MRC approves major farm planning package

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Arnaud de la Salle

In October, the MRC Pontiac’s council of mayors approved a new tool aimed at assisting the long-term development of agricultural activities within the MRC. It is a detailed document, a plan for development in the zone agricole, called the “PDZA”.
Maximizing the use of farm-zone land by

Arnaud de la Salle

In October, the MRC Pontiac’s council of mayors approved a new tool aimed at assisting the long-term development of agricultural activities within the MRC. It is a detailed document, a plan for development in the zone agricole, called the “PDZA”.
Maximizing the use of farm-zone land by
agricultural activities is the objective. The plan is built upon a 2012 description, drawn up by the MRC’s planning service, of the region’s agricultural sector, and breaks it into three types: “dynamic” agriculture (livestock), “viable” agriculture (cropping), and agricultural forestry.
The PDZA is divided into 8 sections, reflecting a territorial “diagnostic” and a plan of action. It looks at these three types of farming in detail: livestock dominates the Pontiac, with 84% of its farms raising cattle, while the cropping sector represents only 5% of the total. Farm forestry has been in decline since the 2007 economic crisis and continues under stress; some operations yielded even less than needed to cover land and school taxes.
The diagnostic study focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of each type of operation. It looks at
local geographic strengths,
especially the nearby large
markets of Gatineau, Ottawa, and Pembroke. Most weakness relate to
a lack of infrastructure
which prevents value-added
transformations and results in shipping raw resources out of the Pontiac.
The PDZA’s action plan lists 4 areas of intervention, all based on the regions “portrait” and the actual farm-forestry activities in effect. It sets out the means the MRC can use to reach its development goals. The action plan sets out steps to take, the tools and means needed to begin, all within the PDZA’s mandate.
Fill-in-the-blanks
 total planning
In the abstract, the four intervention “axes” are
re-enforcement, prospecting, “complementarity” (to existing operations), and multi-functionality. Re-enforcement, for example, includes five areas of help:
a single-source for agricultural services, sales and
marketing counselling, coordination of financial assistance, set-up assistance, and creating an industrial and commercial “culture”.
Prospecting covers two areas: attracting a agrico-forestry laboratory and research and development of non-ligneous products.
“Complementarity” areas for encouragement cover hops, cattle production, and industrial-scale biomass use.
In approving this
document, the mayors accepted an activist role
for the MRC and their municipalities, especially with farming, all in the face of the province’s downloading of funding for many
programs onto the MRCs and cuts to just about
everything.
A seven member “comité de suivi” (a
committee looking ahead) has been set up including two mayors, a represent-ative from MAPAQ, OPBP(forestry), the SADC, CDE, MRC Land Planning Department and Michel Vallière, a new Rural Development officer for the MRC.  Vallière told the Journal, “Communication is the next step. But, it isn’t easy. The result will depend on the involvement—financial and otherwise—of the municipalities, other partners and the general public.  Small initiatives are possible; we will have to look at different ways to develop projects. And, we realize this is a long term plan—results will likely not come for five years or more.”    
                    (Transl.: FR)