Saturday, May 5, 2007

Farmland Preservation Update from Hunter's Greens!

This is AWESOME stuff here! Thank you VERY much Jim & Diane.


Dear Preservation Allies and other friends and family,

The time of anxiously waiting has ended with an explosion of activity both here at the farm and in the halls of government. Jim spent about five days in the field catching up on planting spinach, garlic, lettuce,bok choy, chinese cabbage, carrots, parsnips, dill, parsley, potatoes and sweet pea.

While Jim was busy farming and Diane putting a floor in the granary, theCounty is releasing, as we "e-speak", a final EIS on their updated Comprehensive Growth Management Plan (the one that plans to annex 1300 to2000 more acres of agricultural resource land into cities for development).

Open Houses will be held to discuss proposed changes from 6:30 to 8:30 as follows:

Wednesday, May 16: Vancouver: Clark County Elections building,1408 Franklin St.
Tuesday, May 22: Dollars Corner, Fire District 11, 21609 NE 72nd Ave
Wednesday, May 23: Fisher's Landing C-Tran Transit Center, Besserman Community Room 3600 SE 164th AVE.

Farmers and consumers need to turn out to these meetings to express our views on investing in a sustainable, just, local food economy in Clark County. E-mail Jim with your plans for attending and to strategize on our message and how to deliver it.

Meanwhile, Jim got the two of us embroiled in another farmland preservation issue. Recently it came to light that the Army Corps of Engineers was planning to take farmland from Cowlitz County farmers using eminent domain. The land was to be used for wetland mitigation for environmental damage the Corps would do dredging the Columbia.

Now, we have not traditionally been fans of the property rights movement,but this seemed to be going too far, even for us. When farmland is already threatened and the Corps could find other land, and purchase it from a willing seller, we concluded that the use of eminent domain for this purpose is an abuse of power.

Well, the bill has been passed for a while and Jim started to worry that the Governor was going to take the easy way out, rather than get between the Corps and property rights activists and let the bill die on her desk. So he started searching the net and making calls and found out the Governor was coming to Vancouver to sign bills yesterday. Well, for some reason the old activist kicked in, and he decided to call some farmer and consumer friends and head down to the Water Resource Education Center with signs to greet the Governor.

On first hearing the idea, Diane replied, "You will not!" After Jim threw a hissie that spoiled our breakfast out and the rest of the day, we settled down and discussed it, and Diane agreed it was the thing to do. By then there wasn't time for our friends to respond, so we headed down with two signs each, all urging the Governor to sign SB 5108, and each bearing a fun, catchy slogan: "Apple Cores before Army Corps," "Farmland IS Habitat", "Dredging for Gluten?", "SAVE OUR PETS, SAVE OUR FARMS."

In case some of these slogans are mystifying, let us note that they refer to recent imports of wheat gluten from China that have poisoned more than10,000 pets.

We got there pretty early and were greeted very cordially by Representative Jim Moeller of Vancouver (Jim and Jim are allies from their former days as human rights activists). The Governor was late,and so just about everyone who came saw our signs. We were interviewed by KEX, the Oregonian and the Columbian. It was Diane's first picketing experience.

Finally we met the Governor. Rather than averting her eyes as many did,she walked right up to greet us. Jim told her, "We're not against dredging, we're not against wetland mitigation, but we don't think government should take farmers' land to do it." She replied, "Well,that's one thing we can agree on." She shook Diane's hand and commented that it was cold. Diane replied in her best Diane, voice, "Well, we've been waiting for you for a very long time!" The Governor said, "Yes, I'm running late!" And was off. We were duly impressed.

But the game isn't over. The Governor could still use your encouragement. The Corps and the ports and maybe even eastern Washington farmers may be encouraging her to line item veto the prohibition on using eminent domain to convert farmland to wetland. Our point is that the Corps ought to work a little harder to find willing sellers.

One of our big concerns is that the rest of the bill is geared toward encouraging farmers to work with the government to preserve farmland, but the farmers already don't trust government to respect their rights and needs. So if the Governor sends the message that we want you to preserve your farm land, but if we want it to replace wetland we're destroying with your farmland we'll take it.

What kind of trust does that build?

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