The pandemic opened many people’s eyes to the challenges communities face in securing high-quality food. As many as 10.2% of households in the United States faced food insecurity in 2021 alone. This food insecurity occurs at the same time that we waste 30% to 40% of our food and agricultural businesses attempting to maintain profitability despite labor shortages, adverse weather conditions, and complex supply chain mishaps.
Given the multifaceted nature of these challenges, local governments play a critical role in promoting a healthy, sustainable food system that supports residents, farmers, and other agricultural workers.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into why you need a local government agriculture strategy. Then, we’ll discuss how you can partner with local agricultural businesses and encourage strategic investments in your local food system. We’ll wrap up with a conversation on how software can help you improve government processes to ensure the best possible relationships with all local government agriculture partners.
What is a Local Government Agriculture Strategy?
A local government agriculture strategy can help your community manage the complexities discussed above so that agricultural businesses can prosper and residents can access all the food they need. Let’s dive into why an agricultural strategic plan is critical to achieving these goals and how you can implement one in your organization.
Why an Agricultural Strategic Plan is Vital
An agricultural strategy is more critical than ever given increasing global and domestic food challenges, particularly when getting fresh food to where it needs to go. Supply chains are complicated and often encounter challenges, from communication gaps to worker shortages.
The pandemic has demonstrated that when just one small piece of the agricultural puzzle shifts, it can throw everything else off. For example, labor shortages from people calling out sick made it challenging to ensure that food items were packaged/manufactured and delivered to local grocery stores or restaurants on schedule. As a result, agricultural businesses suffered revenue losses, and residents didn’t always have access to the food items they needed.
Our increasingly connected world means we’ll continue to face future food challenges. Dangerous weather patterns brought on by climate change can affect crops and make it difficult to ensure a sufficient food supply and a robust local government agriculture system.
A strategic plan that addresses the myriad of complications that might occur in a food system can help ensure residents have access to critical food resources while maintaining the economic well-being of farmers and others involved in agricultural businesses. Local governments can take steps to ensure a locally vibrant agricultural economy that makes this possible.
The Critical Components of an Agriculture Strategic Plan
As with the development of any government strategic plan, your success will depend on the time, effort, and voices you prioritize throughout the process. Consider how your organization can support local agriculture, from creating farmer-friendly policies to conserving natural resources for food production.
While you think about your local government agriculture strategy, involve diverse stakeholders to help you gain as many perspectives as possible. As a local government staff member, you only hold one piece of the puzzle regarding your local food system.
Then, start building out your organization’s strategic goals and objectives. The table below lists some of the agricultural-related goals you might consider including in your food systems strategic plan, including some initiatives you might pursue.
Initiatives, Policies, and Programs to Explore
Promote a healthy environment
Foster economic development
Once you’ve identified your overarching goals, programs, policies, and initiatives, assign individual tasks to local government staff. Additionally, create specific performance measures to help you assess progress towards these goals and a timeline for completion. This allows you to promote accountability in actualizing your agriculture strategic plan.
Tips for Building and Implementing a Local Government Agriculture Strategy
Of course, building and implementing a local government agriculture strategy is a complex process. Below, we offer tips to help you navigate it, including building strong government agriculture sector collaboration and relationships, fostering business development, and using technology to streamline your processes.
Agriculture Business Relations
Implementing your food systems strategy without strong agriculture business relationships is impossible. You can build these public and private sector relationships by involving farmers and agricultural business owners or workers in local government policy and programmatic decisions.
For example, land use and zoning laws impact how and where individuals can farm or process goods. Encouraging farmers and agriculture business owners to get involved in these conversations, such as attending public hearings, can help local governments create the most effective policies possible.
As you consider ways to improve these business relations, be sure to account for the varying schedules of individuals in the agriculture industry. Some employees may be unable to attend government meetings during certain times of the year (for example, harvest season). Consider ways to make these meetings more inclusive, including letting people phone into calls or holding meetings at varying times.
You can also encourage individuals involved in agricultural businesses to join boards, commissions, committees, and even local public meetings. This requires a deeper level of engagement by farmers but can drastically impact decisions that can improve agriculture business relations.
Agriculture Business Development
Local governments can create policies that encourage (or unintentionally discourage) agriculture business development. For example, zoning laws determine what can be built and where. Your existing zoning laws may or may not function to promote agriculture business development.
To encourage as much agriculture business development as possible, your organization can alter zoning ordinances that increase business viability throughout your community. You want to reduce as many challenges to development as possible while maintaining compliance with your long-term land use plans.
Your local government can also encourage agriculture business development through economic incentives. While many farm tax incentives are offered through Federal and State governments, local governments can create incentive programs (depending on the aforementioned federal and state laws). These incentive programs encourage agriculture business development.
Finally, think beyond large farms when considering local government agriculture. Urban farms can be a great way to increase food production and reduce the prevalence of food deserts. Small farms can be an excellent way to encourage agriculture business development while helping your food system thrive. Consider how certain rules, such as those prohibiting chickens within city limits, might impede food production in your community.
Technology that Can Streamline Relations with Local Agricultural Businesses
Of course, you’ll also want to make it easy for local agricultural businesses to comply with local rules and regulations. GovPilot’s operating system for local government can help your organization cultivate relationships with agriculture businesses.
Planning and zoning software enables your organization to easily review zoning laws and create a community that’s as farmer-friendly as possible. Additionally, online permitting and licensing software make it easy for agriculture businesses to apply for the permits and licenses they may need to run their businesses, such as permits for pesticide applications.
Economic development software also provides critical resources for local agriculture businesses. Business owners can use this tool to quickly submit business registration forms online or find other information they may need to maintain compliance with your community’s laws. GovPilot also facilitates streamlined digital inspections with its health and code enforcement software, so your agency can efficiently conduct critical inspections, like food safety.
What are other Ways Your Local Government Can Encourage Economic Development? Here’s some considerations.
How Local Governments Can Protect the Environment to Ensure Maximum Crop Yields
Of course, there’s an elephant in the room: your local government agriculture system, and all the people it touches, can’t be successful without a healthy ecosystem. As such, the final component of your community agriculture strategy should focus on environmental protection efforts.
Local extension offices can provide resources to farmers and agricultural businesses to help encourage sustainable agriculture practices. Sustainable agriculture promotes healthy soils, conserves resources, and is great for pollinators and humans. For example, cover crops like soybeans add nitrogen to the soil without the need for chemical fertilizers that can harm bees or increase the likelihood of algal blooms in a community’s water supply.
You can also maintain the health of your local water supply – a critical component of crop yield – by protecting waterways and encouraging conservation efforts. You might require that landowners establish riparian buffer zones near streams or creeks to decrease the amount of agricultural waste and run-off that makes its way into the waterways. Local governments can also promote educational conservation programs to encourage thoughtful water usage, such as using low-pressure irrigation methods on farms.
Preparing and mitigating against natural disasters will protect local agriculture infrastructure. Here are guides for storms that occur across regions:
- Tornado Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Wildfire Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Flood Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Landslide Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Winter Storm Mitigation & Disaster Plan
Use GovPilot for Streamlined Digital Processes
As our global population grows and the environment continues to change, local governments must take action to ensure adequate food supply for residents and economic well-being for agriculture businesses. GovPilot’s software helps strengthen local government agriculture by streamlining digital processes that make it easier to build strong partnerships and promote a sustainable food system.
Book a free demo today if you’d like to learn more about how GovPilot can help your agency foster positive business relations with farmers and agricultural organizations.
Government Agriculture Relations FAQs
Why Do Local Governments Need to Form Relationships with the Agriculture Sector?
Local agriculture provides food to your community and drives economic development. As a local government, it is your responsibility to encourage agricultural businesses to operate in your community, make sure agriculture business owners’ voices are being heard, and that the local environment is functional for crop yields.
What is a Local Government Agriculture Strategic Plan?
A local government agriculture strategic plan is a proactive roadmap for how your government will protect the local environment and drive investment in agriculture in your community. Your plan should prioritize environmental safety, labor rights protections, economic incentives, and a government communications strategy for engaging agriculture businesses.
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