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The Future of Farming in Washington

Posted by | February 16, 2009

Standing at the juncture of agriculture and higher education, I noted with interest the release of the Washington Department of Agriculture’s report on The Future of Farming, entitled “Washington Agriculture: Strategic Plan 2020 and Beyond.” The complete report, all 100 pages of it, is available here.

I was asked by former Director of Agriculture, Valoria Loveland, to serve on the steering committee for this project. This proved to be an interesting project which involved much “give and take” among all of the parties involved. Given the diversity of interests and perspectives which comprise our State’s food and agriculture sector it should not be surprising there was a diversity of opinions about what Washington Agriculture should look like in the future and how we should get there.

Here are some of the highlights of the report.

“Agriculture is a vital industry in the state, and the farmers and ranchers of Washington want it to stay that way.
“Hundreds of Washington’s agricultural producers and industry specialists provided input to the Future of Farming, a yearlong strategic planning process intended to ensure that agriculture remains vibrant and prosperous for generations to come.”

Five categories of recommendations emerged from this process:

  1. Make Agriculture a Priority
  2. Eliminate Regulatory Barriers
  3. Protect Resources (including land, water, labor, energy, and capital)
  4. Strengthen Support Services
  5. Harness Emerging Opportunities

Two sets of recommendations that are particularly germane to CAHNRS focus on research and innovation and education:

Innovation is key to agricultural viability in Washington.
  • Recognize the industry need for enhanced publicly funded agricultural research and associated transfer of findings that will permit Washington agriculture to remain competitive.
  • Increase state-funded support for food and agricultural research to a level consistent with the size and complexity of the state’s industry.
  • Develop public-private partnerships to fund the development and renovation of agricultural research facilities.
Re-commit to agriculture and food system education infrastructure.
  • Invest in vocational and higher education agriculture programs.
  • Engage the agriculture industry to be proactive on solutions and to identify skill gaps and opportunities for current and future producers, processors, and workers.
  • Focus efforts to make career and job opportunities in agriculture known to young people.
  • Continue and increase food system awareness programming in K-12 curriculum.
  • Disseminate research-based information concerning the full range of food system supply to all Washington residents and decision-makers so that they are able to make informed personal choice and political decisions.
  • Promote beginning farmers and succession planning programs

I hope many people read the report and I encourage those who do to use this blog post as a forum for airing their thoughts and ideas about the future of farming in Washington.

Go Cougs!