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Council adopts Voluntary Stewardship Plan for Agriculture option for critical areas

Twelve days before the January 22 deadline, San Juan County Council approved a resolution adopting the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) for agricultural land after a discussion Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

It's a way  to protect critical areas on agricultural land other than following the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO). A staff report detailing what is known about the state  program, which was finished six-months ago, and what is still unknown is available here. Council member Richard Fralick, participating via WebEx from Hawaii, voted against the measure concerned about the unknowns and the county giving up control. Council member Howie Rosenfeld was reassured by the "off-ramp available in three years".

The county can review its participation in the the program in 2015.

Under the VSP, individual farmers have two ways to show they are in compliance with the Growth Management Act (GMA). They can comply with the regulations under the CAO or participate in the VSP.

County staff and the county's Agricultural Resource Committee (ARC), a county advisory committee composed of volunteers with a paid coordinator, recommended the county council adopt the VSP.

As of January 5, 2011, of the 39 counties in Washington, seven had adopted the VSP.

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