I have to agree with what the paper said – we can’t afford to lose any more farms and we need to keep small farms competitive. The existing practice of taxing one acre of a small farm at fair market value, while taxing the remainder at current use, is driving the wrong behavior. The small farm really doesn’t have a one acre piece that is set aside – it all contributes to the farm. This practice is putting small farms at risk.
The Olympian calls it the “local food community.” There is a local food community, and it consists of farmers, their customers, the retailers and markets that sell their product, and the businesses from which they buy their feed, seed, and hardware. We all know there is a change in how consumers view food, access to food, and the value of land. Folks are increasingly aware of where their food comes from. The scale of this conversation spans continents, oceans, and our state, and embraces topics from climate change to microeconomics to hunger.
This is a bi-partisan issue. No one wants to lose farmland, especially farmland where the farmers have a great desire to farm and be productive. These small farms create jobs and bring value to their communities and regions. Some folks are skeptical about this and question how much food small farms can bring to the table. The truth is there is more than one way, and we need to support diversity in our farming community. This website is “we need small farms.” We need large farms too. Both have a place and a role, and this legislation recognizes that.
2SHB 1437 might represent a compromise in that it starts with one county, in order to establish and test the unknowns, and prove the concept. This is not necessarily a bad thing and it is very practical.
The proposal also attempts to address productivity levels and the public’s interest in assuring that any favorable tax treatment produces results. Results can be as simple as preserving land or as complex as requiring high wage jobs and exports. For this legislation the results we are looking for is keeping farmland as farmland, and identifying those very small farms that are engaged in highly productive activity.
Lets get this change into state law and figure out how to expand the program to the rest of the state. As my friend Nancy Laich says, we all eat.