Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Farmland Preservation 101: Session 3: Why Preserve Farmland - by Jim Hunter

Well, the hour is upon us.

The first Open House on the Comprehensive Plan is tonight (Wednesday) from 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. at the Clark County Elections Building at 1408 Franklin. That's the one story building on the southwest corner of Franklin and Fourth Plain. Parking is available on Franklin in the County's parking garage, which is next door. Hope to see you there.

Further open houses are next week in Dollars Corner on Tuesday the 22 and Fisher's Landing, Wednesday, the 23, same hours.

To view past installments of Farmland Preservation 101 and find more info, go to "" or ""


In Today's lesson we get down to the fun stuff. These are the arguments you can include in your letters to commissioners, and in presentations at open houses and hearings.

"10 REASONS TO BUY LOCAL FOOD" I highly recommend that you google this phrase. There you will find a fact sheet from the publication GROWING FOR MARKET. This publication has granted permission to photocopy this fact sheet, so it is ready to use with the commissioners and in collecting allies.

In brief GFM's ten reasons are:

1) It tastes better
2)it is better for you
3)it preserves genetic diversity
4)it is GMO-free
5) it supports local farm families
6) it builds communities
7)it preserves open space
8) it keeps your taxes in check
9) it supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife
10) it is about the future.

The fact sheet offers a paragraph on each of these themes.

If I knew the technology to link you directly to this piece I would, perhaps some of our local food webbies will.

Link to .pdf file of 10 Reasons....

So one simple way to address comments to the commissioners is to take one of these ten reasons that is nearest and dearest to your heart and repeat it to them. With a little more effort you could expand on it and make it personal.


A couple of years ago, Clark County horticulture extension agent Charles Brun noted that Community Supported Agriculture was a step away from globalization. Since then the number of Clark County CSA's has grown from two to ten. But at the same time the process of globalization has accelerated in the conventional agricultural sector.

Apple and wheat products are now being imported from China to Washington State, a leading producer of apples and wheat. The imported wheat products contain a substance that has poisoned over 10,000 pets nationwide.

Ten years ago, Agent Brun was advising beginning farmers to plant raspberries. In a recent presentation he noted that raspberry growers in Whatcom County aren't picking their raspberries because of global competition. Local growers have not pruned and trellised their vines this year, suggesting a similar circumstance here in Clark County.

Meanwhile, local food has become a national buzzword. Consumers shaken by ever growing contamination scares in the industrialized agriculture sector are turning to farmers they can deal with directly.

As the international crisis we are facing deepens and energy prices skyrocket, local food that doesn't have to travel the average of 1500 miles to market will become increasingly attractive. Farmlands are just this year being converted from producing crops for food to crops for fuel. This will increase the need for farmland.

If the present international crisis is a result of our dependence on foreign oil, what will be the result of our increasing dependence on foreign food. As Middle Eastern nations are emboldened to challenge the hegemony of the industrialized nations, there are signs that the "banana republics" we are increasingly dependent on for cheap food will also begin to make greater demands for justice in the market place.

This is no time to be throwing away farmland.


The threat to Clark County farmland is fueled on the one hand by a seemingly insatiable demand for cheap land for housing. This situation is partially fueled by the relative strength of land use policies in neighboring Oregon. On the other hand local conventional farmers have
been hit hard by government policies of globalization, environmental protection and an increasingly regulated labor market.

Conventional farmers have been strained to the breaking point and are demoralized about the future of agriculture. The conventional farmers that are surviving are turning to diversified farming and direct marketing, pioneering the way for the growing number of small alternative
farms. Joe's Place and Bi Zi Farms are examples of this transitional farm type.

It is time for public policy to invest in and strengthen our farm sector rather than continue to take it for granted and restrict it. Zoning restrictions to preserve farmland are necessary, but alone they are hollow. The retiring generation of farmers need to be fairly compensated
for preserving existing farmland, this can be achieved through the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. Then we must invest in the infrastructure of local marketing systems and small scale processing facilities that will allow local farmers to harvest the full value of their products. These measures are being used successfully in other areas of our state.


And lastly, lets take a look at the opening paragraphs of The Washington Administrative Code regarding planning for agricultural resource lands in the Growth Management Act.

Chapter 365-190-020

"The intent of this chapter is to establish minimum guidelines to assist all counties statewide in classifying agricultural lands, forest lands, mineral resource lands and critical areas. These guidelines shall be considered by counties and cities in designating these lands.

"Growth management, natural resource land conservation, and critical area protection share problems related to governmental costs and efficiency. Sprawl and unwise development of natural resource lands or areas may lead to inefficient use of limited public resources, jeopardize environmental resource functions and values, subject persons and property to unsafe
conditions, and affect the perceived quality of life. It is more costly to remedy the loss of natural resource lands or critical areas than to conserve and protect them from loss or degradation. The inherent economic, social and cultural values of natural resource lands and critical areas should be considered in the development of strategies designed to conserve and protect lands."

Clark County's Final Growth Management Plan Update Final Environmental Impact Statement devotes one page of text out of 120 to "Rural and Resource Lands," despite having redefined agricultural resource lands in a forty-one page document not submitted to the public for review. Is Clark County meeting the requirements Section 190 of State Code regarding agricultural resource lands?

No comments:

Post a Comment