City approves agriculture committee

Published 8:14 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Suffolk will once again have an agriculture advisory committee after it received the unanimous endorsement of City Council.

City farmers had called for the revival of the committee more than five months ago at an April council meeting, and city staff studied the issue before formally recommending the establishing of such a committee at its meeting last Wednesday.

“In recognizing how valuable the agricultural industry is to our city, I think this is something that we have needed for quite a while,” said Councilman Tim Johnson. “I’m happy that the staff have recommended this.”

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Shelley Butler Barlow of Cotton Plains Farm had told the council earlier this year that with the agricultural industry supporting many city jobs, there should be a committee in Suffolk as there is in other Hampton Roads cities. About 350 farmers operate in Suffolk.

In Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Isle of Wight County, they have agriculture advisory committees, and Virginia Beach has its own Department of Agriculture.

The committee is expected to advise council on promoting farming and farm-related activities and businesses for their economic vitality, recommend policies to enhance agricultural activities in the city, support and aid in addressing new challenges in agriculture and to help support and preserve the city’s agricultural heritage.

Committee membership will be made up of 10 people, appointed by council. They would include:

  • Three members representing production agricultural farmers — one from each farm service agency local administrative area (Chuckatuck, Whaleyville and Cypress).
  • One member to represent direct marketing farming.
  • One member representing the Peanut Soil and Water Conservation District.
  • One member representing Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent.
  • One member representing the agri-business industry.
  • One member representing the Nansemond Farm Bureau.
  • One member of the forestry industry.
  • City manager or designee.

Terms for members other than the city manager would be for four years. The terms for five of the members would begin this year and go for four years. The initial terms of the other five members would be for two years, with future terms beginning in 2021 and then running for four years after that.

Barlow was in the council chamber last Wednesday when council voted to establish the committee, and Mayor Linda Johnson acknowledged Barlow’s work in bringing it to fruition.

“We look forward to this being a very productive advisory committee,” Mayor Johnson said.