Farmland is an invaluable resource for the environment,
economy and residents of the Puget Sound region that continues to disappear as
the greater Seattle area expands. The conversion of farmland to urban areas reduces the land available to grow local food, increases stormwater runoff and water pollution, and impacts rural economies.
Counties have a critical role to play in protecting their remaining farmland. Under Washington law, county governments have the ultimate authority over zoning, land use regulation, property tax incentives, and economic development programs that will determine if today’s farms are around tomorrow.
American Farmland Trust analyzed the farmland protection programs of the 12 counties around Puget Sound. The report from the study, Losing Ground: Farmland Protection in the Puget Sound Region, takes a thorough county-by-county look at local governments and their treatment of farmland. The results are a mix of bad and good news. The report documents the loss of hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, which has resulted from an overheated market for urban land, lax land use regulations and underfunded land protection programs.
The report also documents a great deal of progress in counties across the region to protect the 600,000 acres of farmland that remain. There has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in protecting farmland, largely motivated by the local food movement and an increasing awareness of the environmental consequences of urban sprawl. Three counties—Skagit, Whatcom and King—get special credit for outstanding programs.