Pink flags show how extreme buffers impact local farms and food.
"Site potential tree height" buffers means 235 feet on each side of a fish bearing waterway (streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, wetlands, even drainage ditches) in some areas. This massive amount could lead to a major reduction of farmland and will eliminate some farms.
BUFFERS WILL IMPACT THE FOOD SUPPLY AND LEAD TO...
Large no touch buffers will remove thousands of acres from farm production throughout the state, and may eliminate an estimated 20% of Western Washington agricultural lands.
With the reduction of land there will be a reduction of farms in northwest Washington. This means fewer small, unique farmers offering local products.
MORE URBAN ZONES
Extreme buffers will lead to a sell off of agricultural land in northwest Washington. Those sales will lead to urbanization, not wildlife refuge.
Farmers in Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties must be precise with their planning due to crop specifications and scarcity of land. The profit margin for farms in Western Washington is 1-5%, which leaves very little room for error and makes every inch of farmland valuable.
Skagit County is home to only about 80,000 acres of farmable land, managed by roughly 1,000 farming families in 10 to 100 acre “chunks” divided by irrigation and drainage ditches and small land parcels. Farmers here grow more than 80 different crops, and rotational farming allows farmers to break up disease, insect, and tillage cycles naturally. Every inch of farmable soil matters to the community and local food supply.
FARMLAND IS HABITAT
A potato farmer who uses best management practices has land that is free of noxious weeds, urban runoff, and road pollution. Farms protect salmon and wildlife better than any other use on that land, especially urban zones.
The land below sits along a slough and includes a small local farm.
If a 235 foot buffer was implemented, the small farm would be nearly eliminated.
WWAA services support local and statewide agricultural viability, through both direct leadership and indirect participation. Natural resources conservation and recovery initiatives, agricultural research and extension programs, and agricultural preservation actions dominate our work on a daily and annual basis. Our organization’s diverse membership, coupled with this region’s complexity, create for an immense and ongoing list of commitments and services/activities.
Much of WWAA’s support for this community is hidden in the background of dike, drainage, and irrigation infrastructure and natural resource projects/stewardship seen throughout the Skagit Valley and Delta.
Western Washington Agricultural Association withdraws from DFI & TFI
Recently, on behalf of its membership, the Western Washington Agricultural Association (WWAA) board of directors voted unanimously to withdraw from Skagit Delta Tidegates and Fish Initiative (TFI).
WWAA leadership believes the recent decisions by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and United States Army Corps of Engineers to reinitiate Section 7 Endangered Species Act consultation of the TFI Implementation Agreement was procedurally improper and without cause. Under these circumstances, WWAA believes that it is no longer in the best interest of its farmers to continue to participate in the Agreement. WWAA has detailed its position and clearly explained that the agencies’ decisions were neither warranted nor justified based on the Notice of Intent to sue by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (SITC).
Also, after thorough review of current circumstances, WWAA has elected to withdraw from its professional service agreements with the twelve Skagit County Dike and/or Drainage Districts (Districts) that are signatory to the TFI. WWAA has also withdrawn from the Skagit Drainage and Fish Initiative (DFI), and terminated its role and participation in District business.
“This is a positive step on behalf of our membership and the farmers of Northwest Washington. It allows our organization to focus on advocating for agriculture in other arenas,” explained WWAA’s President Jenn Smith (Mt. Vernon). “Based on recent actions taken to realign District priorities, we decided they are best represented by their commissioners from this point forward.”
“In 2006 our leadership entered into negotiations to help improve salmon health with our partners in local, state, federal, and tribal agencies,” said WWAA’s Executive Director Brandon Roozen. “Even as SITC removed themselves from the formal seat given to them more than a decade ago, we stayed to do our part. Our hope is that elected leaders and resource agencies can create more effective coordination with the Districts, and we can continue to be the voice for agriculture. This will allow us to concentrate primarily on protecting our farmers through advocacy and by fighting poor policy ideas. Actions taken by SITC and the recent state legislative session proved that we have a lot of work ahead of us to protect agriculture in Northwest Washington from harmful ideas coming from Olympia and beyond.”
WWAA has provided Districts with local, state, and federal regulatory and environmental support for infrastructure and water management since 2005. It also helped create the DFI & TFI and served as a signatory partner. WWAA continues to support the implementation of both programs and will remain engaged in agricultural topics and policies associated with agricultural infrastructure based on its mission and support of the agriculture community.
Big Bad Buffer Bills
We survived another legislative session! While we staved off a few bad news bills, we also weren't able to pass a few important policies that would have bolstered agriculture throughout the state.
WWAA strongly opposes these dangerous bills that would ultimately lead to the removal of local food production in Western Washington. Each bill:
Mandates large NO TOUCH buffers on private lands with very few exceptions, but exempts tribal lands.
Creates huge buffers as large as 235 feet on each side of a stream or river or all around a pond, lake or wetland taking thousands of acres of farmland, an estimated 20% of Western Washington agricultural lands.
The governor's office of Indian affairs shall convene a state/tribal riparian management oversight committee that will review and support implementation of this act.
Creates new fines up to $10,000 per day per violation (issued by Ecology).
Will replace the Voluntary Stewardship Program with a hostile regulatory standoff.
Exemptions omit major policy considerations such as federal and state flood damage reduction measures for the protection of life and property, the constitutional rights of landowners, the financial burden of controlling invasive and noxious weeds and other economic losses due to changing use of natural resource land.
To print and use our one page (front and back) backgrounder and talking points, click here.
Western Washington agriculture is at the center of one of the worst bills attacking a farmer’s right to use their own land.
Please consider joining other statewide farmers and ranchers to oppose this dangerous bill. We are asking you to communicate with committee members using email. We suggest reading the content of the bills before writing your testimony.
This a map the Washington Farm Bureau obtained this week through a public disclosure request from the WA State Department of Agriculture that displays how a 200-foot buffer would impact prime farm land in Skagit County.
We looked up the Schuh Farm address to see what length of buffer they would be under if the waterway nearby was classified as "salmon bearing". The Douglas Fir 200 year tree height WDFW uses is 215 ft in this location. Here's what a 215 buffer would roughly look like according to their ruler tool.
The impacts of this bill can be boiled down to this: a mile-long 200-foot buffer devours 24 acres of land.