Agriculture Resilience Planning
What is the Agriculture Resilience Plan?
This is a plan that will help farmers in our county plan for future changes and risk. The plan will help us build a resilient agricultural community into the future through a combination of information gathering and sharing, creation of online planning tools, project scoping and design, project implementation, and farmland protection.
“Resilience” is defined as the ability of something to withstand change or difficulties. Farmers have honed this skill – constantly adapting to changes in markets, regulations, and weather over the years. Now climate change has introduced new difficulties. We have already experienced increased temperatures and higher intensity rainfall events…these and other impacts are expected to continue into the future.
The Snohomish Conservation District is working with our agricultural community to develop an Agriculture Resilience Plan for Snohomish County that will be a road map for adapting to these many changes.
We expect the plan to answer questions like “how often will I be flooded?”, “will the groundwater table be higher?”, “how will sea level rise impact my drainage?”, “will irrigation water be available during droughts?”, “how can I take advantage of a longer growing season and higher CO2 levels?”, “what funding is available to help me adapt?”
The goals of the plan are to:
- Provide information and project funding for farmers to manage for future risk on their farms
- Develop landscape-scale projects to improve agricultural resilience
- Protect agricultural lands from subdivision or development
Click here to view and download the printable brochure or read on to learn more about this effort.
News & Highlights
Protecting our viable agricultural land from development so farmers can provide for our community’s needs into the future is a critical component of the Agriculture Resilience Plan. PCC Farmland Trust has worked with local farmers to develop criteria to prioritize lands for protection through agricultural easements. Flood and groundwater modeling predictions will also be incorporated into this prioritization. This voluntary program will be available for farmers who wish to sell development rights on their high priority farmland.
- Purchase or Transfer of Development Rights programs will provide income for existing farmers and keep farmland affordable for new farmers
- Funding for implementation of a county-wide farmland protection strategy will be solicited
What are the major impacts to agricultural viability in our county and how are they projected to change in the future?
Many factors are leading to changes in flooding for both the Snohomish and Stillaguamish Rivers. In some areas, these changes are already impacting farms - bank erosion, flood debris removal, crop and soil damage, and drainage all create challenges. New flood modeling conducted by the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group will be available online and provide farmers with long-term forecasting to plan for and manage risk.
- Inundation modeling for the Stillaguamish and Snohomish Rivers including major tributaries
- Projections of flood height for 2-year and 10-year floods out to the years 2040 and 2080
Groundwater and Sea Level Rise Modeling:
Increased flooding and rising sea levels are creating a “coastal squeeze” where farms near the river mouth are at risk of increasing drainage challenges, saltwater intrusion, and pressure on sea dikes. Groundwater modeling conducted by the US Geological Survey will show how this “squeeze” is projected to impact groundwater levels so farmers can plan for changes in drainage management.
- Predictions of groundwater levels on estuary farmland out to the years 2040 and 2080
- Combination of field work (monitoring wells) and modeling used to create predictions
The impacts of increased temperatures and higher atmospheric CO2 levels have the potential to be both hazards and benefits to agriculture in the region. Washington State University will characterize the potential impact of climate change on specific agricultural crops in Western Washington as well as create an online tool that will allow farmers to view climate projections for growing season length, frost risk, heat stress, and crop maturity timing for their specific location.
- Predictions of impacts to major crops grown in Western Washington
- Online tool allowing farmers to manage for future risk
- Spatial analogs (mapping) will show locations where current growing conditions are similar to future growing conditions in our area
Farmers will have the opportunity to work together to incorporate the results from the Impact Assessment into prioritization of farmland, on-the-ground projects, and updated management techniques that increase agriculture’s resilience and viability.
Changes in flooding and groundwater levels could result in needed infrastructure improvements for drainage and protection from flood waters and rising sea levels. In addition, changes in snow accumulation and the timing of precipitation and runoff could necessitate drought resilience improvements.
- Drainage improvements could include improved pumping options, upland water storage, protection from flood waters, dike improvements, and ditch cleaning
- Drought resilience improvements could include water rights acquisition/banking, water storage, irrigation efficiencies, and groundwater infiltration and recharge projects
- Funding will be solicited for project design and construction
Farming into the Future:
Resilience to changes in water availability and rising temperatures can be improved on individual farms through implementation of agricultural best management practices (BMPs) or adaptations in management techniques. In addition, farmers can manage their farm to take advantage of a lengthening growing season and higher temperatures and CO2 levels.
- On-farm practices could include soil management practices, selection or hybridization of crops, multi-story cropping techniques, and water storage techniques
- Funding will be solicited for implementation of BMPs and new farming techniques
Want to be engaged?
If you want to receive updates on progress of the Agriculture Resilience Plan, please subscribe to the program's e-newsletter.
Are you a farmer in Snohomish County?
Do you have ideas, concerns, want to learn more, or want to get involved? We welcome you to the team!
Cindy Dittbrenner, cindy(at)snohomishcd.org, 425-377-7005
Bobbi Lindemulder, bobbi(at)snohomishcd.org, 425-377-7003
Brought to you by:
Funding provided by: NOAA, Stillaguamish River Lead Entity, ESRP, and Floodplains by Design