Agriculture is a critical industry in Klickitat County producing over $50 million annually in direct crop value and perhaps three times that amount in local economic impacts.
These economic numbers, however, are probably only a small part of the story. No one has yet placed a credible dollar figure on the values these farms contribute to the Klickitat County community that are not reflected in the farm commodity marketplace.
So problems that affect the future of agriculture are a concern for all the citizens of Klickitat County. And there are growing issues about the increasing fragmentation of the agricultural land base, the rise in the cost of farmland above what farmers can generally afford to pay for it out of agricultural earnings, and the loss of agricultural lands to non-farm uses and the inevitable conflicts many of these new uses may create for agriculture. These emerging issues can (directly or indirectly) increase the burdens of operating a profitable agricultural business and threaten the future of the agriculture industry in Klickitat County along with all of the economic,environmental, social, and cultural values it provides – including the future uses of the land.
Responding to these issues, Klickitat County applied for and received a grant from the Washington State Office of Farmland Protection to consider and identify possible actions that could be taken to address them. The grant called for broad public involvement in a process that would identify emerging problems – especially local problems, help identify potential solutions, draw the community into a discussion of the possible solutions, and provide recommendations to County Government for components of a local farmland protection plan that could help protect and enhance the future of Klickitat County’s agriculture industry. The County contracted with American Farmland Trust to help with this process and recommendations.