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Farm plans made private

The Legislature dealt a blow to the Whidbey Environmental Action Network this week by making farm plans private information.

WEAN caused a furor earlier this year when it demanded to see individual farm plans kept by the Whidbey Island Conservation District.

The plans are made to help farmers comply with environmental regulations relating to animal waste and wetlands protection. WEAN gained access to the plans under public records laws.

The move outraged many farmers, who resented the environmental group having access to what they considered private information. WEAN wanted to see if the farm plans were effective in protecting the environment and were being properly implemented.

WEAN concluded that the farm plans are not being adequately monitored. Island County is encouraging farmers in rural areas to adopt farm plans as it tries to persuade the state that it is doing enough to protect critical areas.

Karen Lennon, manager of the Whidbey Island Conservation District, said this week that WEAN’s involvement entirely halted the farm plan program. Nobody has asked for farm plan assistance in weeks. “There’s not a single new request since the WEAN disclosure,” she said.

The farm plan bill was passed by the Senate earlier, and by the House this week. Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said the House version was amended so it will have to go back to the Senate, but “its approval is all but assured.”

Tenth District Representatives Barbara Bailey and Chris Strow, both Republicans, supported the bill (SB 6338) in the House.

According to Haugen’s office, the bill changes the laws for submitting farm plans by:

• Clarifying that farm plans that are not required for regulatory purposes are not subject to public disclosure unless the farmer volunteers to allow it.

• Directing conservation districts to inform farmers, before the preparation of a farm plan, of the information that is subject to public dis

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