Don’t Miss Requesting A Ballot To Vote Larry Helm

The Whatcom Conservation District Board of Supervisors is having an election where all Whatcom County voters are eligible to vote. The catch is that unlike our normal elections which are run out the Whatcom County Auditor’s office, this election is run out of the Whatcom Conservation District office and you must request an absentee ballot or vote in person on election day, March 13, 2018, at the Conservation District office.

Because this elected position impacts agriculture in Whatcom County, we strongly encourage you to request a ballot to vote. You may do this by calling 360-526- 2381 ext 101 or visiting whatcomcd.org/board-elections. The deadline for requesting a ballot is 4:00 pm tomorrow, the 7th of February.

The Washington State Farm Bureau PAC has endorsed Larry Helm for this position. Larry is a farmer here in Whatcom County and has served on this board previously. He is an excellent fit for this position. To learn more about Larry Helm visit his campaign page at facebook.com/LarryHelm4ConservationDistrict/

If you have not already done so, please request a ballot by tomorrow afternoon. It is crucial for Agriculture to continue to have Larry Helm on this board.

2017 WSFB Annual Meeting

Thank you to delegates  (L-R) Melodie Kirk, Larry & Sharon Helm, Bob & Pauline Van Weerdhuizen, Jason & Debbie VanderVeen, Leslie Honcoop, Troy Lenssen, Corie Kirk,  Percy & Lois Hoekema and Dan Noteboom (not pictured) for representing Whatcom County Farm Bureau at the 2017 Washington State Annual Meeting.

Call to Action for Livestock Owners

A major issue has come up in the last couple of weeks in the County Council’s review of the Critical Areas Ordinance.

Per Whatcom County Planning and Development staff’s suggestion, the County Council has adopted wording that would require anyone who has more than one animal unit (1000lb) per three acres of grazable land to obtain a farm plan.

A steer, for example, often weighs over one thousand pounds, so two steers would not be allowed on three acres without a Farm Plan.

County staff and the Council seem to believe that most small or hobby farms will fit into this exemption category, but we believe that this ratio is unlikely to exempt very many animal farmers. We also believe that the 1 Animal Unit to 3 grazable acres ratio is overly restrictive. There is no way that one cow or horse will generate enough nutrients to overload even one acre of grazable pasture.

Farm Plans will be an extra cost for small animal farms and will discourage people from keeping livestock. They are also unnecessary where there are no problems with nutrient management and runoff into waterways.

We need to let the Council know this policy is overly restrictive and will affect many.

What can you do?

• Share this information with your neighbors and friends.
• Email the County Council at council@co.whatcom.wa.us
• Come to the County Council meeting at the Council Chambers on Oct. 24. Tell them how this will affect you and ask them to remove this requirement.

New Law Provides Greater Liability Protection On Your Farm

This notice is courtesy Washington State Farm Bureau

Do you allow the public onto your farm?

A new law may provide increased liability protection for you.

We have exciting news to share with you regarding a new law approved this year by the state Legislature that provides additional liability protections for farmers who allow members of the public to visit their farms.

While Senate Bill 5808 provides new liability protection to agritourism professionals who provide recreational, entertainment or educational opportunities for the public "to view or enjoy rural activities" on their land.

The scope of these activities is broadly defined, and may very well apply to you. These activities include:

  • Farming
  • Ranching
  • Historic, cultural and on-site educational programs
  • Recreational farming programs that may include on-site hospitality services
  • Guided and self-guided tours
  • Petting zoos
  • Farm festivals
  • Corn mazes
  • Harvest-your-own operations
  • Hayrides
  • Barn parties
  • Horseback riding
  • Fishing
  • Camping

The new law states the agritourism professional "is not liable for injury, loss, damage, or death of a participant resulting exclusively from any of the inherent risks of agritourism activities", with certain exceptions.

The bill also states that no participant or participant's representative may pursue an action or recover from an agritourism professional for injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting exclusively from any of the inherent risks of agritourism activities. Again, some exceptions do apply.

This new law went into effect on July 23, 2017. To read the new law, click here. To read a description about the new law, click here.

To benefit from this new liability protection, you must post a sign with the exact language shown in the sample above.

The signs must be posted in a clearly visible location at the entrance to your farm or agritourism business and at the site of each agritourism activity.

To help you access these signs in time for this fall's activities, WA Farm Bureau is making signs available that are 3' X 4'.

You can also show this email to your local printer or sign maker and have them made locally. However, we believe our bulk-order price will be far cheaper than what you will be able to find on an individual order.

These signs are available in a high-quality polycarbonate plastic.

Prices for these signs:
WA Farm Bureau Members - $30
Non-Members - $40

Please Note
The Washington Farm Bureau will place the bulk order for the signs once we have received commitment for at least 250 signs. So don't delay - order your signs today.

We will not process your check or credit card payment until we have received requests for at least 250 signs and the bulk order is placed with the printer.

Although shipping can be arranged, it's expensive. To save you that expense and for your convenience, we're establishing convenient pick-up sites around the state.

Questions - Contact Tom Davis at tdavis@wsfb.com.

We must receive your order form by August 21 - Order Today!

To place your order, click here to print the order form, fill it out and mail or email your completed order form to:

Washington Farm Bureau
Attn: Jenni Budde
975 Carpenter Road NE
Lacey, WA 98516

or

jbudde@wsfb.com

Saving Farmland at the Cost of Farmers

Farmland in Whatcom County. Photo Credit Elisa Claassen. Used By Permission.

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.

 

Free Agriculture Energy Upgrades For Small Farmers

Puget Sound Energy is partnering with the Whatcom Conservation District in piloting a new program called Agricultural Energy Efficiency Program.

This program is focused on farmers in North Whatcom County. Their goal is to save small farms money and energy by upgrading lighting and equipment for free.

PSE is looking for ten small farms to join this program.

If you are interested or have questions, please contact Nick at nicholas.hartrich@pse.com or (360) 922-4204.