Statement on Growth Management Act Appeal

LYNDEN, Wash.–Whatcom County farming groups are pushing back after the Whatcom County Council ignored state law and the County Comprehensive Plan’s goals and policies that require local family farms, food, and resource lands to be protected on the same level as the environment.

The Whatcom County Farm Bureau, Washington Farm Bureau, Whatcom County Cattlemen’s Association and Whatcom Family Farmers are appealing an updated set of farm regulations to the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB), after the council approved a Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) that violates the Washington Growth Management Act (GMA) by failing to protect local food and farms.

“This ill-conceived update to important Whatcom County environmental protections must be corrected to comply with the GMA and protect the interests of local food and farming and provide environmental safeguards before being placed into effect,” said Leslie Honcoop, local farmer and president of the Whatcom County Farm Bureau.

The GMA requires counties to encourage the protection and enhancement of agricultural resource lands, the economic development of farmland, the protection of farmland owners’ property rights, and the protection of those owners from illegal public disclosure requirements.

Whatcom County’s updated CAO fails all of these tests, as well as others outlined in the GMA and Comprehensive Plan.

“By neglecting to take these important considerations into account, the Whatcom County Council has enacted rules that place our local agricultural community at risk of further negative economic pressures and costs of complying with unnecessary mandates that do little to protect the environment on and around farmland that local farmers work so hard to steward,” Honcoop said.

Those who crafted the GMA knew that taking away farms’ ability to be economically viable would only serve to encourage the conversion of agricultural resource lands (sprawl) and ultimately speed the urbanization of our already dwindling farmlands and rural areas.

The farming and ranching groups involved in the appeal are calling for the updated Whatcom County CAO to be brought back to the drawing board to address these major problems.

It is imperative that the GMHB invalidate the updated CAO, so that Whatcom County environmental regulations can be corrected to comply with the GMA and the Comprehensive Plan and protect the interests of local food and farming on par with the environment.