On Wednesday, March 6th, a panel of representatives comprised from local farming interests participated in the Common Threads Forum, Whatcom Agriculture – Is There A Future for Farming in Whatcom County? Panelists speaking at the forum discussed several issues that they are currently dealing with in addition to new regulations being considered in Olympia this session.
Topping the list of their concerns are:
Farm labor laws dealing with workers, wages, and global competition fail and further erode their ability to be competitive. A new regulation currently under consideration in Olympia, SB 5693, would mandate that Farmers publicly notify that they are not using slave labor, that food retailers identify whether the food was produced using slave labor (or not) and would subject the farms to public access by government agents.
Setbacks and buffers that have diminished their ability to profitably farm on their land. It was noted that wetland designations and buffers imposed on a 100-acre farm had reduced the useable acreage to, approximately 10-acres for 10-cows, resulting in the dairy farmers decision to shut down operations because it was no longer possible to farm the land. Do farmers care about water and the environment? Of course, they do. Farmers state that they are the first line of defense and natural stewards of the land.
Continued concerns about the diminishing numbers within farming youth organization like FFA and 4H. These are the future farmers needed to continue operating the small farms. Due to the push for all farms to establish a Farm Plan, the farm lifestyle is not there, and our youth and rural properties are unable (and unwilling) to place a Farm Plan onto their property in perpetuity for an FFA, 4H, or other school project.
Political leadership that has no real-life understanding of farming that continues to write regulations that impede their ability to be farm; farmers need to have the ability to farm profitably to sustain the farm . Example: in 2014 the Whatcom County Council passed an ordinance that would’ve allowed for local livestock farms to establish a USDA certified slaughter and packing facility on their farm. Pressure from outside PETA and Enviro groups resulted in a final ordinance that would not be economically viable. The results of years of work to establish a new revenue stream for local farmers was tinkered with to the point of irrelevance and today local livestock farmers have to ship their livestock to Monroe, Washington for processing and ship it back.