Since Spring 2016, the Whatcom County Farm Bureau has been engaged in tracking Whatcom County’s Comprehensive Plan and Critical Areas Ordinance review. These documents will have a large impact on our ability to farm our land; and we wanted to be sure that the agricultural perspective was represented.
A year later, we are still involved in this effort. With the help of an attorney, and partnership with other farm organizations, we have submitted many comments to the Council and Committees on their proposals that will reduce our ability to farm profitably.
We believe that we have fairly and accurately represented the concerns of the agricultural community to our County Council. However, we have had limited success with their responses.
We could give you many details of issues we have opposed and countered, but the bottom line is this: the majority of the County Council assume that agriculture is harming the land and the water. The policies that they are pursuing will have the result of reducing the practice of farming. Council members will say they are concerned about farmland, but proposed increases in regulation, affecting profitability, and their push to reclassify Ag land to critical areas shows they are not concerned about farming.
There is much to be lost if we, as farmers, do not express our objection to their assumption. The Council is working to make Farm Plans mandatory for every farm, requiring a costly process to comply, and years of monitoring with mandated updates. Also, they propose to make the allowed time for Ag land to lie fallow only 5 years, after which the land is reclassified as a Critical Area and must comply with those buffers (much larger) and regulations. These are just two issues of many that adversely affect farming.
The County Council must know that we object to their assumption, and their proposals. And they need to hear it from THE FARMERS THEMSELVES! Our comments in person, our presence at the meetings, and other communications must be made to have any hope of influencing laws and policies that affect our agricultural industries.
It is always busy on the farm, whatever the season – and summer is probably the worst time to consider taking time away from the farm to attend meetings. But engaging the Council members now, before the detrimental changes are adopted is an investment that will inevitably save time when we have to battle their implementation.
For your consideration:
Attend the meeting when the Council of the Whole discusses the changes: Tuesday, August 8, 9:30 am. We will probably not be allowed to comment, but our presence is valuable both for our education and the Council’s awareness of accountability.
Speak at the August 8 County Council meeting during Open Session. Council meeting starts at 7pm. Open session follows any public hearings scheduled: can occur as early as 7:15, or much later. We will track what hearings are on the agenda and give you an idea of the time.
Attend the August 8 County Council Meeting in support of the farmers.