By: Ben Tindall – Save Family Farming Executive Director

In a move that has sent outrage through the agricultural community, the Washington State Riparian Taskforce has unleashed a set of preliminary recommendations impacting buffers and land usage that could spell disaster for farmers across the region. 

One of the more egregious proposals involves expanding government regulatory authority to include “both fish-bearing and non-fish-bearing waters.” This would put vast swathes of agricultural land that is near water, regardless of whether it is fish-bearing or not, under the microscope of the Department of Ecology.

In Whatcom County alone, 30,000 acres of farmland could be lost due to expanded buffers. Considering the 39 counties statewide, that amount multiplies exponentially. Make no mistake, these recommendations represent an assault on the livelihoods of farmers and landowners. Here’s why:

  1. Unprecedented Overreach: By extending their riparian regulatory control to non-fish-bearing waters, the government is essentially declaring open season on private property. Farmers are now facing the prospect of bureaucrats dictating more and more how they use their own land.
  2. Crushing Financial Burden: Compliance with these unwarranted regulations could send a farm into a tailspin, as the costs of meeting new standards, implementing buffer zones, and navigating bureaucratic red tape could bankrupt family farms and drive hardworking farmers out of business.
  3. Ignoring Reality: These recommendations completely disregard the realities of those who have given their life to agriculture. Farming is different from an industrial business. Family farms are often built on generations of knowledge and stewardship. Yet, the Riparian Taskforce’s recommendations seem intent on treating farmers like environmental criminals who need to be condescendingly monitored rather than seen as the stewards of the land they truly are.

These recommendations are jeopardizing the livelihoods of those who have dedicated their lives to agriculture. Expanding regulatory control to non-fish-bearing waters could devastate family farms, bankrupt hardworking farmers, and threaten our ability to feed communities. These recommendations are not just impractical—they’re an outright assault on agriculture. The stakes couldn’t be higher.