15 million in taxes.
Working in the agricultural industry is more than working in the fields, Sterry said. For every worker in the field, there’s another employed in another aspect of the industry – from those processing the corn to those hauling it and those selling the fertilizer.
“Based on the sheer number of people employed and dollars, it’s the No. 1 industry in our state,” Kling said.
If that’s not enough to get people interested in keeping agriculture around, Kling said there are three basic reasons that agriculture should be important to the public.
Food: “People like to eat, right?” he said.
Western Wisconsin farmers feed their neighbors as well as the entire world.
Agriculture is becoming more diverse and includes specialty crops like fruits and vegetables.
Traditional crops, such as corn, soybeans and hay, are still abundant and needed to support dairy, beef and horse farms.
Community: Farming supports strong families and youth.
Agriculture is responsible for more than $525 million in economic activity and employs 3,605 people full-time in St. Croix County.
Every dollar a farmer spends is recycled through the local economy seven times.
Nature: Farmland provides and enhances wildlife habitat, but it also serves as a ground water recharge area.
Water needs a place to soak into the soil before it is harvested again for drinking, Kling said. Developments with parking lots and pavement don’t allow the water to soak into the earth like a farmer’s field would.
100 percent of western Wisconsin residents receive their drinking water from ground water.
The proposed plan has been in the works since May 2010, Kling said. Four workshops were held and an ag survey/producer survey was developed. The survey was used to identify issues and challenges from the point of view of area producers. From those results policies and objectives were created and the plan was drafted.
The Nov. 30 hearing will move the plan one step closer to being implemented and added to the overall county comprehensive plan.
The plan explores the trends and future expectations of agriculture, the balance between growth and agriculture, and states the country’s goals in relation to farmland preservation and agricultural development.
Sterry said the plan was drafted with open doors and that each element of the plan was designed to work in cooperation with each municipality’s individual comprehensive plan.
“These aren’t supposed to be competing plans,” he said.
The Nov. 30 hearing will be held at the Agriculture Service and Education Center, 1960 Eighth Ave. in Baldwin, and is open to the public. For more information about the hearing, contact the county planning and zoning department at (715) 386-4680.