The new plan must lead to an update of the current policies of the Official Community Plan in order to better support the farming community.
The future of Delta Farms could include small processing operations located on site.
These were among the comments of the Agricultural Advisory Committee which recently held a special meeting to discuss the city’s efforts to update its agricultural plan.
After securing the contract to help update the current plan, representatives from Upland Agricultural Consulting were on hand to discuss the 2011 document and current issues facing the Delta farming community.
In the current plan to support farmers, the lack of food processing opportunities has been identified as an area to be developed.
Most of the large-scale vegetable processing operations have moved out of the Fraser Valley because of their reliance on more agricultural acreage.
It was noted that the future may in fact be in small processing operations located on farms.
Other issues raised by the committee were farmers needing options to house workers and extended family, as rental options are weak or non-existent in Delta and buying a home is out of reach for most. .
Committee members noted that to support family farming, the extended family must be able to live on the farm.
Among other issues, finding and retaining reliable local workers year-round is difficult, and COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem.
Wildlife is increasingly in conflict with agriculture in the Fraser Valley and, in particular, the level of waterfowl grazing makes it difficult to maintain forage grass.
Among other issues, the committee also noted that being at the urban / rural interface means that there is competition for food producing land to use for suburbs and other non-agricultural uses.
Delta planning staff noted that Delta’s agricultural plan should contain clear instructions on changes to be made to Delta’s regulations so that staff can work effectively on those changes, saying any changes must be in accordance with provincial regulations.
The work to update the agricultural plan will be carried out in consultation with the committee, the municipal council, civic staff, agricultural stakeholders and citizens.
The city notes that it wants to update the current plan to focus more on issues, recommendations, and implementation actions that Delta may take and lead.
The shift in focus would involve increasing opportunities for engagement with external agencies and stakeholders, focus more on the action items that fall under Delta’s authority, and provide more practical details of how the items action could be implemented.
The plan’s recommendations are organized into four objective areas: improving the economic sustainability of delta agriculture, strengthening the agricultural resource base, creating opportunities for efficiency, competitiveness, diversification and new entrants, and increasing public support for agriculture.