September 29, 2005 by Kevin Dayhoff
More than ever, agriculture in Carroll County understands that, like it or not, it now has a new "social contract" with the greater community to operate.
Agriculture understands that simply feeding us, at prices below the cost of production, is not enough and that in today’s world; farmers are obligated with paying for and providing non-farming Carroll Countians with a great view and open space.
Well, I have a surprise for you. There is no such thing as a free lunch or a free view. This is a two way street and non-farmers also have a social contract obligation to become better informed about state mandated water and sewer master plan allocations, land use, zoning laws and the comprehensive planning process.
Economics, population pressure and market forces from outside of Carroll County are going to continue to drive up the value of farm land and ultimately we are all going to have to dig into our pockets and put more money into agricultural land preservation or pay for roads and schools and infrastructure. Read: Roads, schools and other infrastructure costs a great deal more then investing in agricultural land preservation.
For more information on these dynamics, please see two excellent columns written in the Carroll County Times by columnist Tom Harbold on August 30, 2005 and September 27, 2005.
The time to discuss future land use, growth and development in Carroll County needs to take place long before the housing development is in the public hearing stage or the subject of a moratorium. The discussion needs to take place long before the business of a farm has been rendered unprofitable or a property owner has been awarded certain legal development rights.
It is important that folks attend the community meetings, entitled Grassroots Gatherings (http://www.carrollpathways.org/), which are scheduled for residents to get involved in the Carroll County Comprehensive Plan. Go and ask questions. Many of Carroll County’s public servants are the brightest land use experts in the state.
Folks need to comprehend that a contract is an agreement between two parties in which both parties have obligations. Unless we want many of these great views to become great houses, we are all going to have to contribute.
The end users of agricultural products are now so far removed from the actual production of food that the public is no longer familiar with the day-to-day struggles of food production.
Non-farmers seem unwilling to give farmers any logical leeway in understanding a farmer's stewardship for the environment; the impact on profitability of increased regulations and bureaucratic expense or how a farm is to remain profitable in the face of increased urbanization.
Many agree that Carroll County is no place for urban sprawl development in the middle of farmland, far from any municipal infrastructure. Not only for the obvious reasons, but because most of the folks who move into these developments are horrible neighbors for farmers and contribute to the domino affect of the farm next to it becoming unprofitable and ultimately sold, for you guessed it, more houses.
We can start by increasing the funding for agriculture land preservation and increasing the funding of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, both of which are the immediate life preservers for the business of agriculture in the state.
If we can fully fund the $1.3 billion Thornton school aid plan, we can fully fund the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service and agricultural land preservation. If Maryland can use its bond rating for a low interest loan program for first time homebuyers, we can bond out a low interest-borrowing program for first time farm buyers.
Most Carroll Countians certainly understand that “more” houses means more schools, roads and infrastructure, and increased demand for government services and before too long, someone wants into our pockets to raise our taxes to pay for it all.
Market forces and population pressure from outside of Carroll County are going to continue to drive up the value of the land and ultimately we are all going to have to dig into our pockets and put more money into agricultural land preservation or spend a greater amount for roads and schools and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the more farms that are put out of business, the more we increase development pressure by way of putting that many more acres of land on the market for growing houses instead of food.
In the next 20 years, Maryland's population will increase by another million. Not all one million new folks have to live in Carroll County, but if we make the land available, they will come.
Here’s where the conversation slips into “The Twilight Zone.” Friends take me aside and tell me; “Kevin, people gotta live somewhere.” My response is that they all don’t need to live in Carroll County. Development needs to take place in municipalities because that is where the infrastructure is but the new houses don’t pay for the increased infrastructure needed and the increased demand for services.
I believe that incentives, such as fast-tracking need to be in place to encourage commercial and employment tax base development in the municipalities so as to provide revenue stream. But when one approaches Mr. or Mrs. Nimby and say how about an employment campus so that you don’t have to travel so far on inadequate roads for a meaningful job, the answer is I want it to be a farm. Well, the tract of land in question, farming is not profitable and can’t pay the bills so that it can remain a farm. Most likely because you hassled the farmer or killed a bunch of her cows by throwing your trash into her hayfield.
You go to the developer and say, how about developing an employment campus, with high end architectural and design standards and lots of trees and landscaping. The developer says I can’t because it is not zoned for that and I can’t get the zoning changed because the neighborhood became an angry mob when that idea was suggested.
(Originally from: 20050909 Outtakes Civility Listening session Gathering Places - C:\Media20040630WE\20051005 WE ListSessionP2 Urban Sprawl Hurts us All)
20050929 Agricultures new social contract
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