Why is Whatcom Family Farmers needed?

Because our family farms are worth protecting. Protecting our farms requires the understanding and support of the public –– especially voters living in our cities far away from our farms. If our children are to have the opportunity to continue our multi-generation family farms, winning the trust, respect, and support of the city-dwelling consumer and voter is essential.

Why do you need the support of urban voters?

Decisions are made by elected officials, agency officials and judges which have great consequences for the future of our farms. The people making these decisions are there because of voters who elect them. That means that important policies, regulatory actions, and court decisions start with the opinions of the public.

Don’t voters support farmers?

Surveys show that voters and the general public do support farmers, but that support is quickly eroding. Anti-farm activists, though few in number, are having an outsized impact on voter opinion, and that is reflected in regulatory actions, court decisions and harmful laws.

Why are activists attacking farms?

Environmental and labor groups and activists claim our family farms are “industrial agriculture,” “corporate farms,” and “factory farms.” Some have said they only want to keep the small farms that provide to farmers markets. While they accuse farms of being irresponsible and profit-driven, it is their own need to generate donations and union dues that motivate them.

How have these activist attacks harmed farmers?

In many ways. Last year a bill was introduced in the Washington legislature that accused farms of holding slaves. Other bills have added more burdens and costs on those hiring guest workers. There is constant pressure on agencies like the EPA and the state Departments of Ecology and Health to restrict water needed for farming, to issue more stringent and unneeded regulations, and to increase the cost of farming. False claims by union activists from Bellingham have reduced the access to workers so much needed during the harvest season. Local laws and regulations also threaten the future of farms.

What can Whatcom Family Farmers do to protect the future of our farms?

Communicate and engage with the public. There are excellent farm groups that have direct lobbying responsibilities such as the Farm Bureau and the Dairy Federation. Our role is different because it is focused on where these decisions begin and end: with the voters. We reach out with positive messages about existing rules and regulations, farmer stewardship, food safety, care for animals, and the positive relationship farmers have with their employees. We go beyond telling positive stories and provide the unvarnished facts when anti-farm activists make false accusations. For the voters to trust farmers and know the truth, we must be bold and direct in communicating about the misinformation promoted by farm opponents and the motivations behind their harmful actions. We are respectful and truthful, but we believe that we cannot allow false information to take hold in the minds of our audiences.

How do you communicate with your audience?

We use the powerful tools available today and effectively used by activists. Social media, websites, media outreach, videos, and public presentations are our major means of getting the word out about our family farmers. Our reach through these channels has grown tremendously with many millions of contacts. We also submit letters to key officials, write guest editorials, and purchase paid advertising if and when necessary.

Is Whatcom Family Farmers a political organization?

We are not a lobbying group but work with those who lobby. While we do communicate with government officials, our specific and unique role is public communication. Whatcom Family Farmers has a 501(c)(5) status that provides for political engagement and a 501(c)(3) organization that specifically addresses education. Participation in community events and our Real Environmental Action and Leadership (REAL) campaign are examples of our educational outreach.

How is Whatcom Family Farmers funded and governed?

We are governed by a board of seven family farmers who earn their primary income from farming. We also have two non-voting board positions open to farm supporters who are not necessarily full-time farmers. The vast majority of our funding comes from contributions from local farmers and farm businesses whose future is tied to our farmers. We are also supported by other businesses and individuals in the community who want to see family farming remain a vital part of Whatcom County.

How can we support your work?

The most important thing is to help us spread the word about our farmers with your friends, family, associates and groups you are involved with. Financial support is obviously important so we encourage you to contribute through our website or by contacting our office. There are often times we need volunteers to assist on specific issues or projects. Contact our office to let us know of your interest and willingness to get involved.

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We won’t flood your in-basket, but we will provide the information you need to learn about the issues facing farmers and how you can help protect the future of farming here.