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Officials in Lewis County are asking people with a connection to the agricultural industry to complete a survey so they can assess the condition of this sector. Julie Abbass/Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — Farmers, non-farmers, prospective farmers, business owners, community members — anyone with insight or ideas about all types of agriculture in Lewis County — are invited to participate in a survey that will help ensure the update to the county’s Agricultural Enhancement Plan, the first in 15 years, considers local agriculture from every angle possible.

Farmers have been hit hard since the plan was last updated in 2004, so it is being broadened to include all types of farming, like logging, maple, Christmas trees, vegetables and fruits and bees among others, instead of honing-in predominately on dairy as in previous iterations.

“The survey’s the path for us to learn anything and everything you’re worried about,” Senior Planner Casandra Buell said. “The answers will be used to generate goals and an implementation guide in the new plan.”

Nan Stolzenburg of Community Planning and Environmental Associates, Albany, is working with the county Agricultural Protection Board to draw out experiences and opinions, both positive and negative, about farming practices, perceptions and policies on every level, be it county, state or federal, impacting agriculture.

The survey’s first question, asking respondents to choose a category that best describes their relationship to agriculture, for example as being a farmer, a local resident not involved in farming, ag land owners that rent to farmers, an agri-business owner or others, triggers questions tailored to that category.

“The general public’s perspectives are different than those of farmers,” Mrs. Buell said. “And we want this information to be as clear and specific as possible.”

Once the plan is completed, it will be adopted by the county board of legislators and sent to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to let it know the state of agriculture in the county and what it will ideally look like in the future, giving the plan and the surveys that inform it some influence.

“If we have a voice, this is a good way to use it,” Mrs. Buell said. “If there are state regulations that are really, really harming us, then we have to make sure we get that in here.”

Referred to as a “protection plan” by most other counties and towns, Mrs. Buell said Lewis changed the name the last time it was done to more accurately reflect the goal of the plan in the county.

“It may seem like just a word but it’s really an important difference,” Mrs. Buell said. “So we are sticking with it.”

Mrs. Buell said the county applied for and received a $50,000 grant from the state to cover the majority of the costs related to creating the new plan. The county is contributing $10,000 from planning department funds set aside for community development planning.

Additionally, the county is making in-kind contributions by promoting and supporting activities involved in the process including the three focus group discussions held with farmers in November as well as this survey.

Responses from postcards sent to 2,700 property owners with land in the agricultural district or forestry properties at the end of December explaining the Enhancement Plan process and inviting them to participate in the survey are starting to be returned, Mrs. Buell said, but more voices will enhance the plan’s impact.

Surveys can be answered online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/lewiscountyplan, or by calling 315-376-5422 and requesting a copy by mail that will include a postage-paid return envelope.

All surveys must be completed by Jan. 24.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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