Currently, we are learning how much words matter as the County Council reviews the Critical Areas Ordinance. Every 10 years, this document must be reviewed and changes can be made at that time.
Right now, your County Council is deciding what is considered an agricultural activity and what is not. They are deciding how to determine when a piece of land goes out of agricultural use because there is no longer appropriate agricultural activity happening there. They are proposing a time limit of only 5 years for land to be without defined agricultural activity before they reclassify the use of that property to no longer be available for agriculture.
Sometimes, there are reasons beyond the farmer’s control that land lies fallow. It could be a market collapse that makes his crop unprofitable. It could be that grandpa retires, but still lives on the farm for some time before the next generation resumes farming.
It could be that the definition of agricultural activity is so narrow that certain typical agricultural practices are excluded from the code.
That’s why words matter – and why we are paying close attention to the definitions that are proposed by the County Council.
We need the farming community, and our community supporters to defend the best definition of Agricultural Activities and Ongoing Agriculture. The County Council must know that farmers and farmland are important to our economy and our community identity.
Whatcom County Farm Bureau supports the adoption of this definition for the Critical Areas Ordinance:
“AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES” means agricultural uses and practices including, but not limited to: Producing, breeding, or increasing agricultural products; rotating and changing agricultural crops; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie fallow in which it is plowed and tilled but left unseeded; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie dormant as a result of adverse agricultural market conditions; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie dormant because the land is enrolled in a local, state, or federal conservation program, or the land is subject to a conservation easement; conducting agricultural operations; maintaining, repairing and replacing agricultural equipment; maintaining, repairing, and replacing agricultural facilities, provided that the replacement facility is no closer to the shoreline than the original facility; and maintaining agricultural lands under production or cultivation.
Even better would be the adoption of this definition as “Ongoing Agriculture” as this would eliminate the 5 year limit.
Either option protects farmers’ use of their land, but we need to defend this definition before the Council and let them know that these words matter to us… a lot!
Please let your County Council Member know that you are concerned about this issue today!