Whatcom County is a farming community — but for how long?

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Rich Appel of Appel Farms.
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Whatcom County is a farming community.

Six out of 10 red raspberries grown in the United States comes from Whatcom County; this area is the nation’s largest producer of raspberries. Whatcom County is also No. 1 in the country at milk per cow, and in overall dairy production, Whatcom is the top county in Washington state.

In total farm production, Whatcom County is in the top 3 percent in the entire United States.

That’s especially impressive, considering that nearly 80 percent of the 1,400 farmers in Whatcom County are not full-time, professional farmers.

But every year, it gets harder and harder for farming business in Whatcom County.

Continued governmental regulation on the local agricultural industry is negatively impacting family farmers’ growth potential and overall success.

For example, continued water rights suspensions over the years mean that more than half of farmers have inadequate legal access to water — a critical resource for anything living, be it plant or animal.

And proposed rules from the Department of Ecology regarding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations could spell death for many small dairy farms, as costs would quickly reach unsustainable levels for small operations (at an average of 450 cows and a farm gate value of $1.86 million average per farm, Whatcom dairy farms are considerably smaller than the state average and their numbers having been reduced dramatically over the past 10 years).

And it’s not just the farms themselves at stake. Remember those huge economic impact numbers?

Because farming provides support for many other local industries, the success of other independent organizations in Whatcom County is at risk. Bellingham Cold Storage and Perry Pallet, for example, provide services integral to the operation of local farms. Any decrease in farms’ viability negatively affects them, too.

Not to mention community-facing businesses like Edaleen Dairy, a growing and thriving business that, like the other companies mentioned, employs locals. Any constriction on Edaleen’s dairy operations inevitably means a loss in the company’s ability to run its five ice cream and milk shops in the county.

On August 24, in collaboration with Whatcom Family Farmers, the WBA will host the rollout of a Whatcom County agri-business economic impact study at a luncheon that will include a multi-farm tour.

After a delicious lunch and this special presentation, which will provide the most current economic data regarding berry, dairy, produce and the other businesses impacted by agri-business in Whatcom County farms, you’ll be taken on a tour where you can better understand what these businesses do on a daily basis.

If you love shopping at farmer’s markets and buying from local farms, now is the time to Step Up and help protect Whatcom County’s family farmers. Sign up on the Whatcom Business Alliance website to attend. One of the best ways to help family farmers in the Pacific Northwest is to get the facts. We’ll see you there!

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