(1) The agricultural conservation easements program is created. The state conservation commission shall manage the program and adopt rules as necessary to implement the legislature's intent.
(2) The commission shall report to the legislature on an ongoing basis regarding potential funding sources for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements under the program and recommend changes to existing funding authorized by the legislature.
(3) All funding for the program shall be deposited into the agricultural conservation easements account created in RCW 89.08.540
. Expenditures from the account shall be made to local governments and private nonprofits on a match or no match required basis at the discretion of the commission. Moneys in the account may be used to purchase easements in perpetuity or to purchase or lease easements for a fixed term.
(4) Easements purchased with money from the agricultural conservation easements account run with the land.
Intent—2002 c 280: "Among the rising costs that are increasingly driving Washington farmers out of business is the cost of land. Many of our oldest, well-established farms, often on the fringes of established communities, are under growing pressure to be sold for uses other than agriculture. In the face of these rising land costs, new farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to be able to afford to purchase farmland.
At the same time, the conversion of these prime farmlands to development costs our communities open and green space, reduces our access to local quality food, diminishes our cultural and historic roots, often represents a fiscal loss for governments, and frequently results in environmental costs including reduced flood detention, loss of surface water filtration, diminished aquifer recharge, loss of habitat and connective wildlife migration corridors, and loss of opportunities to protect riparian lands.
These concerns, among others, are leading the federal government and local jurisdictions around our state to provide funding for local programs to purchase agricultural conservation easements that help keep farmers in farming and farmland in agriculture. It is the intent of the legislature to create a Washington purchase of agricultural conservation easements program that will facilitate the use of federal funds, ease the burdens of local governments launching similar programs at the local level, and help local governments fight the conversion of agricultural lands they have not otherwise protected through their planning processes." [ 2002 c 280 § 1