By SEAN ELLIS
NAMPA -- A group dedicated to preserving Idaho's farmland is inviting people interested in protecting Idaho's agricultural economy to attend its annual meeting March 20.
The group was formed in 2008 to deal with the rampant growth occurring in Ada and Canyon counties, which have some of the state's prime farm ground but are also Idaho's two largest urban areas.
The rapid growth resulted in many smaller subdivisions being placed right next to farmland.
That has created problems for farmers as well as their new neighbors and has resulted in some major seed companies moving some production to other states or countries, saidCFAF Chairman George Crookham, CEO of Crookham Co., a major vegetable seed producer.
"This area is one of the top vegetable seed producing areas in the world, yet they keep putting houses on top of it," he said. "We don't like having to move our production out of the country or state, but we're having to do that."
According to the Census of Agriculture, there were 12.2 million acres of land in farms in Idaho in 1993 and in 2012 that number was 11.4 million. Much of that loss of farmland occurred in or near the state's second and third largest cities: Nampa in Canyon County and Meridian in Ada County.
"The protection of agricultural land has always been my goal," Canyon County Commissioner Kathy Alder, who has farmed in the area for 42 years, said. "I would hate to see Canyon County become just an urban area."
Crookham said the CFAF's concern is more than just the loss of farmland. An equal concern is what happens when subdivisions are plopped in the middle of farmland.
Much of the vegetable seed produced in the area has to be isolated from other seed so there are no cross-pollination issues, so someone who grows corn in their back yard could impact a farmer who is growing sweet corn seed.
Crookham's company was visited by state officials three times last year because a new neighbor kept complaining about farming activity. Each time, company officials had to spend the better part of a day going through their records with state officials. Each time the company was exonerated.
"We're not anti-growth. We just want good, planned growth," Crookham said.
CFAF includes 30 of the area's major agribusinesses, ag-related associations and other companies with farming interests in the Treasure Valley.
The group has been successful in pushing bills through the Idaho Legislature that strengthened the state's Right to Farm Act and strengthened agricultural protections in Idaho's land-use planning laws.
It also prompted Canyon County to rewrite its planning and zoning ordinances to eliminate a conditional use permit that allowed spot development of residential subdivisions in the middle of ag lands.
The meeting will take place at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Nampa beginning at 1 p.m.