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Public benefits from viable farmland | Letters
San Juan Island Grange’s mission to support a resilient community of growers, makers and keepers requires us to weigh in on the farmland tax debate.
We are an association of islanders who truly care how land is treated, who work to provide good food for our own use and for the market, and who are concerned about our families’ futures. While we recognize that there will be people who take advantage of tax laws, we must not allow good farms to be closed in a well-intentioned but overbroad enforcement action.
Farmland provides ecological services such as water filtration and habitat, as well as social services such as open space and local food. These services have value in the human economy.
That is why the state has set up a way for farmers to get partially repaid with reduced taxes for providing these services. Recent resurgence at the farmers market, the food co-op and the Grange show that islanders do value what diversified small farms provide.
Leaving the legal questions to the lawyers, we can all see that it is bad public policy to interpret tax law in a way that closes down our local farms. The state Legislature made it clear that the intent of the law was to provide a future for farms.
The recent breakdown in our connection to the mainland underscores the importance of resilient solutions right here in our county. Local food is not just tasty, it is an insurance policy to hedge against an unknown future.
The industrial food system in our country is based on a shaky foundation of fossil fuels, which as we all know are finite. Increased costs to squeeze the last drop of oil out of the ground must lead to higher fuel costs for industrial farming and the trucking of food from the mainland.
Local farms are poised to provide fresher food at cheaper prices because they are more fuel efficient and require no shipping costs. This is not the time to put barriers in the path of local food producers.
Roger Ellison, Master, SJI Grange No. 966