I took pictures of all of the people who came today, but three of them were squeamish about their pictures being taken, so I edited the picture prior to posting to obscure them.
The army corps of engineers, Snohomish county Planning and Development services and the Washington state department of ecology were all inspecting my greenhouse today. In these days of budget cutbacks and funding cuts, I'm glad to see that no less than three agencies can spend the time and effort to come out and visit.
Present at this meeting were Paul Anderson, a biologist from the department of ecology, Krista Rave-Perkins from the department of ecology, Jonathan Smith from the Corps of Engineers and Roxanne Pilkington from Snohomish County PDS. The corps apparently received a complaint about my greenhouse and asked to inspect my property.
I declined to let them on my property, but met them at the property line and walked with them a bit and talked with them about the whole situation. The army corps and the other agencies are tasked with responding to complaints. I have no idea who complained, but the last time I went through this it was an agency employee who complained -- which makes it a little difficult to believe the line they feed me "we only respond to complaints and that's why why focus on you". If agency employees initiate complaints I believe that it's unequal enforcement.
I don't know what the regulatory burden is like in other areas, but I typically spend 1 day a week on some zoning/planning/permit/land use issue at this point. It seems kinda silly to spend 15% of my time doing stuff like this, but the truth is that these guys will not be ignored, and they have the ability to impose gargantuan fines.
"We don't appreciate threats like that" but we can threaten you
During the discussion at the property line, I mentioned that If I were required to move my greenhouse onto the pasture, that the loss of pasture would probably force me to graze my pigs in a forested area on my property. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm pretty much at the stocking limit of my land, and I need every square foot. I was surprised by the vehemence of the response. "We don't appreciate threats like that!" . The person who said that is from the same agency that threatened to fine me $10,000 a day for spreading wood chips. It's odd that they feel that threatening me with that huge fine is OK, but my saying that I'd graze my animals here, or there, is not to be tolerated.
"Cooperative agreements are much better - but we don't cooperate"
Overall I'm happy to talk to any government agency about any particular issue they have. I'm resigned to the fact that my farm gets a huge amount of scrutiny that other farms do not. I have to confess that I don't understand why they're so interested in me but at this point it's a little like the weather. "multi agency government agency visit today" is about the same as "it's going to rain". I just do what I do and hope that they're acting in good faith. I mentioned to them that they don't get paid much, and I believe that. But standing at the side of the road, everyone else there was on the government payroll, and I wasn't. So in terms of being paid for the time, I was clearly the low man on the totem pole.
I do appreciate Jonathan Smiths' bringing all of the agencies together today so that we could all talk. I've been dealing with each agency separately, and the bottom line is that every one of them would be happy taking a chunk of my land. They can call it "remediation" or "habitat management" or "restoration", but the net effect is that their goal is to shave slices off my property and prevent me from using the land in any way. Each agency wants their own pound of flesh.
The negotiation technique that seems to be popular is to threaten me with fines or sanctions or whatever. they talk about cooperative agreements, but in my dealings with these guys they'd much prefer that I just write them a check. Unfortunate that I don't have the same power. There's no end of agencies that want some money, apparently.
Farming requires room
The reason that I resist any effort by any agency to take any portion of my land is that the taking is permanent, and at some point, there's no farming I can do if they take enough of it. Every agency that showed up today believes that they're doing the right thing, and thinks that the loss of 10% or 5% or 3% of my land forever is a perfectly fine solution for whatever sin they've decided that I've committed. They view the signing of further restrictions as not too bad "prohibition of human habitation" "natural growth protection area" "set aside for salmonid species" "restoration for clearing" - whatever it is, they view it as reasonable. But the total effect is to make the property less and less usable for any purpose, farming included.
If they want my land they should just buy it. But while I own it, and while it's zoned farmland I'm going to farm it, and I will fight every attempt they make to encumber it.
9 hours ago