Protect Washington’s Farmland from Urban Development

Target: Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board

Goal: Protect valuable agricultural resource land from wasteful urban development

In recent decades, fertile agricultural land in America has been lost to commercial and residential development at a rate disproportionately higher than that of population growth. We need to protect our most valuable resource and legacy by supporting county councils in prioritizing farmland protection programs.

In Washington state, several counties have worked hard to protect local farmland while larger state governments have approved further development. Much of this development is wasteful because it does not take advantage of existing infrastructure, and does not utilize smart urban planning techniques. Reduction in farmland reduces local food production, increases runoff and water pollution, and impairs rural economies.

Since the economic downturn, preserving farmland is as important, if not more, than before. In Eastern Washington for example, growth in employment has largely taken place in the agricultural sector. Protecting farmland ensures more than food security. Diverse agricultural land provides jobs and livelihoods, shelters wildlife, provides beautiful open space and filters air and water for entire communities. In addition, maintaining localized farms enhances food systems beneficial to small communities. These local food systems improve health through increased access to fresh food; they keep money flowing into local economies, and they reduce property taxes.

Communities need to focus on protecting farmland and encouraging smart urban planning through their county governments in order to ensure food security and good quality of life for present and future communities. In Washington State, county governments have jurisdiction over land use, zoning, property tax incentives, and community and economic development. If farmland protection programs have support from county councils they can draw attention from donors and successfully protect one of our most valuable resources for generations to come.


Dear Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board,

Please support county councils in protecting valuable agricultural land in Washington State from wasteful development. Farmland in America is being lost at an alarming rate, but there are various efforts to curb this growth as the necessity of this resource becomes more pronounced.

By protecting farmland we ensure strong rural economies, employment security for an increasing number of citizens, open space, and cleaner air and water. Maintaining farmland also enables farm systems to support increasingly localized food systems, which make healthy food accessible to more people, and strengthen communities and local economies.

Among other locations in Washington, the city of Sumner is engaged in a conflict over urban expansion into farmland. Many community members are frustrated because there is a great need for institutions such as a youth center, but they don’t feel it is necessary to pave invaluable farmland in order to provide this space. With smart urban planning, existing vacant urban space can be utilized in innovative ways to accommodate the necessary growth.

If we carefully balance the value of our absolutely necessary farmland with that of urban development, there should be no question about which is most vital, and which communities themselves also hold as most essential. By devoting resources to smart urban planning as well as to enhancement of local food systems, needs on all sides can be met.


[Your Name Here]

photo credit: Mo Kaiwen via Flickr

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