(1) In classifying and designating agricultural resource lands, counties must approach the effort as a county-wide or area-wide process. Counties and cities should not review resource lands designations solely on a parcel-by-parcel process. Counties and cities must have a program for the transfer or purchase of development rights prior to designating agricultural resource lands in urban growth areas. Cities are encouraged to coordinate their agricultural resource lands designations with their county and any adjacent jurisdictions.
(2) Once lands are designated, counties and cities planning under the act must adopt development regulations that assure the conservation of agricultural resource lands. Recommendations for those regulations are found in WAC 365-196-815
(3) Lands should be considered for designation as agricultural resource lands based on three factors:
(a) The land is not already characterized by urban growth. To evaluate this factor, counties and cities should use the criteria contained in WAC 365-196-310
(b) The land is used or capable of being used for agricultural production. This factor evaluates whether lands are well suited to agricultural use based primarily on their physical and geographic characteristics. Some agricultural operations are less dependent on soil quality than others, including some livestock production operations.
(i) Lands that are currently used for agricultural production and lands that are capable of such use must be evaluated for designation. The intent of a landowner to use land for agriculture or to cease such use is not the controlling factor in determining if land is used or capable of being used for agricultural production. Land enrolled in federal conservation reserve programs is recommended for designation based on previous agricultural use, management requirements, and potential for reuse as agricultural land.
(ii) In determining whether lands are used or capable of being used for agricultural production, counties and cities shall use the land-capability classification system of the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service as defined in relevant Field Office Technical Guides. These eight classes are incorporated by the United States Department of Agriculture into map units described in published soil surveys, and are based on the growing capacity, productivity and soil composition of the land.
(c) The land has long-term commercial significance for agriculture. In determining this factor, counties and cities should consider the following nonexclusive criteria, as applicable:
(i) The classification of prime and unique farmland soils as mapped by the Natural Resources Conservation Service;
(ii) The availability of public facilities, including roads used in transporting agricultural products;
(iii) Tax status, including whether lands are enrolled under the current use tax assessment under chapter 84.34
RCW and whether the optional public benefit rating system is used locally, and whether there is the ability to purchase or transfer land development rights;
(iv) The availability of public services;
(v) Relationship or proximity to urban growth areas;
(vi) Predominant parcel size;
(vii) Land use settlement patterns and their compatibility with agricultural practices;
(viii) Intensity of nearby land uses;
(ix) History of land development permits issued nearby;
(x) Land values under alternative uses; and
(xi) Proximity to markets.
(4) When designating agricultural resource lands, counties and cities may consider food security issues, which may include providing local food supplies for food banks, schools and institutions, vocational training opportunities in agricultural operations, and preserving heritage or artisanal foods.
(5) When applying the criteria in subsection (3)(c) of this section, the process should result in designating an amount of agricultural resource lands sufficient to maintain and enhance the economic viability of the agricultural industry in the county over the long term; and to retain supporting agricultural businesses, such as processors, farm suppliers, and equipment maintenance and repair facilities.
(6) Counties and cities may further classify additional agricultural lands of local importance. Classifying additional agricultural lands of local importance should include, in addition to general public involvement, consultation with the board of the local conservation district and the local committee of the farm service agency. It may also be useful to consult with any existing local organizations marketing or using local produce, including the boards of local farmers markets, school districts, other large institutions, such as hospitals, correctional facilities, or existing food cooperatives.
These additional lands may include designated critical areas, such as bogs used to grow cranberries or farmed wetlands. Where these lands are also designated critical areas, counties and cities planning under the act must weigh the compatibility of adjacent land uses and development with the continuing need to protect the functions and values of critical areas and ecosystems.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050
, 36.70A.190. WSR 10-22-103, § 365-190-050, filed 11/2/10, effective 12/3/10; WSR 10-03-085, § 365-190-050, filed 1/19/10, effective 2/19/10. Statutory Authority: RCW 36.70A.050
. WSR 91-07-041, § 365-190-050, filed 3/15/91, effective 4/15/91.]