Review of Ag Policies and Programs

Ad Hoc LWV Committee Tracking Thurston County Review of Agricultural Policies and Programs

The first meeting of the Ad Hoc committee was held on November 2, 2020.  Lead, Loretta Seppanen, and members Shelley Kneip, Nathaniel Jones, and Peggy Smith, spent the bulk of the meeting getting up to date on the impetus and aim of this endeavor.  They agreed on the following things that LWVTC and members may do as we begin this process:  Participate in a survey that will be part of the County's process; engage in an online mapping of farmland and zoning; comment on recommendations coming out of this review; consider what type of position LWVTC may want to take on the review outcome.

The next meeting of the committee will be November 25, 2020.  Leave a comment on this website if you would like more information.

 

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November 2020 VOTER article by Loretta Seppanen: Ad Hoc LWV Committee Tracking Thurston County Review of Agricultural Policies and Programs

Last month the Thurston County Community Planning staff initiated a project to explore county policies and programs related to agriculture. This review is a response to public concern at the rapid farmland loss. As the table below shows, Thurston County lost 14,388 acres of farmland, almost 3,000 acres a year between 2012 and 2016. The total acreage lost, and the rate of loss, was faster than other counties on the I-5 side of Puget Sound.

This Community-Driven Review of Agriculture Policies and Programs (link https://www.thurstoncount,ywa.gov/planning/Pages/comp-plan-agriculture.aspx)) includes, but is not limited to, review of land use policies and zoning, county programs that provide incentives for farmland preservation and regulations. The project is led by Community Planning Manager, Jennifer Davis. Davis is currently working closely with the county’s Agricultural Advisory Committee and other stakeholders to define the issues to be addressed in 2021. The tentative project timeline stretches across the remainder of 2020 through to policy actions and program changes approved by the Thurston County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) at the end of next year.

The board of the Thurston LWV accepted a proposal for an ad hoc committee to keep LWV members informed about this county work. Already on the committee are LWV members Loretta Seppanen who has worked on farm issues for the past three year as the Thurston Comprehensive Plan was updated, Peggy Smith who brings experience from past state LWV agricultural policy work, Nathaniel Jones who addressed similar City of Olympia land use issues, and, in a consultant role for county policy and code issues, Shelley Kneip. Would you like to spend some of your “stay home, stay healthy” time in an exploration of how the Comprehensive Plan policies and county programs and codes relate to farming? Consider joining the committee by connecting with Loretta at laurel.lodge@comcast.net.

The committee will keep LWV members informed in the Voter and on the TLWV web page. The committee will ask all members to engage with the project when a community survey about your local farm concerns and interests becomes available in late November or early December. 

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Proposal: Create an Ad Hoc Committee to Represent the LWVTC in the Community Driven Review of Thurston County Agriculture Policies and Programs – October 14, 2020

 Relevant LWVTC Positions:  Our local positions that relate to Urban Growth Management speak to concentrating "urban development within the planned urban area" and "Programs should encourage protection of agricultural, aqua cultural, and environmentally sensitive areas and should address citizen needs for open space and recreation." 

Summary of 18-Month Review: Loretta Seppanen provided the following information based on her conversation with Thurston Community Planning Manager, Jennifer Davis. Jennifer stressed to Loretta that county staff want this to be a community-driven process with significant community engagement. 

In August 2019, based on discussions at the Thurston County Planning Commission (PC) and many community comments related to concerns about agriculture, the PC requested that the 2020-21 Comprehensive Plan Docket include a review of agricultural lands, including policies, prime farmland soils, and conservation programs such as transfer and purchase of development rights to ensure support for agriculture. The project is called Community Driven Review of Ag Policies and Programs (CDRAgP&P).

In spring of 2020, the PC request was approved by the Board of County Commissioners.

The Project started on September 17th at a Thurston Agricultural Advisory Committee meeting.  The Ag Advisory Committee heard a presentation of a study by the American Farmland Trust, Farm Under Threat: State of the States. This study provides newly mapped county level information about agricultural lands. The Ag Advisory Committee also gave county planning staff input on parties to involve in the Project.

This fall, county staff will work with the Ag Advisory Committee, various stakeholders, and the broader community to “scope” the project.  Steps will include:

  • Looking for a limited set of policies, regulatory, and incentive-based programs to better serve agriculture.
  • Considering the possibility of building a matrix of potential actions and doing a community survey/outreach to get feedback on these actions. 
  • Presenting the highest priority items to the Planning Commission. 
  • Amending the Comprehensive Plan to reflect the highest priority items.
  • Submitting the Comprehensive Plan amendments to the Board of County Commissioner after Planning Commission action.

Proposal:  Creation of a LWVTC ad hoc work group to provide input about the scope of the Community Driven Review of Thurston County Agriculture Policies and Programs and all aspects of the 18-month review. 

Lead:  Loretta Seppanen, 360.786.9775, Laurel.Lodge@Comcast.net

Proposal Adopted by LWVTC Board on October 14, 2020

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