|Seattle, Wash., January 31, 2012 —A new study on the effectiveness of farmland protection programs in Puget Sound counties finds that King, Whatcom and Skagit Counties lead the region in protecting farmland, but that all counties should be doing more to protect disappearing farms.
Losing Ground: An Evaluation of County Farmland Protection Programs in the Puget Sound Basin, conducted by American Farmland Trust, documents how the twelve counties around the Sound are implementing four aspects of farmland protection and includes county-specific scorecards.
“King, Whatcom, and Skagit Counties lead the region in their efforts to protect farmland and are good models for other Puget Sound communities,” said Dennis Canty, Pacific Northwest director of American Farmland Trust. “However, even these counties are overwhelmed by their high rates of growth and continue to lose farmland at an alarming rate. More than 800,000 acres of Puget Sound farmland have disappeared to urban sprawl since 1950, and the future of the remaining 600,000 acres is far from secure.”
The study found that the time is ripe to improve farmland protection programs throughout Puget Sound. “With the economic downturn and corresponding lull in development activity, farmland and easement prices are lower than they’ve been in decades,” Canty explained. “At the same time, public interest in local food and farms continues to grow.” Recommended improvements include protecting all viable farmland in agricultural zones, increasing minimum lot sizes, and purchasing development rights for critical parcels and blocks of farmland.
“Farmland loss is not just about land, “Canty said. “It’s about protecting the farmers who hold rural communities together, wildlife habitat, water quality, flood control, and healthy local food grown sustainability by farmers we know. There is too much at stake to allow Puget Sound farmland to continue to fall through the cracks.”
Officials from the highest-scoring counties—Skagit, Whatcom, and King—will be presented with awards during their upcoming Board of County Commissioners meetings.
Losing Ground: An Evaluation of County Farmland Protection Programs in the Puget Sound Basin is available at www.farmland.org/Puget-Sound.
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American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.