Healthy. Safe. Sustainable.

Support for Local Agricultural Businesses

Farming is woven into the economic, social, and cultural history of Pierce County. It plays an important role in nurturing diverse communities. It is part of who we are.

The Agriculture Community of Interest is committed to preserving our agricultural heritage. That includes supporting regulations and incentives that help farmers – both new and old – succeed.

Now is a vital time to support local farmers. With populations swelling in and around Pierce County, commercial and residential development projects have significantly reduced the number of farm acres. However, the need for local and sustainable agricultural businesses is more acute than ever.

We believe the community should recognize and embrace economic growth opportunities. At the same time, we must also focus on smart development policies that support a diverse group of economic contributors, which includes famers. This is our goal.

The first step is to clarify criteria that designate agricultural resource land (ARL) so that farmers can seek this designation and protect their properties from the forces of urban expansion and industrialization. The Ag COI supports Pierce County Council’s efforts to update ARL regulation because it is part of a broader set of protections for sustainable agriculture in Pierce County.

ARL regulation is not anti-development. On the contrary. ARL will help safeguard the watershed’s economic diversity and increase equity by securing farmers’ ability to make full use of their land.

That’s why we are also working to promote Pierce County’s Transfer of Development Rights program, which enables landowners to sell their development rights to third parties. By doing so, landowners are able to realize the full value of their property while protecting ecologically sensitive and resource rich areas of the watershed. The development rights they sell are usually purchased by residential and commercial development projects that take place in urban areas.

The first transaction of this type was completed in July 2016. The deal preserved 20 acres of prime farmland while helping add 21 units to an apartment project in Tacoma's Stadium District.

The transfer of development rights removes the incentive to convert farmland to other purposes. It makes it easier for existing farmers to protect their operations in perpetuity and helps new agricultural businesses of all sizes take hold in the watershed.

The continued presence of a vibrant agriculture sector in the Puyallup Watershed will enhance the livelihoods and public health of community members and provide fresh food to residents throughout the region for generations to come.

If you are interested in helping protect Pierce County farmland, please contact Amy Moreno-Sills at amym@futurewise.org.

More than 60 years ago, 150,000 acres of land were actively farmed in Pierce County. Today that number is just under 50,000 acres.
The News Tribune, August 6, 2016

Agricultural Resource Land Criteria

  1. Located in rural area of County (outside Urban Growth Area)
  2. Five acres or greater
  3. Contain at least 50% “prime farmland” soils
  4. Grass/legume production yield of 3.5 tons per acre or greater
  5. 50% of abutting parcels larger than 1 acre
  6. Landowner may request the designation
Support for local businesses