Agricultural Committee provides Suffolk’s State of Agriculture 

Published 9:12 am Thursday, January 4, 2024

The Suffolk Agricultural Advisory Committee provided a State of Agriculture update to the Suffolk City Council. During their work session held on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at City Hall Chambers, Chair David Bosselman held a presentation on the State of Agriculture in Suffolk, which he says is “in distress.” During his report, Bosselman talked about wanting to educate the city on keeping agriculture a fixture for Suffolk.

“A lot of times, our population seems to be getting further and further away from agriculture, and I think that’s part of our mission as an AG (Agricultural) Committee, and I’ve said that from the beginning, is to help educate our leadership and our people in Suffolk more about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it…,” Bosselman said.

During his presentation, Bosselman detailed ways of supporting the agricultural industry. While noting how land use programs continue to be an essential tool to the agriculture community and should remain in Suffolk, Bosselman’s presentation also noted their goal of partnering with the city on educational and outreach opportunities. Likewise, he expressed the need for $10,000 in funding for the Peanut Soil and Water Conservation District.

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Bosselman said the committee is also working on the city’s exact economic impact while noting how Suffolk is unique due to featuring aspects such as large commercial farms, boutique agriculture, forestry operations, farmers markets and manufacturers. Likewise, Bosselman touched upon the loss of farmland in the city.

“Last year, I think I reported, there were 42,533 acres of open road cropland. This year, according to the FSA office, which is the Farm Service Agency, which I am a part of, it was down to 41,718 acres this year. We lost 7,074 acres under one year. That’s a 1.8 percent decrease,” Bosselman said. “Over a 21 [year] period, it’s been 8,882 acres lost at a 17.5 percent loss. So we’re steady losing open farmland and I suspect it’s going to continue. I know it’s going to continue, because I know there’s farmland that has not been taken out of this process yet at the FSA office. So it’s continuing on its downward trim.”

Bosselman expressed issues with tree limbs hanging along the roads and not being able to use road shoulders due to the limbs. He also emphasized that the committee does not support using farmland for solar energy panels, saying that they destroy parts of land due to compaction and cannot be reused. Noting the upcoming 50th anniversary of the city’s chartering in 1974, Bosselman detailed how an Agricultural Department was an early idea for the city.

“Agriculture that time was a big deal, big deal in Suffolk. Peanut capital of the world. And peanuts are a part of this city’s seal and were mentioned in the plan, in the charter… Farmland used to be a big deal, it was talked about in there, talked about conservation of that farmland in there, and it was talked about [having] an Agricultural Department. And it was in the original plan that we would have an Agricultural Department here in the City of Suffolk,” he said. “It could be a huge help in this coexistence between the growing Suffolk and the agricultural Suffolk, just to make a bridge there.” 

He detailed how the department can help solve the aforementioned issues and promote other programs, such as the Peanut Soil Conservation District, to Suffolk residents. 

“It is a plan going forward and I hope everybody, especially on this council and the city management will give it deep thought as to where we’ll be in the next 20 years,” Bosselman said. “And I’m assuming a lot of you have children and grandchildren and so we do have a lot to think about [on] what we’re going to leave them here.

Noting that there is no question that agriculture is a significant part of Suffolk’s culture, economy and heritage, Mayor Michael D. Duman expressed the idea of promoting agriculture to be incentivized. Likewise, he commended Bosselman for his presentation.

“I appreciate everything that the AG Committee has done. I mean, we created for a reason, the same way we’ve created other avenues of engagement for citizens to relay that perspective to this body when we enter into any decisions. So keep doing exactly what you’re doing,” Duman said. “Just like what Councilman Johnson said, we may not agree on everything, but we need to know all sides of an issue in order to make the best decision we can.”

The Suffolk Agricultural Committee will hold its next meeting on Jan. 25, 2024.