Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Transportation and Farmland

This is my fifth in a series of blogs discussing Communities in Motion 2040 and the relationship between transportation and other elements addressed in the plan. You can find the previous blogs below. Today I am discussing transportation and farmland.

Our rich agricultural heritage is part of what makes our valley the “Treasure Valley.” Yet, as Ada and Canyon Counties become more urbanized, it can be easy to forget how important farming is to our economy and way of life. Studies show that over 6,000 people are employed in the agricultural sector in Ada and Canyon Counties and that farmland encompasses 28% of all private land in the two-county area.*

The COMPASS Board of Directors has identified protecting agricultural land as one of the goals of Communities in Motion 2040. For that to happen, farming must continue to be a vital segment of our economy. But, as with any other industry, farming must be profitable, or the business owners – the farmers – will pursue other livelihoods.

Quality transportation facilities play a key role in ensuring that farming remains locally profitable and viable. Farmers rely on “farm to market” roads to transport their commodities to markets, distributors, and processing facilities. However, as our population grows, there is increasing pressure on these same roads from commuters. In addition, due to growth in urban areas, some traditionally rural roads have been incorporated into surrounding cities, but their function as a farm to market road has not changed, leading to large farm vehicles needing to move through congested urban areas to get from farm to market.

As we plan for a transportation system that meets our needs in the future, it is important to ensure farmers can safely and efficiently transport their products from farms to markets or processing facilities. We need to plan for preservation, and improvement, of these “farm to market” roads to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the agricultural community.

COMPASS has taken a first step toward this by considering agriculture’s needs in the long-range transportation planning process, but it is truly just a first step. We must continue to include these needs in our long-range planning to ensure agriculture remains a key and vibrant element of our region’s economy,

*Statistics from “Sustainable Agriculture: Measuring Success” study by the Urban Land Institute-Idaho.

Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.