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HomeCommunityAgricultureProgress Continues on Territory-Wide Agricultural Plan Task Force

Progress Continues on Territory-Wide Agricultural Plan Task Force

VI Agricultural Plan Task Force (Submitted image)

Since March 2021, the Task Force has been working diligently to produce the 2021 Agricultural Plan. The group meets weekly and divides into subcommittees to tackle each plan mandate.

Substantive progress continues towards the completion of a territory-wide Agricultural Plan, which was mandated by Act 8404. “We deeply value the passion and know-how of the farming community. They have been vital since we began this task, and it is their concerns, suggestions and passion that have provided the foundation for all the task force’s preliminary recommendations,” said President of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) David Hall, who co-chairs the task force with Commissioner of Agriculture Positive T. A. Nelson.

President Hall said, “During the last town hall, we heard many concerns, comments and suggestions, including providing more frequent updates as to the status of the plan. We want the community to know we hear you, and your input is valuable to us.”

To accommodate the suggestions from the community, a final extension is being requested until Dec. 3 for submission of the plan to the governor and Legislature. On Oct. 3, the Task Force provided the community with a copy of the powerpoint presentation given during the town hall and opened the recommendations for feedback.

Recommendations are still being accepted and documents can be found online at www.doa.vi.gov/agplan-powerpoint/. The VI Agricultural Plan Task Force is still seeking feedback from farmer surveys that are available online at  https://bit.ly/VIFarmersSurvey or in V.I. Department of Agriculture offices across the territory.

On Oct. 8, the VI Agricultural Plan Task Force conducted a Farmers Groups Forum, which invited representation from the various farming groups across the territory. During the meeting, the Task Force invited the many groups to select three individuals who will represent the farming community. Crucial partners from the start, farmers will officially join the Agricultural Plan Task Force to provide their hands-on perspective and expertise.

This is in addition to their invaluable participation in four town halls and smaller breakout sessions held directly with farmers and key stakeholders as well as input in farmer surveys. The farmer-led Territorial Agriculture Group agreed to be facilitators of the process.

To date, activities have included:

convening a meeting with national experts on tropical agriculture to gain insight and guidance;

analyzing previous territorial agricultural plans and the latest Agricultural Census;

holding multiple town halls with farmers to garner input and provide feedback;

conducting surveys with farmers, the community, and retailers/restaurateurs;

studying the Economic Development Authority’s commissioned feasibility study for a food processing plant on St. Croix;

reviewing Vision 2040 and its implications for increasing agricultural productivity;

interviewing former Commissioners of Agriculture;

collaborating with the DOE on educational aspects of the plan;

securing the services of the UVI Caribbean Green Technology Center to conduct a study on irrigation and water supply; and much more.

Draft recommendations have been crafted incorporating this critical data, the outlines of which were shared with farmers at the last town hall and will be enhanced in the next month and a half.

Many more opportunities for feedback will be available to the community as the plan progress continues. The Task Force urges the community to continue to share their critical evaluations and assessments.

Increasing local food production can improve food sovereignty and sustainability in the territory. Ninety-seven percent of the USVI food supply is imported according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization. Importation of food not only leaves the territory susceptible to shortages, but it impacts freshness and nutritional value and increases transportation costs and pollution.

Directed by Act 8404, the 2021 Agricultural Plan will incorporate policy and funding recommendations to support and expand the local food system, increase local food production and provide an avenue of food security in the territory. The agricultural plan must include short-term and long-term goals, including proposals for legislative enactment.

More information on the 2021 Agricultural Plan can be found online at www.doa.vi.gov/ag-plan. The community is welcome to reach out to the Agricultural Plan Task Force with comments or questions at 693-1003 or agplan@doa.vi.gov.

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