Preserving rural farmlands will result in multiple outcomes, including:
Maintaining a viable local food system
Protecting agricultural economies
Preserving rural character
What are we measuring?
Change in acres of farmlands.
There are many different definitions of farmland and agricultural lands. For this benchmark, farmlands include those enrolled in the state’s open space tax program for “farm or agricultural lands,” lands designated as agricultural lands by Thurston County’s Assessor, and other undeveloped or partially developed lands with agricultural land covers.
Approximately 460 acres of farm lands were removed from the inventory annually between 2000 and 2014. Rapid growth between 2005 and 2010 led to this period experiencing the greatest loss of farmlands in the years since 2000. As a comparison, a 2002 TRPC study estimated that between 1985 and 2000, 660 acres of farmland were converted to urban uses each year.
Some of the steps the region can take to reduce the loss of farm land include:
Encourage a viable farm economy
Encourage or require cluster subdivisions on farmlands (planned rural residential development code)
Expand the “sending” areas in the Purchase and Transfer of Development Rights (TDR/PDR) programs to include additional areas of farmlands
Expand areas zoned as long-term agriculture
Work with the cities to encourage urban growth, reducing the demand for residential development on farmland
Increase acquisition of agricultural easements or fee simple purchases of agricultural lands
Increase funding sources, such as the Conservation Futures program, to allow for purchase of development rights, acquisition of agricultural easements, or fee simple purchases of agricultural lands