All farmers and ranchers know preparing for the year ahead starts with looking back at the bright spots and challenges from the seasons before. At AFT, we’re proud that in 2012 we rallied farmers and citizens alike to advocate on behalf of protecting farm and ranch land. Our innovative projects helped family farmers pioneer sound farming practices, which help to preserve our land and water resources. We also laid the groundwork to keep farmers on the land by providing tools and resources that allow them to thrive.
We’re sharing accomplishments and inspiration from 2012 in the words of our expert staff.
We have a really significant problem with farmland loss here in the Puget Sound region. We’ve lost about 60 percent of our farmland here since 1950, and of course this is near and dear to our mission as an organization. One of the things I’ve been interested in doing since I got here is to try to develop a strong campaign for farmland preservation in the Puget Sound region, particularly where the rates of loss have been high….We hope that this Farmland Forever campaign is going to result in the protection of more than 100,000 acres of additional farmland here in the region.
Read more from Pacific Northwest Director Dennis Canty
Northwest Director for American Farmland Trust Dennis Canty has met with Oregon
food and farm leaders in Portland and Medford in recent weeks to discuss issues
related to farmland protection in the state. There is a good bit of confidence
in the state's landmark land use planning approach, which has classified the
majority of farmland in Exclusive Farm Use zoning and has resulted in one of
the lowest farmland conversion rates in the United States. Nevertheless,
advocates are concerned that urban growth boundaries, which are drawn to
accommodate 20-year growth targets, are being expanded onto urban-edge farms. Easements
to protect farmland are not widely used in the state, partly because Oregon's
rigorous farmland zoning decreases the difference between residential and
agricultural value of land that establishes the price of an easement. Local advocates are searching for
alternatives for valuing easements that would allow them to be used more
frequently to permanently protect farmland in Oregon.
In March, our Pacific Northwest staff and interns traveled to the Yamhill Valley and Wallowa Valley in Oregon and the Methow Valley in eastern Washington as part of our project to identify the most threatened farm landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Dennis Canty explained, "People look at these landscapes and think they'll always be exactly the same. They don't see the problems just below the surface—issues with sprawling growth, rising land prices, and competition for water. Farmers need our help to keep these places intact." A full report on the seven threatened landscapes will be released in early June.
Look for American Farmland Trust staff this month throughout the Pacific Northwest. We are hitting the road in late March to visit farmers and community leaders in the Yamhill, Wallowa, Kootenai, Spokane, and Methow valleys as part of our project to identify the most threatened farm landscapes in the region. We hope that the project will stimulate additional efforts to protect these areas from urban sprawl, second home development, competition for limited water, and other threats. We will be releasing a report on this project this summer.
Our analysis of the most threatened farm landscapes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana is nearing completion. We’ve identified more than a dozen landscapes that have major problems with urban sprawl, second home development, water availability and pollution—and we are in the process of winnowing the list down to the five to seven landscapes we’ll highlight this year. Our work doesn’t end with pointing out the challenges faced in these areas! We’re also reaching out to local groups to build partnerships and develop action strategies to address challenges in each of the landscapes.
2011 has been an exceptionally busy year in the Pacific Northwest. It has been a year of building and strengthening relationships to help protect farmland, provide fresh healthy food throughout the region, and support innovative ways for farmers and ranchers to safeguard our natural resources.
As we look toward 2012—including work to forge new partnerships throughout Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho—read about ouraccomplishments from the last year and see a snapshot of what lies ahead.
not much good to say about the economic downturn, but it has brought a
welcome lull to farmland conversions in the Pacific Northwest. This
may be coming to an end. In Pierce County, Washington, a proposal to convert 180 acres of prime farmland to a new shopping mall and subdivision was recently approved. While
the County Council expressed support for farmland protection, the lure
of construction jobs was overwhelming with a final 7-0 vote in support
of the proposed urban expansion. There are two similar proposals in
Skagit County, Washington, and we’ve joined with other farm and smart
growth organizations in opposition to the projects. We are also
preparing economic and jobs arguments for preserving farmland in
anticipation of the next "land rush" as we slowly come out of the
are a month into our study of the Puget Sound Foodshed with the
assistance of a dozen University of Washington graduate students and a
top-flight advisory committee. The study is looking at food production
and consumption in the 17 counties west of the Cascade Range using
models such as our Think Globally, Eat Locally: San Francisco Foodshed Assessment.
The study will identify the potential of local farmland to produce
additional food for the region and the changes in production,
processing and distribution needed to link local farmers to local
Pacific Northwest office is also in the midst of an analysis of the
most endangered farm and ranch landscapes of Washington, Oregon, Idaho
and western Montana. Using land use data, a media scan, interviews,
and other research, we are evaluating farm and ranch landscapes
throughout the region to determine which areas are most at risk
from urban sprawl, rural estates, competition for water, and water and
soil pollution. Initial results of county-level analysis in Washington
shows there are areas in need of improvement as farmland continues to disappear. We
will reach out to local groups in the second phase of the analysis to
confirm the issues and offer support in addressing the threats.
Twenty leaders from Northwest nonprofits met on the Hood Canal at a workshop we sponsored on environmental markets in mid-June. The workshop was very successful at building a common strategy for coordinating work on market development. Moving forward, small groups will continue to meet on market opportunities in the 2012 Farm Bill; transferable tools for credit valuation; and engagement of Washington regulators in market approval. As we continue to work on farmer-friendly approaches to environmental markets, this collaboration will help us move markets forward in the Northwest.
We are working with Climate Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, to identify Northwestern farmers interested in sponsoring biodigesters and nutrient reduction projects to generate greenhouse gas credits for sale in the California climate market. The initiation of the California cap-and-trade program in January 2012 is expected to fuel a lively market for greenhouse gas credits in the west. Our work is part of a larger project to build a registry of Northwest farmers interested in supplying credits to multiple conservation markets.
Pacific Northwest: The Year in Review
About three years ago, AFT’s work to improve the strategic impact of environmental incentives led to a report that highlighted the remarkable potential of ecosystem service markets as a way to fund both environmental improvements and farmland protection. Following up on that work, we proposed and supported passage of legislation in Washington (SB 6805), which authorized a study of the potential for such markets to help save farms and improve the environment. We then convened the region’s top farm leaders in a major regional workshop/listening session to assess their interest and request their input on how these markets could work for agriculture. We researched these markets and identified models that illustrate the many active and potential markets that are already in place both here and in various places around the country. And, we have been working with regulators to help them develop permitting rules for air and water quality, wetland and habitat mitigation, water resources, and renewable energy that would make it possible for farmers and ranchers to sell environmental services to supply the growing need.
We also published a new and first-of-its-kind “Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers and Ranchers,” which explains how farmers can supplement their income and protect their farms by producing and selling environmental services—transactions that are good not just for the farmer, but also for the rest of us. This guide along with our reports and research on environmental markets for agriculture, notices of upcoming workshops, presentations and public events, and some of the written materials we’ve prepared on how these markets can be so critical to directly protecting farmland are all currently online at www.farmland.org/environmentalmarkets.
In the months ahead, we will be using these materials to continue our work and encourage these markets with farmers and ranchers and also with the public utilities, developers, businesses, transportation agencies and regulators whose engagement is needed. We are working to clarify and define the performance baselines that are required if these markets are to work and be credible. And we are advancing pilot efforts to create “farmer conservation cooperatives” that can help farmers create and sell properly certified environmental credits.
Conservation Markets for Farmers and Ranchers
American Farmland Trust is helping create markets for ecosystem services provided by agriculture. Farmland can provide environmental services such as carbon sequestration and wildlife habitat; however, farmers are not always compensated for the benefits their conservation efforts provide. This project seeks to create markets for these services so farmers and ranchers can supplement their farm incomes while providing much needed services to the rest of society at a reasonable cost. We have worked with the agriculture community to create the “Guide to Environmental Markets for Farmers and Ranchers,” as well as a series of workshops, presentations, and best practices for agriculture.
LAnd-Use planning program
Oregon's statewide Land-Use Planning Program is perhaps the strongest and most effective program of its kind in the nation. By this means, Oregon has protected some 16 million acres of land in what are called "exclusive farm zones." This has to be among the strongest records of accomplishment anywhere in the country.
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Pacific Northwest Growers Go Natural Thanks to Spanish-language Education
On the outskirts of Wenatchee, a city in the heart of central Washington where golden hills surround endless miles of fruit orchards, a large apple-shaped sign reads, "Apple Capital of the World." In a region that ships over 100 million boxes of apples a year around the nation and the world, education has been the key to helping growers—especially the valley’s many Latino orchard employees and managers—reduce their use of pesticides. Grower Jesus Limón, who worked his way up the ranks at a fruit company in order to purchase his own Wenatchee Valley orchard, participated in an American Farmland Trust-supported and EPA-funded program that teaches growers in Spanish about integrated pest management. "You get hooked on it," Limon says about the natural techniques for identifying and eliminating orchard pests.
Pacific Northwest farmer featured in The farmland report
Our blog, The Farmland Report, ran a feature on Washington farmer Jay Gordon. Gordon uses his farmland as a protected habitat for endangered trumpeter swans. Gordon has also been profiled in our Farm and Food Voices section for his groundbreaking work for ecosystem markets in the region.
Pacific Northwest Office
Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest States Director
1335 N. Northlake Way, Ste. 101