July 14, 2010

Supreme Court of Washington will hear important agriculture case

By Supreme Court of Washington will hear important agriculture case

Author: Daniel Himebaugh

The Supreme Court of Washington has granted review of Feil v. Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board to address a lower court decision that allows local government to convert agricultural land into public recreational facilities without demonstrating compliance with the state's Growth Management Act.  The case involves a proposal to create a five-mile bicycle/pedestrian trail on highly productive orchard land in Douglas County, Washington.  If the trail is placed where currently proposed, it will severely limit agricultural activity in the area by requiring the removal of honey bees, limiting spraying, and blocking vehicle access.WA farmland

Recognizing the importance of farming, the GMA requires local governments to adopt comprehensive plans and development regulations to protect agriculture.  In our amicus brief supporting the petition for review, PLF argued that the Court of Appeals erroneously created a loophole that exempts local government from compliance with these provisions.  We also emphasized that government intrusion onto productive agricultural property will exacerbate many financial problems that the agriculture industry currently faces.

The irony here is that while local government will not hesitate to tell private landowners what they cannot do with their property, the local government in this case is bucking under state regulations that dictate where it can site its own pet projects.

The case is not yet set, but could be briefed in the fall.

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