All that was missing was the Farmer's Almanac.
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday dove into a discussion about the future of farming, as they approved a plan outlining what areas of the county are suitable for future industrial development.
Commissioners said they were interested in protecting prime pieces of Douglas County farmland, but said they were not comfortable creating regulations that would prohibit industrial development from occurring on the high-producing cropland.
As part of a rewriting of the city and county's comprehensive plan - Horizon 2020 - commissioners agreed to add language to the document that requires land-use decisions on future industrial projects to "balance the agricultural significance" of a site "against the need for industrial and employment-related development."
Several area residents, however, had hoped for a stronger statement. Commissioners heard about an hour's worth of public comment urging them to adopt language stating industrial development should not occur on prime farmland.
The issue has been a hot one as neighbors have fought a proposed industrial park development on farmland near the Lawrence Municipal Airport.
"I believe to turn this agricultural land into an industrial area would be like crushing the Hope Diamond into an industrial abrasive," said Charles Novogradac, who owns a tree farm near the proposed industrial site.
Residents said taking strong action to protect prime farmland - ground rated as class 1 or 2 by the Natural Resources Conservation Service - was the environmentally responsible action to take.
But some commissioners said the issue wasn't so simple. Commissioner Rob Chestnut, for example, said an employment center that provided jobs for hundreds of people could be an improvement to the environment as well if it reduced the number of Lawrence residents who commuted to Kansas City on a daily basis.
"There shouldn't be an absolute litmus test on whether a piece of ground is in or out as an industrial site," Chestnut said.
Commissioners approved the changes to Horizon 2020 on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Boog Highberger was opposed.
Although the new Horizon 2020 language references the area near the airport as suitable for industrial development, that doesn't mean the current proposal has been approved. Commissioners have failed to approve the 145 acre project, citing concerns about drainage and infrastructure costs associated with it.
The plan also references 10 other areas as being suitable for industrial development. Those areas include two near Eudora, three in southern Douglas County along U.S. Highway 56, and the former Farmland Industries site east of Lawrence.