State groups host farming discussions

Thursday meeting is open to any interested parties

— The state Conservation Commission and the Office of Farmland Preservation will be hosting a discussion on the future of farming in the state Oct. 3 at City Hall, 120 Third Ave. N.

The meeting will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free and open to everybody.

The featured speakers will be Ron Shultz, policy director at the state Conservation Commission, and Josh Giuntoli, manager of the Office of Farmland Preservation.

“The purpose is going around the state, seeking information from different stake holders,” Shultz said.

Shultz said some of the big concerns throughout Washington are conservation easements and the state buying land, which will be two of the topics discussed at the presentation.

“Our angle is, ‘What are the things we can do to help people stay on the land?’” Shultz said.

“If people can make money farming, they’ll stay on the land.”

Other topics will include how farmers can transfer land to family members and estate tax issues, how to keep farmers on the land and regulatory impacts on farming.

Another interesting idea that’s come up at recent discussions has been developing new funding for new and beginning farmers. Because the biggest initial cost of farming is that of the land, Shultz said the state is looking at creative ways to help new farmers get into the business.

So far, the agencies have hosted two other similar meetings, one in Spokane and one in Yakima.

Two others are planned on the west side of the state.

Getting a wide range of opinions is helpful, Shultz said, because “Agriculture is really unique.

“Ag in Spokane looks different than Yakima, which looks different than agriculture in Okanogan,” he said.

The previous meetings attracted about 15-20 people. Shultz said at the Yakima meeting, it was helpful to have one of the county commissioners in attendance, to get that perspective.

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