Expanded program protects even more farmland from sprawl

But supporters say there is a scarcity of areas where the purchased development rights can be used.

ARLINGTON — Third-generation farmer Andrew Albert knew of a time when more than a dozen dairy farms dotted the roads to his family’s house and land in Arlington.

None remains as residential neighborhoods spread and agricultural land disappears.

“There’s a joke among farmers,” said Albert, 35. “If you want to start farming, you either have to marry into it or inherit it.”

The cost of land, plus equipment, is too high for many to enter the trade. In Snohomish County, new and even established farmers just can’t match the price developers are able to pay for rural lands.

A vote by the Snohomish County Council last week expanded a program that reduces the price of farmland by stripping the rights to further develop the land. This ensures the parcels remain farmland permanently. While the program has preserved acres of land, conservationists and farmers say more can be done to bolster the program that fights sprawl.

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