From the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, an unusually diverse climate and landscape make the Pacific Northwest one of the most vital – and most threatened – farming regions in the country.

 

Pacific Northwest growers feed people across the United States and around the world. Agriculture is woven into the fabric of Washington’s, Oregon’s, and Idaho’s heritage and has been an important part of the Pacific Northwest’s culture since the earliest days of territorial settlement. Farmers and ranchers steward over 40 million acres of the region’s lands.

Why are Pacific Northwest farms and ranches so important?

The Pacific Northwest’s farms and ranches power a diverse agricultural economy. In addition to our top commodities, including apples, wheat, milk, and potatoes, the region is a major producer of cattle, hops, hazelnuts, stone fruits, onions, and mint.

Farming is integral to the Pacific Northwest’s economy, environment, and way of life. But it’s also at risk. Urban development and sprawl are rapidly consuming some of our best farmland.

At the same time, farmers face intense environmental challenges – from protecting fragile salmon habitat to adapting to the uncertainties of climate change.

What are the challenges?

Building Capacity for Farmland Protection

Farmland and ranchland are under threat in the Pacific Northwest. Just in the last 15 years, acres in production decreased over 22 percent.

In order to address this threat, it is critical that we have strong farmland protection capacity across the region. That includes funding for agricultural conservation easement programs and strong organizations to carry out land protection in a way that strengthens agricultural viability into the future.

Washington, Oregon, and Idaho have strong land trust communities with proven experience in agricultural projects; however, AFT is working to ensure land trusts with adequate capacity and the expertise to implement successful projects exist in all agricultural regions of the state.  

AFT carries out this work through:

  • Training for land trusts, counties, and other land-protection entities
  • Creating and sharing templates and best practices for agricultural conservation easements
  • Working with funding agencies to ensure easement grant programs work for farmers and ranchers
  • Facilitating better coordination between federal, state, and local funding entities
  • Working with local planning entities to ensure conservation and development planning include agricultural land protection