In 2017, PCC Farmland Trust helped Mark and Katie Green from Wild Hare Organic Farm complete their acquisition of Terry’s Berries, which was made possible by an agricultural land easement. As a result, a farm with a rich local history will remain an important part of our community. (Photo Credit – Molly Goren, PCC Farmland Trust)
Farmland is a rapidly disappearing resource in Pierce County. Over 10,000 acres of farmland have been lost in the last decade alone, and with the Puget Sound being one of the fastest growing population regions in the country, the challenge only grows more difficult. It’s for these reasons that the District, eight local organizations, and US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Ser-vice (NRCS) have pooled resources to permanently conserve ~1,000 acres of local farmland over the next 5-years.
We’re excited to announce that the implementation of these dollars is set to begin for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
(ACEP). While applications are accepted year-round, applications must be received by April 30th to be considered for funding this period. Property owners who are interested in putting Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) on their land can reach out to our partners at Forterra
, PCC Farmland Trust
, or Pierce County Planning and Public Works
. Land eligible for agricultural easements includes crop-land, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land.
These easements ensure that farmland stays farmland by providing fair value to the landowner by purchasing the development rights. For farmers who might be looking to retire, this makes it possible to get fair value without having to see the land turned into a housing development. By removing the price associated with potential development, it also makes the land more affordable for new farmers or those looking to expand their business.
How does the public benefit from all of this, you might ask? Farmland not only helps ensure that we have fresh, healthy, and local food, but it’s an important part of our local economy and culture. Without it, we’re less secure, we’re less healthy, and we lose a part of our Pacific Northwest culture. Farmland also provides important ecosystem value, helping reduce storm-water runoff to our local streams and by providing important habitat to wildlife.
Roughly $900,000 of the total funding will be used to implement best management practices (BMPs) through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
(EQIP) on local farms, which will improve soil health, wildlife habitat, and water quality, and help bridge the gap between farmland conservation and the work we’re doing to restore endangered salmon species. The program will co-invest with landowners seeking to implement best practices such as cover cropping, buffer and pollinator plantings, rotational grazing, manure management and much more. PCD staff are available to work one-on-one with you to identify best practices to meet your goals for your land and submit an application for cost-share funding. Applications are ranked, and funded landowners receive a contract for financial assistance for the cost of implementing best practices.
Property owners interested in the funding can contact our farm team here at the District or may apply to NRCS directly. Application cut-off periods for these projects are the same as our District cost-share program, March 1 and July 1, 2018.
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