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Is This the Beginning or the End of Dairy Farms in Whatcom County?

JAN. 8, 2017 Update:

Received this comment on the points we posted and questioned on here, from Ann Appel, and wish to thank her for these points of correction.

Ann Appel I appreciate your concern for the farming community. We are obviously concerned as well! A lot of work still needs to happen to make this agreement succeed. On that note, I’d like to provide a few clarifications. The initial money, 450,000, was raised by the Dairy community. A Portage Bay Shellfish Recovery Fund will be established and additional funds will be raised by both entities.
There will be 2 mutually agreed upon experts from both sides who will, alongside the farmer, develop Water Quality Improvement Plans customized for each farm. The experts can only come at a mutually agreed upon time. “Mutually agreed upon” are the keywords here.
As long as everyone is working in good faith towards clean water, no litigation.
Those involved did their best and had lawyers looking at the wording of the agreement to protect farmers and their farms. No one knows for sure how it will all turn out but we are hopeful.

On Thursday, January 5th, 2017, Rich Appel of Whatcom Family Farmers and Chairman Rich Ballew II of the Lummi Indian Business Council, announced their historic memorandum of agreement (MOA). This MOA between seven, Whatcom County dairies and the local Lummi Business Council is an effort to stave-off an expensive and likely lengthy court battle between the Lummi’s and the local dairy farms.

2017-01-07_1635On first blush, it sounds like a reasonable step for everyone to take and so long as its a trial balloon that can develop a system of trust between the two entities…isn’t it better than the alternative? Upon reading the MOA and the attached letter from the local dairy farmers legal council, Jay Manning, of Cascadia Law Group, it looks as though all the blame and risk is on the side of the dairy farmers and their operations. The Lummi’s have calculated an approximate $1.14 million loss of revenue due to the closure of Portage Bay from 2014 through 2016, and the dairy farms have agreed to pay them this money over the next year. According to the MOA a portion of these payments will be used to develop a best practices and monitoring program for the dairy farms. But, if we are to believe what has been claimed by the Department of Ecology and the dairy farmers, the waters of the Nooksack at the entry of Whatcom County, record more bacterial pollutants as they enter the county than the waters as they leave the rural farming area, and then rise again after reaching the urban municipalities before the Nooksack empties into Portage Bay.

All of this agreement places the burden upon the dairy farm(er) who signs the MOA, both financially and legally. Even with a clause that they not be penalized for bacterial contamination overflow caused by severe storms or flooding, the MOA is heavily weighted against the dairy farm(er). The MOA carries the additional burden of placing them in the cross-hairs of the Federal government to enforce the language agreed upon in the MOA…with little to no downside for the Lummi’s. The Lummi Business Council will have approval of what and who operates the monitoring system and absolute access to come onto the private property of their farm, without notice.

It’s understandable that the farmers want an end to the bureaucratic nightmare and uncertainty for the future of their family farms, but it is hard to see a silver lining for them in this MOA. The farmer holds all the financial and legal burden, they lose the privacy of their property, and open themselves up to what appears to be a form of legal black-mail.

MOA Memo to Farmers MOA “Draft” Agreement

As we said in the title of this post…Is this the beginning or the end of Dairy Farms in Whatcom County?

Dairy farmers and Lummi Nation sign historic agreement

Form Portage Bay Partnership to address all water quality problems affecting Portage Bay Shellfish beds

Below is the agreement signed by seven dairy farmers and Chairman Tim Ballew II of the Lummi Nation.
Signed Thursday, January 5, 2017.
2017-01-07_1650Key provisions in this agreement:
– establishment of the Portage Bay Partnership focused on reopening the shellfish beds and addressing all sources of water pollution in the Nooksack basin. This will include working together to secure local, state and federal support for water quality initiatives and conducting a public education campaign aimed at encouraging citizen participation in water quality protection and improvement.
– no adversarial litigation against the parties related to water quality
– development of Water Quality Improvement Plans using agreed upon experts to review existing farm plans and develop any additional measures if needed for each farm participating. The plans will be enforceable in federal court.
– Establishment of a Portage Bay Recovery Fund with an initial contribution of $450,000 by the signers and the dairy industry, with joint effort to raise additional funds from mostly public sources to compensate shellfish harvesters harmed by the closures, and to aid in recovering shellfish bedsIn Phase 1 of the agreement, two farms will be identified to develop the first Water Quality Improvement Plans. These plans are to be developed prior to May 1, 2017. Following that, other farms are invited to participate in the agreement.The Portage Bay Partnership, managed by an initial board of four farmers and four members of the Lummi Indian Business Council, will begin meeting in January and map out plans for actions to be taken by the Partnership in the near term.

 

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