|Dialogues with Agriculture: A
Review of Processes Engaging Farm Groups in Protecting the Environment
by Protecting Farmland
A Report Prepared for the Washington Farming and the Environment Project By the American Farmland Trust.
December 22, 2000
American Farmland Trust Pacific Northwest Regional Office 301 - 2nd Ave. NE, Suite B Puyallup, WA 98372 253-446-9384 Fax: 253-446-9388 http://www.farmland.org
1. Introduction Pg. 1 2. Project Background Pg. 2 3. Overview of Programs and Processes Pg. 4 4. Analysis of Factors for Success or Failure Pg. 6 a. Clarity and Specificity of Purpose Pg. 7 b. Strength of Motivation to Participate Pg. 9 c. Funding for Implementation of Incentives Pg. 12 c. Public Credibility Pg. 14 d. Authority of Participants to Speak for their Caucus Pg. 17 e. Adequacy and Stability of Funding for Process Pg. 20 5. Recommendations for Action and for Funding Pg. 22 6. Summary and Conclusions Pg. 26
Appendix 1 National Case Studies Appendix 2 Recent Washington Case Studies Appendix 3 AFT Review of Class XX Report Appendix 4 Class XX Project Report Appendix 5 NACD Survey
Dialogues with Agriculture: A Review of Processes Engaging Farm Groups in Protecting the Environment by Protecting Farmland
Washington Agriculture faces significant challenges as it prepares to face growing pressure over environmental issues like Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act compliance. The apparent absence of public funding to underwrite incentive programs increases concern that addressing these issues may involve regulatory measures. The stakes are high and it is critical for both agriculture and for the community that agriculture be effectively involved in public processes dealing with these matters.
American Farmland Trust was asked to do a national and local review of processes and programs that sought to engage broad segments of the agriculture community in dialogues over environmental issues with particular regard to those situations involving farmland protection. We did not find examples of such dialogues that were closely similar to the effort of the Farming and the Environment Project itself, but we did develop numerous examples of models that suggest useful principles that may help guide the work of this Project. These include:
Full National Case Studies: ü New York City Watershed Project ü Proposed Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge, Ohio ü New Jersey Pinelands ü California Coastal Conservancy ü Florida Green Swamp Land Authority Shorter National Summaries: ü Maryland's Rural Legacy Program ü Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Connecticut River area ü Wisconsin Farming And Conservation Together ü Oregon CREP Program ü California Safe Harbor Project Recent Washington Case Studies: ü Ag, Fish, Water Process ü Washington CREP Program ü Washington Dairy Nutrient Management Act and Task Force
These 13 case studies are supplemented by summaries of an additional 21 potentially instructive programs and policies reviewed by a public policy group with Class XX of the Washington Ag-Forestry Program. This group produced its report entitled "A Proposal for an Agriculture Environmental Coalition, which proposed creation of a formal group to discuss and formulate policy on ag-environmental issues. The full report of this group is attached to our Report at Appendix 4 and AFT's review is attached at Appendix 3.
Our review of these materials highlights the importance of seeking a fuller understanding about how best to initiate, manage, and participate in such dialogues. The stakes are high and the matters involved are complex. Those managing or involved in such processes need a clearer view of how to make them work. Our review also brought to light a good many insights into how such processes work. Many individually critical issues affect the success or failure of specific dialogues with agriculture over environmental matters, but there seem to be 6 major factors that are generally at play. Those are:
ü The clarity and specificity of the purpose participants understand for the process and their participation in it The extent to which the group had clear, specific, and well-understood purposes and the degree to which participants appreciated their reasons for participating had a good deal to do with the success of the process. Groups that took on larger and more complex issues found it more difficult to focus discussion and come to concrete results.
ü The strength of the motivation to participate felt by private groups, citizens, and government representatives participating in the process There are a host of incidents of meaningful participation in a dialogue for which strong motivation is critical. If that motivation is absent, the group cannot function effectively nor come to meaningful outcomes.
ü The promise of funding for incentives to implement the new laws, policies, and agreements that might be the product of the discussions without the need to resort to regulation. Participation by a regulated (or potentially regulated) community in a meetings process holds substantial risk as well as potential benefit. So it is not only the strength of the motivation to participate, but it is also whether that motivation is driven by the potential for a positive outcome or by the fear of a negative one. The presence of a clear commitment for incentive funding to implement outcomes of a discussion and the absence of a regulatory threat greatly enhances the chances of success.
ü The credibility seen to be invested in the process by government and other decision makers and the resulting likelihood that agreements reached in the process will actually effect changes in law and policy No one wants to invest time and effort nor place their group at risk in a discussion process if there is no clear likelihood that the outcomes will be acted on and implemented by all those who participate. Thus the credibility vested in a process and the probability perceived by all that there will be decisive outcomes is a key factor for success. Related to this issue is also the extent to which local participants see a process driven by national priorities as "grass roots" or as "top down" management.
ü The authority with which each of the participants speaks on behalf of their caucus and the likelihood that agreements they make will be substantially accepted by their agencies, groups, or constituents Perhaps the most difficult factor for success to achieve is the authority of the participants to speak for their caucuses. This is especially hard to accomplish with large diverse private groups like the agriculture community or the environmental community. The extent to which this can be achieved is key to the extent to which the process can succeed.
ü The adequacy, stability, and certainty that funding will be available for the costs of running the process, how it is staffed, participants' expenses of operation, and the availability of technical and scientific support Such processes need to be adequately funded for the costs of operations, for the expenses of participation, and for scientific and technical support to the policy people who are involved in the discussions. If any of these elements of funding are inadequate, it undermines and threatens success. If the funding is there, it sends the important message that this is a continuing effort that will remain in place till an outcome is achieved.
In formulating its recommendations for Washington, AFT was cognizant of the fact that success or failure of the Ag, Fish, Water process will critically affect the future of such dialogues in our State. Since AFW is the most comprehensive effort of this kind thus far, our recommendations focus on AFW as a model and suggest what can be done to strengthen that process and improve its chances for success. Among our suggestions for AFW: 1. Clarity of Purpose: Strengthen the current effort in the discussions to focus on specific practices and achieve some early, specific results. 2. Strength of Motivation: Extend the time deadlines for regulatory solutions with a more realistic but meaningful schedule for implementation of voluntary measures linked to substantial incentive funding. 3. Funding for Incentives: Seek public clarification from Washington's governmental salmon leadership of their non-regulatory preferences along with a good-faith effort by them to secure substantial funding for incentives. These incentives should be linked to a realistic but meaningful schedule of implementation leading to salmon and water quality recovery. 4. Credibility of Process: Along with reaching early agreement on specific elements of the Field Office Technical Guide practices, also reach some added clarity on the extent of certainty offered when the process is complete. Obtain assurances that federal agencies will assist with seeking funding for incentives. Demonstrate respect for the importance of and limitations on the grass roots participation by private groups like the agriculture and the environmental communities. Seek to extend participation more fully to the Tribal and Environmental communities. Recommit to the process. 5. Authority of Caucuses: Provide adequate time and opportunity for the private caucuses to complete internal communication processes and financially support their efforts to do this. 6. Process Funding: Stabilize and add to process funding so that the meetings and facilitation for the process is assured. Also add funding for meeting expenses of non-governmental participants as well as for technical assistance to participants in understanding the effect and the effectiveness of the measures, which may be proposed.
While successfully engaging agriculture in dialogue over environmental issues is difficult to accomplish, there are clearly steps that can be taken to increase the chances of success. Given the critical importance for our agriculture industry, for both rural and urban communities, for our cultural and natural environments, and for the future of our nation, understanding and taking those steps is clearly a worthwhile investment.
Dialogues with Agriculture: A Review of Processes Engaging Farm Groups in Protecting the Environment by Protecting Farmland
1. Introduction: Washington farmers face growing economic challenges as new environmental requirements come to light. There are some 333 separate water bodies in our State known to fall below the minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act. Two years ago, the State settled a lawsuit under which it committed to adoption of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and plans to implement corrective measures on these water bodies within the relatively short period of 15 years. Much of the pollution involved comes from non-point sources and 2/3 or more of the watersheds involved are located entirely or largely in ag country. At the same time, the number of salmonid species listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act continues to grow. Some 10,000 miles of streams throughout Washington are vital habitat for these fish. A large percentage of those 10,000 stream miles pass through or near to areas of active agriculture. For many of the listed species, the need is immediate and there is little inclination on the part of agency regulators, of legislators, of private advocacy groups, or of the public to delay requiring corrections while the agriculture industry decides how best to deal with these problems. So time is of the essence.
In an ideal world there would be ready public money available to provide incentives to farmers who are asked to make costly land management changes to address these problems. But ready money is difficult to come by. Policymakers have no choice but to consider possible regulatory and, ultimately, punitive action if these water bodies are to be cleaned up and if the fish are to be saved. What shape might such regulations take? Will they be flexible? Will they adapt to differing conditions on different farms and in different locations in the state? Will they be written and applied in a way that is sensitive to the financial condition of individual farmers and of an industry already facing low prices and intense global competition? Will there be public funding to pay for at least some of the changes they require, or will they be entirely compulsory? Will the rules be written by bureaucrats living far from the areas involved and with little knowledge of conditions on the ground?
These are questions faced by farmers all across America as they confront problems remarkably similar to those arising in Washington. Elsewhere in the country, as in Washington, land values are soaring. These increases in land costs are driving up the farmers' cost of doing business. All across our country, as in Washington, our highest quality farmlands are disappearing, and the public is coming to realize that lands lost to agriculture are not generally restored to native forests. Instead they become vulnerable to development and end up permanently covered by new housing, suburban malls, and asphalt. This is happening in America at a rate of 2 million acres every year. Between 1982 and 1992, 59,000 acres of Washington's most prime or unique farmland were converted to urban uses. Washington lost 4,548 farms and ranches between 1987 and 1997. AFT's Farming on the Edge report includes Washington's Puget Sound Valley and the Columbia Basin as the nation's 5th and 16th most threatened agricultural areas respectively.
At the same time, urban development is not known to be friendly for fish nor protective of clean water. The good news is that farmland can be reasonably managed to protect wildlife habitat and water quality. The bad news is that farmland is disappearing. And for the land uses that are replacing it, such protections range from grossly expensive to downright impossible.
So the stakes are high, both for farmers and for the public. If farmers are to remain in agriculture, they need creative, user-friendly solutions to the massive environmental challenges they face. To get those solutions, they need to be engaged in the process, despite the possibility that the outcome might potentially turn against them. And to achieve an optimal result for fish and water, the public needs farmers to be engaged because well-managed farmland is a stable, sustainable bulwark against environmental degradation.
2. Project Background: Against this backdrop of need, the Farming and the Environment Project has embarked upon an examination of ways in which meaningful dialogue can be created and answers found for agricultural-environmental issues. As a part of this larger effort, AFT agreed to examine processes and programs from across America that have engaged farmers in broad dialogue with the public on environmental issues particularly where the focus of discussion was within AFT's area of expertise, farmland protection. We agreed to review a report and proposal prepared last year by a group of participants in the Washington Ag-Forestry Program, which called for an Agriculture Environmental Coalition to create a forum for such discussions. And we agreed to evaluate additional programs and processes here in Washington that came after or were not examined by the Ag-Forestry group.
Our search did not produce examples that were closely similar to the effort of the Farming and the Environment project. We did, however, develop ten examples from diverse locations around the country, whose analysis provides us with principles that should be useful in the work of the Farming and the Environment effort. We have prepared ten descriptive summaries of relevant programs and have provided analysis of some of the issues, which may have been key to success, or failure of these efforts.
Five of these summaries are full, detailed case studies with a descriptive background for the project or process, its guiding principles, key players, goals, actual outcomes, reasons for success and challenges faced, and contact information if further information was sought. Five more are shorter summaries of processes, which may also contain instruction on these issues. Those processes and projects that were selected for treatment are:
Full Case Studies: ü New York City Watershed Project ü Proposed Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge, Ohio ü New Jersey Pinelands ü California Coastal Conservancy ü Florida Green Swamp Land Authority
Shorter Summaries: ü Maryland's Rural Legacy Program ü Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Connecticut River area ü Wisconsin Farming And Conservation Together ü Oregon CREP Program ü California Safe Harbor Project
These 10 summaries are included in Appendix 1 (National Case Studies) to this Report.
In addition to these national and recent Washington examples, the report from Class XX of the Washington Ag-Forestry Program with its Proposal for an Agriculture Environmental Coalition contains summaries and analysis of some 21 further potentially instructive programs and policies from Washington and elsewhere. See Appendix 4 (Class XX Project Report).
Additionally, AFT has provided three additional summaries of processes or programs in the State of Washington, which were not discussed in the Class XX Proposal and Report because they began or have substantially developed since that report was completed in June of 1999.
Recent Washington Case Studies: ü Ag, Fish, Water Process ü Washington CREP Program ü Washington Dairy Nutrient Management Act and Task Force
These 3 Washington summaries are included in Appendix 2 (Recent Washington Case Studies) to this Report
Thus we have accumulated here experience from some 34 examples including a considerable and diverse resource of models, both from Washington and from across the nation, where dialogues with agriculture have been attempted. These summaries and our analysis of the issues they raise is offered in contribution to the effort of the Farming and the Environment Project to aid our understanding of the difficulties faced by those who would seek to create or to manage such dialogues.
3. Overview of Programs and Processes: Among the intriguing outcomes of the work we did in gathering information about these processes and in interviewing the people who were or are involved in them was the rich diversity of insights developed into the issues that contribute to or diminish their success. It is clear that there are a great many factors affecting the successful conduct of community-wide dialogues. Many of these are of particular import in dealing with agriculture. Some are clearly manageable by those involved in the process; some may not be. It is evident, however, that knowing in advance those factors that make for success or contribute to failure is an important asset to people involved in initiating, managing, or participating in such dialogues.
The importance and the complexity of the issues at stake argue strongly for seeking such understanding.
a. Importance of the issues at stake: It is clear that what can be at stake and what can be accomplished through dialogue in these efforts can be vital. For example:
New York City Watershed Project: Despite a long history of distrust and conflict between New York City and the residents of the Catskills watersheds producing their drinking water, the New York City Watershed Project stands out as a model of what can be accomplished through dialogue. Residents of the Catskills largely dodged the regulatory bullet, are able to continue in economically viable agriculture, and avoided having large parcels of productive land removed from the agriculture land base. At the same time, New York City saved several billion (with a "B") dollars in costs for constructing and operating a water treatment plant and forged a new, more constructive relationship with those living in the area upon which they depend for critical supplies of domestic water.
Proposed Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge: The proposed Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge may be a converse example of lost, or at least delayed opportunities and, at the same time, of potential losses to the agriculture community. On the one hand, creation of a wildlife refuge in the Darby Creek Watershed that would protect several important wildlife species (two of which are ESA listed and 10 of which are of "special concern") has been put off. Access by local landowners to funding for conservation farming and for conservation easements has been delayed. And a substantial threat to the area from sprawl and development continues with the associated losses to agriculture as well as to wildlife. Heated public debate has been inflamed by the involvement of an outside property rights advocacy group further complicating the process. This project may ultimately succeed, but only after additional unproductive expense and at the cost of diminished community concord within the Little Darby Watershed. On the other hand, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's current primary strategy is fee acquisition of land. Their preferred alternative for much of this project will result in over 20,000 acres of productive farmland being taken out of production and out of private ownership. Unchanged, this could be a tragic loss in this historic farming community.
Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process: Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings of several Northwest salmon species, court-ordered water-quality cleanup throughout Washington, and a three-year political threat of regulatory action has brought agriculture groups to the table in Washington's Ag, Fish, Water Process (AFW). AFW will define for ESA compliance the best management standards under which farmers will be expected to operate in the years to come. If AFW succeeds, these standards will protect salmon. They will assure implementing landowners of certainty from ESA enforcement and litigation. They will be sufficiently flexible to permit continuation of economically viable agriculture. There will be new public respect for agriculture in Washington. And the results will engender public support for voluntary programs backed with meaningful financial incentives. If AFW fails, farmers could see new regulation in the form of a statewide agricultural practices act. They will probably face years of unfriendly litigation at the hands of private citizens groups. The current rate of flight from the agriculture industry is likely to accelerate with even more highly productive, strategic farmland falling to development. And the prospects for cleaning up Washington waters and for protecting diminishing salmon runs will greatly diminish.
b. Complexity of the issues discussed: Beyond the obvious consequence of these kinds of processes, their complexity and difficulty also adds to the case for closely examining what makes them work.
Florida Green Swamp Land Authority: 500,000 acres of disappearing cypress swamp, farms as diverse as cattle ranches and citrus orchards, land in two counties and several towns, headwaters for one of the most critical watershed/water reservoirs anywhere, a source for essential public drinking water, wilderness habitat for several threatened and endangered species, and a growing threat of development -- these are some of the values and competing interests that have complicated community involvement in the work of the Florida Green Swamp Land Authority. Add to this a long history of conflict, the usual disparity in cultures between urban environmental and rural agricultural perspectives, and the involvement of several agencies with sometimes competing and sometimes parallel (but non-intersecting) goals. Only then does one begin to appreciate the intricacy of the community dialogue that was necessary to implement a conservation easement program in the Green Swamp area.
New Jersey Pinelands: Protecting the Cohansey Aquifer in New Jersey has been far more than a matter of local concern. In 1978, Congress became involved with creation of the Pinelands National Reserve. The New Jersey Governor acted by Executive Order, creating the New Jersey Pineland's Commission. The State Legislature passed the Pinelands Protection Act and required protective county and city planning to be done in the area. Land use areas were established including: agriculture, forestry, regional growth, rural development, towns and villages, and military installations. And a strict regulatory regime was established to manage competing uses. Funding for conservation easements has depended upon a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program governed by a complicated set of formulae established by statute. Purchase prices for TDRs have been perceived as insufficient compensation for the restrictions imposed by TDR easements and for earlier regulatory "losses" in property value. This disparity has been highlighted by the compensation provided by the state's farmland protection program to farms outside the Pinelands. The regulatory nature of the process, the compensation disparity between programs, and the complexity of the TDR program have all been a substantial burden to agricultural-environmental dialogue in the Pinelands.
Washington CREP: There have been a host of complex questions faced by the Washington CREP Program for which no truly decisive answers have been available.
Inability to deal with these issues with clarity and finality has greatly complicated CREP's interaction with the public. Was the CREP discussions process a dialogue with the public or a Federal interagency consultation? Would it define eligibility for the CREP program only, or would it decide riparian buffer widths to be required under the Endangered Species Act? Why was Washington's CREP buffer wider than Oregon's if both states were complying with the same Federal Act? If the objective was to save salmon in ag lands, why was Washington's largest ag producer group, the tree fruit industry, excluded? How could young trees be encouraged to grow and protected from rodents if irrigation water was not provided, if herbicides were prohibited, and if USDA was unwilling to pay for tree protectors? How were pests and weeds to be managed if chemical sprays were prohibited? Why were USDA established land values for CREP leases in some counties relatively good, while in other counties they were grossly inadequate? If a landowner did enter a CREP contract, did that then mean he or she had done what is needed to protect salmon? What would happen at the end of a 15-year lease?
Given the consequence of the matters at stake and the complexity of the issues, acquiring a full understanding of the factors for success and failure of dialogues with agriculture is clearly a worthwhile endeavor.
4. Analysis of Factors for Success or Failure: Each of the many models reviewed as a part of this study owed its successes and its failures to a different combination of factors unique to the geography, the wildlife, the community, the culture of the problem, and the area and specific people involved. Nonetheless, certain generalizations emerge which are clearly relevant to success or failure. Based upon our review, the key general factors which seem relevant to the problem of establishing effective processes for industry dialogue on agriculture-environmental issues, particularly as they relate to farmland protection, seem to be: ü The clarity and specificity of the purpose participants understand for the process and their participation in it; ü The strength of the motivation to participate felt by private groups, citizens, and government representatives participating in the process; ü The promise of funding for incentives to implement the new laws, policies, and agreements that might be the product of the discussions without the need to resort to regulation. ü The credibility seen to be invested in the process by government and other decision makers and the resulting likelihood that agreements reached in the process will actually effect changes in law and policy; ü The authority with which each of the participants speaks on behalf of their caucus and the likelihood that agreements they make will be substantially accepted by their agencies, groups, or constituents; and, ü The adequacy, stability, and certainty that funding will be available for the costs of running the process, how it is staffed, participants' expenses of operation, and the availability of technical and scientific support.
How well each of the many processes and programs reviewed in the course of this study dealt with these issues had direct impact on the level and the nature of the success it may have enjoyed. a. Clarity and Specificity of Purpose: The mission, purpose, or goal of any group needs to be clearly identified so that all those who participate similarly understand why the group exists, what is sought to be accomplished, and what are the consequences of failure. For agriculture groups engaged in dialogue over environmental issues such definition may be especially important because, unlike most businesses, associations, and community groups, ag-environmental issues often present cultural disparities, differences in larger agendas, and mixed motivations by many of the participants as well as often being challenging in political and scientific complexity. Being very specific about what is to be achieved and sticking closely to accomplishment of the stated goal helps the group keep from being sidetracked into fruitless debate about hopelessly contentious issues.
Such clarity of purpose is more difficult to achieve if the group seeks to deal with a multitude of issues rather than just one, or if the issues involved are highly complex and involve sorting out many technical issues. The participants in such processes tend to be policy people for whom the assistance of technical support personnel will be needed if science is to be differentiated from policy. On the other hand, if a strong overarching purpose encompasses a number of specific environmental issues, such clarity and specificity still ought to be possible to achieve so long as the process is well-facilitated and firmly managed.
(Parentheticals after the name of a specific project indicate where its more detailed synopsis can be found in the appendices to this report.)
New York City Watershed Project (National Case Studies): The New York City Watershed Project stands out as a case where the objectives were very clear. This was especially true once the City had settled on a voluntary, incentive driven approach to dealing with the Catskill communities. At that point, some very clear goals were set out. These were as specific as: ü Implementation of whole farm plans on 85% of the larger farms in the watershed, ü Protection with conservation easements of the city's investment through a PDR program, ü Assuring a viable ag industry destined to stay in business and keep the land in agriculture, ü Enrollment of 5,000 acres of land in the CREP Program. There was little doubt about New York City's larger goal - it was to inexpensively protect its drinking water. With "inexpensive" defined as less than the $3 to $8 billion it would cost to build a treatment plant, there was room for local citizens to fall in place and help with the effort.
Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area (Class XX Project Report): The bright prospects of the Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area is partly due to the clear and specific understanding by its participants of the threat they face if no agreements are reached, and to likely eligibility for cost-share assistance if useful standards can be found. The serious political drive behind this effort arose when nitrate contamination of private and public wells in the Columbia Basin raised the public consciousness and private concerns of the farmers and their families living (and using well water) in the area. As in other such processes, a regulatory solution could threaten the economic base of the area, which depends almost entirely on irrigated agriculture. But in this instance, in addition to the usual political consequence, a failure to solve this problem also creates immediate human health risks, including a risk for the families of the farmers themselves. There has, accordingly, been strong support for the GWMA project by private farmers and citizens living there.
Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process (Recent Washington Case Studies): One of the weaknesses of the Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process arose out of early debate over exactly what its goals, purposes, and functions were to be. Establishing the land management standards under which farmers could, if they wished, achieve regulatory certainty from the National Marine Fisheries Service under ESA would, alone, have been a relatively clear and specific goal. But the process also gradually took on additional burdens and objectives, for example: ü Once decided, the adopted standards turned out to also define conditions for the availability of federal and/or state cost share assistance for implementing salmon related best management practices. ü These outcomes will also determine eligibility to participate in CREP, the federal/state riparian buffer lease program. ü Then the process was invested with the need to deal with how irrigation districts will comply with ESA requirements. ü And then EPA and US F&WS became involved and Clean Water Act and bull trout certainty and compliance also became an issue. This multitude of seemingly new or additional goals may have aggravated the concern by some private farm groups that the ultimate (hidden) agenda may be to create the foundation for unwanted regulation. The added complexity of these issues has clearly increased the difficulty of retaining focus in the process.
Washington Ag Presidents' Group (Class XX Project Report): One of the weaknesses of the Washington Ag President's Group in dealing authoritatively with statewide environmental issues is that its purposes are too inclusive to justify focusing energy on a host of specific environmental matters. The purpose of the group is to share ideas and to address issues for the benefit and advancement of the entire agriculture industry. The multitude of issues encompassed within that larger purpose makes it difficult for the group to be effective at dealing with the specific concerns of agriculture and the environment. They are, of course, concerned with these issues, but the entire task is simply too large given the resources and time commitment involved. The group's structure was simply not designed with an intent to provide intensive attention to such complex and far-reaching problems.
Dairy Nutrient Management Task Force (Recent Washington Case Studies): The Dairy Nutrient Management Task Force, on the other hand, has had a very clear, limited, and specific purpose well understood by all its members - namely to achieve genuine Clean Water Act compliance by the dairy industry in the most reasonable and cost effective manner possible. This clear purpose has made it easier for members to deal effectively with the issues before it. The initial responsibility of the Dairy Nutrient Management Advisory Committee (which preceded the Task Force) was also specific: to define the necessary elements of a required dairy nutrient management plan. This clear responsibility was also very successfully and expeditiously completed.
Farming And Conservation Together (National Case Studies): Among the reasons the community has come together around the Farming And Conservation Together (FACT) upon a proposal for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS) is that the way in which this was presented made the objectives very clear to community members - come up with an alternative to the USF&WS proposal that was more acceptable to the local community. This clarity of purpose probably contributed to the level of success so far.
Two other examples of successes aided by clarity of defined purpose would include the Washington Timber Fish Wildlife Process (Class XX Project Report) and the Roza-Sunnyside Board of Joint Control (Class XX Project Report). b. Strength of the Motivation to Participate: Groups participating in any dialogue, whether they be private associations or governmental agencies, need a decisive motive to be involved if the meetings are to be productive. The groups' members and representatives must believe in the importance of successfully completing the mission of the dialogue. There must be known benefits for their group and individual members associated with success as well as well-understood consequences of failure. Given strong motivations, the dialogue or program can then realistically expect its members to support the critical incidents of sound process such as: ü Consistent participation, ü Strong support for the process, ü Agreement on a facilitator, ü Willingness to adopt and submit to mutually agreed upon ground rules, ü Accountability to other group members, ü Determination to involve and inform a broad base of constituents from one's own caucus, and ü Willingness to continue discussions over time so as to become educated, build trust, and, in the long-term, potentially engage in adaptive management.
Without strong motivation to participate, these necessary incidents of process are difficult to achieve.
Florida Green Swamp Land Authority (National Case Studies): Set against a history of increased regulation, fear of diminished property values, and threatened downzoning, the introduction of a voluntary purchase of development rights (PDR) program in Florida's Green Swamp area was received with both suspicion and relief. The largely rural residents had developed a finely honed sense of mistrust of efforts to "protect" their area. But in this case, money for the program was actually made available. A governing board appointed from among local governments and representatives convened meetings. And the ultimate result was that a good deal of opposition to this and other conservation efforts in the Swamp was effectively defused.
New York City Watershed Project (National Case Studies): New York City's experience in their Catskills water supply area was similar to the experience in Florida. There had been a long history of efforts by the City to regulate activities within the Catskills and there were strong negative feelings about the City. As it became clear to local residents that this new project was different, that the matters under discussion would involve eligibility for financial incentives to voluntarily implement conservation practices or to voluntarily sell market value conservation easements rather than involving regulations to require those practices, attitudes shifted, and the dialogue strengthened. It also helped that the City included an economic development package for local agriculture to strengthen its viability and assist with the marketing of its products.
New Jersey Pinelands (National Case Studies): Conversely, the New Jersey Pinelands process has struggled with public resistance from its onset. There are incentives included in this process and a TDR program to compensate for lost property values, but the essence of this program from the start was regulatory, with legal constraints being adopted at nearly every level of government, from Congress down. The complex of regulations has diminished property values in the area without (possibly until recently) providing a commensurate means for reimbursement.
California Coastal Conservancy (National Case Studies): The early successes in public dialogue of the California Coastal Conservancy were greatly helped by the presence and promise of funding for conservation easements and the hope of economic development assistance for traditional land uses in the area, including agriculture. The Conservancy has the power of eminent domain, but has never used it, preferring instead to rely upon voluntary, negotiated agreements. This largely positive agenda has suffered somewhat more recently with the diminution of funding for conservation easements.
Chelan Agreement & Water Resources Forum (Class XX Proposal Report): The gradual dissolution of the Washington Water Resources Forum created by the Chelan Agreement was hastened by the lack, at the time, of a widely perceived immediate threat of water quality and water quantity enforcement and from the lack of any obvious or anticipated benefit from participating. Over time, motivation diminished and the groups simply dropped out or ceased participating.
Dairy Nutrient Management Task Force (Class XX Proposal Report): The decisive success of the Dairy Industry in influencing adoption of the Dairy Nutrient Management Act of 1998 and in its participation in the Dairy Nutrient Management Task Force clearly arose out of their strong motivation to participate. Previous attempts within the dairy industry to create unified policy over Clean Water Act compliance issues had dissolved. The specter, however, of $20-30,000 fines from EPA, and huge, public damages lawsuits from citizens' groups brought the industry to the table and led to support within the industry of strong, proactive leadership. In the end, the dairy industry supported the registration of all dairies, adoption by all of fully implemented dairy plans approved and certified by the local conservation district, and funding for adequate enforcement by the Washington Department of Ecology. The industry provides strong and decisive participation in the Dairy Nutrient Management Task Force created by the 1998 Act. While the industry motivations that led to this outcome may have been largely driven by fear of regulation, they were also aided by a promise (delivered upon by State Legislators) that the public would provide technical and financial assistance to dairy farmers seeking to comply with the new law and with the Clean Water Act.
Farming And Conservation Together (Recent Washington Case Studies): The Farming And Conservation Together committee worked well together in coming up with an alternative to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's proposal for an Aldo Leopold National Wildlife Refuge. Part of their success can be attributed to their clear motivation to avoid what many disliked in the USF&WS plan and the well-defined opportunity to achieve some positive community goals at the same time. This promise of a potential non-regulatory outcome was appealing to participants.
Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (National Case Studies): By making funding available for partnerships with local groups and for a voluntary, incentive based approach, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service motivated local citizens to participate in the process, to become informed, and to provide support or defuse opposition. These positive motivations greatly assisted in the success of getting started.
Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process (AFT Class XX Project Report): One of the most telling weaknesses of the Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process (AFW) is that there is little promise of a non-regulatory outcome. The ag participants are strongly motivated out of fear of what the National Marine Fisheries Service may decide to do to protect salmon. Their dissatisfaction with the haste of the talks, limited funding, and the unsure commitment of government to listen is partly driven by the absence, so far, of clear prospect of government dollars to pay for an incentive driven answer. If the money was there, less fear of a regulatory outcome might be apparent and a less grudging participation might emerge. The fear of regulatory consequences is exaggerated in the AFW process by the lack of a clear idea of what those consequences may be. There has so far been only limited discussion of exactly what shape National Marine Fisheries Service enforcement will take on specific issues, although some specifics have recently come under consideration.
The AFW process has also suffered from the urgency of its creation. Rather than waiting for a grassroots, ag-environmental groundswell to develop seeking participation, this process began with a Federal-State MOU and a government move to seek citizen input. This has fed the perception of some that the process is too "top-down" and that the dialogue is intended to allow government to force its perspective on citizens rather than to enlist genuine citizen input in government decisions. In this case, while the motive to participate is there, its negative character is shaping the nature of these perceptions (See: c. Funding for Implementation of Incentives, below)
Finally, the structure of the AFW process is such that, by limiting itself just to salmon concerns as they are affected only by agriculture, the process leaves out consideration of the fisheries, hydropower, and urban impact components of the problem. This may be an inevitable and unavoidable weakness, but it leaves the door open for participants to argue (and to believe) that other segments of society who also have responsibility for the problem may end up avoiding bearing their fair share of the burdens of solving it. This has been an ongoing hurdle in the negotiations.
c. Funding for Implementation of Incentives: In addition to the strength of the motivation to participate, the nature of that motivation is also critically important. It is extremely helpful if participation is driven by the hope to achieve a positive outcome rather than the wish to avoid a negative one. Farmers will generally see a regulatory program as negative, but they may affirmatively support a voluntary program driven by financial incentives.
Participation in a dialogue whose outcome seems likely to be regulatory presents a very difficult choice to participants from a regulated community like agriculture. On the upside, by helping regulators better understand their industry, they can help them write rules that better reflect the industry's needs, that are adapted to individual and regional differences, that are flexible and sensitive to economic consequences, and that are not unnecessarily abrupt or punitive. And they can present their best face to the public and to their regulatory agency.
But the rules that result may just as easily end up ignoring their needs. The industry may ultimately have to fight those rules publicly, politically, or in court. By having participated in the discussion, agriculture participants may later find that they have weakened themselves or strengthened their opponents in the coming battle. They may look bad publicly for attacking rules they helped to write. They may have made the position of their own constituents less defensible when faced with enforcement action because the resulting rules are better crafted - even if damaging, and hence better able to withstand defensive court attack. They may help opposing interests better understand and attack their industry if discussions bring to light otherwise unknown problems with the industry's environmental impacts. Insights gained by opposing interests through the process may also increase industry members' vulnerability to later political challenge or to bad publicity and negative media.
These threats diminish if everyone understands that the dialogue is intended to define eligibility for a voluntary or incentive-driven program. Competing interest groups and governments are then primarily concerned about getting the public's money's worth, not about positioning themselves for an inevitable confrontation. The chance of negative consequences is lessened for the industry because participation in the ultimate program will be voluntary in any event. Thus, for example, programs aimed at the purchase of development rights may have an advantage among such dialogues.
Thus assurance of funding for voluntary implementation of programs or policies that may be agreed to in a dialogue with agriculture can have profound impact upon success: ü It contributes to the credibility of the process by indicating that outcomes are likely to be acted upon, ü It strengthens the motivation of participants who will want eligibility rules designed to be reasonable and effective, ü It can transform a process driven by the fear of regulation into one driven by the promise of financial assistance, and ü It sends a signal of serious intention to consider input on the problem and of a willingness to be fair and reasonable in addressing it. For those seeking to elicit worthwhile public input and to enlist public support in a dialogue, these are important foundations upon which to build.
New York City Watershed Project (National Case Studies): One of the outstanding lessons of the New York City Watershed Project is that the clear promise of funding for implementation, up front, is a powerful incentive for communities to participate. The willingness to fund the program sent a message of clear intention that financial incentives were intended, not further efforts at regulation. As soon as this was clear, community involvement strengthened.
Florida Green Swamp Land Authority (National Case Studies): One of the important functions served by the Florida Green Swamp Land Authority was the healing of old wounds from a history of conflicts over land use. For this to work, it was critical that there be a clear commitment by the State that the proposed PDR program would be adequately funded. It was at that point when the money was clearly set aside, that landowners came to the table, willing to engage in serious talk.
Maryland Rural Legacy Program (National Case Studies): The essence of the Maryland Rural Legacy Program was to provide funding for local programs protecting agricultural, forest, and other environmental resources. The presence of funding not only motivated participation in these individual local programs, but it also assured the likelihood of a positive outcome of these discussions. This has been a relatively successful program.
Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (National Case Studies): Again, the presence of funding for incentives, the willingness to fund local partnerships, and the fact that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was willing to listen and to actually adapt its direction based upon the input it received locally had a good deal to do with the positive motivations of those who participated in this program.
Oregon CREP Program (National Case Studies); Washington CREP Program (Recent Washington Case Studies): Under CREP, both in Washington and in Oregon, the program came to the landowners fully funded. Despite some problems with the handling of the dialogue in Washington, and despite a host of often-unreasonable eligibility and other restrictions existing in both states, there has still been interest in discussing the program because the money was there. If eligibility and obstacles could be overcome, the farmers might become interested in signing up. The presence of the money helped ease a good many difficulties.
Many of the examples provided under: b. Strength of Motivation to Participate, above, also support this point. Additionally, several other examples in Washington demonstrate the importance of a clear promise of funding to implement agreements reached in a dialogue: ü The simple availability of funding is an important part of the essential magnetism that has drawn together the Watershed Councils under the Washington Watershed Management Act (ESHB 2514) (Class XX Project Report) and the Salmon Project Planning groups under the Salmon Recovery Planning Act (ESHB 2496) (Class XX Project Report). Local communities stand greatly to gain by forming and participating in such groups by encouraging State (and other) funding for local projects. ü The absence of any assurance of funding for implementation of salmon practices in agriculture probably contributes to the difficulties with motivation in the Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process (Recent Washington Case Studies).
The promise of funding for incentives to implement the new laws, policies, and agreements that might be the product of the discussions is a critically important success factor. Without it, the character of a process is completely altered.
d. Public Credibility: (1) Perception that outcomes will be implemented: The success of public dialogues with agricultural groups over environmental issues partially depends upon whether the process is sufficiently credible with the public and in the responsible government community that outcomes agreed to by participants are likely to be adopted as law or policy. This is a perception that needs to be shared by both the private and the government participants. Everyone must understand that his or her work is likely to lead to action.
This perception may come to exist because of the importance of the issues and the participants, because of the manner in which the dialogue began, or because of the authority that created it. Sometimes a dialogue will be conducted in conjunction with or by the specific agency that is to implement its outcomes. Law as a preliminary step may specifically require a dialogue or process to eligibility for grant or other funding. Or it may be that a coincidence of perspective among competing interest groups on a difficult public policy issue may be so remarkable a political event that a consistent legislative outcome becomes almost inevitable.
Examples of these kinds include: ü Washington Timber Fish Wildlife Process (Class XX Project Report) in which there is strong working (or legal) relationship between TFW and the Washington Forest Practices Board. Even with the abandonment of the process and the affirmative opposition of Indian Tribes and environmentalists, a 1999 TFW agreement was still passed into a new Forest Practices Act by the 2000 Washington Legislature. ü ESHB 2514 Watershed Planning Process (Class XX Project Report) and ESHB 2496 Salmon Recovery Funding Process (Class XX Project Report) where the decisions of the group in prioritizing projects submitted to it has specific legal significance in subsequently obtaining grant funding from the Department of Ecology and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, respectively. ü Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area (Class XX Project Report), which managed to get a $1 million appropriation for the project in 2000. ü Washington's Dairy Nutrient Management Task Force (Recent Washington Case Studies) managed to get legislation passed pursuant to its request both in 1999 and in 2000. It helps that Members of the Agriculture Committees of both the House and Senate are actively participating members of this group. ü Chelan Agreement's Water Resources Forum (Class XX Project Report) is a possibly converse example. While there were certainly some valuable accomplishments, one of the reasons for the group's ultimate dissolution was its inability to decisively succeed in advancing a legislative agenda and its inability to effectuate outcomes agreed to within the group. In the face of this, participants lost interest, attendance flagged, and the group ultimately disappeared.
Washington's Ag, Fish, Water Process (Recent Washington Case Studies): There is little doubt among AFW participants that agreements reached in the process will be effectuated by the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies participating in the process. The doubt arises over whether agreements will be realistically possible. This suggests another twist on the credibility of a process, and that is the perceived possibility that it can succeed. Clearly, if participants in AFW come to believe that the process is futile, their motivation to attend will dissolve. This may be part of the reason such relief is expressed by participants at all corners of the table over recent introduction into the discussion of the specifics of what may be required in agricultural drainage ditch maintenance and operation. This finally takes them beyond the polemics and to the specifics of a concrete problem for which real and implementable solutions may actually be possible. And it will provide an early test of what is possible.
Each of the national case studies completed by AFT describes a process in which there was little doubt that the governments involved could and would implement decisions resulting from the dialogue. One twist, however, exists for the processes of discussion that have gone on over the Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge (National Case Studies). Problems with the initial public introduction of the idea for the Refuge created early controversy that led to a local request for help from a national advocacy group. Involvement of the national group helped enflame community mistrust. Some opponents see the resulting delays in the progress of this project as weaknesses in the resolve of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service follow through with the project. Such a perception of weakness can, in turn, undermine participation, even by supportive groups and individuals.
One of the strongest example of a situation where government made it clear that it was prepared to listen and adapt is the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (National Case Studies) where literally hundreds of meetings were held to receive public input and where the Service made a very strong effort to listen to local citizens. The local realization that the Service was willing to adapt its actions greatly aided the process and once the proposals were presented, there were few concerns. Another excellent example is the Farming And Conservation Together (National Case Studies) where, faced with strong public opposition to its proposal for an Aldo Leopold National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service simply presented local opponents with the opportunity to come up with a meaningful alternative. Given the Service's clear willingness to consider a local alternative, the credibility of the process was strongly enhanced.
(2) Perception of "top down" vs. "grass roots" management: There is also another sort of public credibility by which such processes may be judged. That is the perception in the community about the seriousness of the proposed dialogue itself. Private citizen groups may question whether a proposed dialogue is a serious solicitation for genuine input, or whether it is merely a pro-forma, politically motivated effort by the agency to appear open to new ideas when, in actuality, the decision has already been made.
Processes or programs that are seen as too "top down" or as not being sufficiently "grass roots" often suffer also from this perception.
New Jersey Pinelands (National Case Studies): The New Jersey Pinelands may be a classic of apparent "top down" government. Though the effort to protect the Pinelands began with local community members, outside government involvement was soon viewed as having short-circuited local participation. Once the process began, Congressional legislation, State executive order, State legislation, and an appointed commission rapidly dictated a plan for land use in the region. Local participation in the process was limited to compliance activities. This approach may have a good deal to do with the unhappiness many in local Pinelands communities feel about the process.
California Coastal Conservancy (National Case Studies): Conversely, while the California Coastal Conservancy originated with State legislation, the initial bill was to create a local dialogue to decide what was to be done about protection of the coastal areas. A dialogue process was created which came up with a plan that was adopted as law in follow-up legislation. The local Resource Conservation and Development Councils were involved to help with local economic development as well as environmental management. Strong local partnerships were developed. Administration of projects has been on a regional basis so as to strengthen partnerships with local groups. Criteria for projects specifically prioritizes collaboration with local partners. And the Conservancy has not used its power of eminent domain. All these approaches encouraged local citizen participation and strengthened acceptance by and participation in dialogues with local groups and with agriculture.
Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge (National Case Studies): Formation of a Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge stumbled at the start when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS) announced a plan for its creation. Among the initial criticisms was the sense created that the proposal had "blindsided" local residents and that it had been developed without input from the local community. USF&WS did not have an established presence or a history in the area so many farmers were suspicious, were unfamiliar with how the Service acquires land and fearful of condemnation, and were mistrustful of easements and of how land would be valued for easements. Moreover, the public perception that the key decisions about this refuge have already been made and that the public processes were "mere window dressing" has been strengthened by Service's unwillingness to make significant changes in their "preferred action alternative." This "preferred" alternative involves the use of fee acquisition and the removal from production and private ownership of some 20,000 acres of productive farmland. This background has fueled early skepticism and distrust of the Service, has confirmed local perceptions of "top down" Federal Agency management, and has greatly increased the struggle to get this Refuge off the ground.
Florida Green Swamp Land Authority (National Case Studies): A history of top-down actions to protect the environment in the Florida Green Swamp area led local community members to seek a locally organized and implemented alternative. A purchase of development rights program was established with a State mandate and funding. Members of the governing board for the program were selected from among local county managers and community leaders appointed from lists submitted by the local county commissioners. The meetings processes were carefully made as local, open, and public as possible to encourage local participation. These strategies helped to overcome suspicion and helped get the program a more favorable reception.
The Maryland Rural Legacy Program (National Case Studies) was designed specifically to fund pre-existing local programs with existing local leadership. This greatly enhanced its credibility. In the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (National Case Studies), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was well funded to form local partnerships with existing local groups in the community. They also conducted extensive early public process that suggested a desire to listen to local input, and they adapted their proposals to reflect what they heard. The reliance upon incentive programs also suggested a confidence in local willingness to deal with the problems given proper opportunity to do so. And in the case of Farming And Conservation Together (National Case Studies) U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gained local credibility by simply turning the issue over to a local group and asking that group for their alternative. This simply eliminated any sense that this was to be a top down process.
Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process (AFT Class XX Report Review): Some steps in the evolution of the Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process damaged the perception that it is a genuine effort for community input. When the predecessor discussions of the CREP buffer were convened without including agriculture, which was not seen as a good sign. Then, when final decisions about the CREP buffer were made outside the full discussion group, this damaged the perception that government was truly "listening" to its citizens. While they are confident that agreements reached will be acted upon, some ag participants complain that the agencies are too vulnerable to suit from the environmental community to have much freedom to act.
Any perception that erodes the conviction by private participants that government is truly interested, able, and willing to act upon the outcomes of discussion is likely to be damaging. It diminishes the credibility of the process and, hence, the motivation by private groups to unqualifiedly participate.
e. Authority of Participants to Speak for their Caucus: Strong, authoritative representation by all participating groups stands out as an essential component for success in the dialogues we reviewed. Such representation involves both the willingness by representatives to commit on behalf of those they represent and their subsequent ability to see that such commitments are honored within their group.
It is important that this component of success exist among all of the participants, public and private. It is not unusual, for example, for a public agency to engage in such dialogues without the genuine political resolve within the agency to act and, hence, without engaging senior personnel in the process having authority to commit the agency to agreements that may become possible. Among private groups, however, internal authority is a factor that is especially difficult to achieve. For the agriculture community, developing the needed authority and leadership can be one of their most difficult hurdles. There are some 300 separate crops produced in the State of Washington alone, each with its own environmental issues and economic needs, most with their own separate commodity marketing and/or advocacy group. Geographical differences, cultural and economic differences, political differences, and frequently a history of competition among groups within the same industry and even producing the same commodity all make creation of collective, industry-wide, authoritative leadership a very challenging task.
It is important to point out that authoritative leadership probably does not depend, as much as one might think, upon the personalities of individuals involved. Instead it more often turns upon the presence of a strong infrastructure of leadership support. No matter how forceful the personalities, they cannot speak and act for their members if there is inadequate communication with their membership, if their members have no way to appreciate the exact nature of the problem, or if there is no way for the leaders to learn and to understand the concerns of their membership. No matter how charismatic they may be, new leaders or large groups in new organizations relying on untested processes and dealing with complex issues will always find their authority limited by their lack of history and of long time acceptance of the process. No matter what their leadership skills, elected officers and hired staff will be limited in their effectiveness if the decision structure of their organization demands cumbersome membership or board action on relatively unimportant issues.
In their struggle to acquire membership and to involve and empower them, most voluntary private associations develop strongly grass-roots decision strategies. This is especially true in the agriculture community. These decision strategies are usually inconsistent with effective participation in highly consequential, politically sensitive, and time-limited negotiations. Washington ag groups, (Farm Bureau, Association of Conservation Districts, & Wheat Growers, for example) typically make policy decisions through a resolutions process in which the full membership participates at their annual meetings. It is obviously impossible for such processes to deal with the kinds of dialogues ag representatives are today finding themselves engaged in over environmental issues. Yet their officers and staff ignore such internal decision-making processes at their peril.
Clearly, strong, authoritative representation must emerge from the participating groups themselves rather than being somehow artificially created by the process or program. Even so, there may be ways in which a dialogue can be managed to make evolution of authoritative representation easier for participants and thus more likely.
For example, if the process unmistakably demands it, if there is strong motivation to participate, and if realistic time and opportunity is provided, members of participating groups may develop the necessary infrastructure. Similarly, because communication with members is one of the keys to authoritative leadership, a process for dialogue may be able to encourage or assist development of the needed infrastructure by helping to simplify this problem of communication. Support for this communications burden might sometimes help. Even the use of clear, simple, and brief written materials that are inexpensive for private participants to copy and distribute may lighten a private group's communications burden. Use of e-mail, where possible, may make redistribution easier as can the posting of materials on an internet website or the use of links to educational materials accessible elsewhere on the web. Strong education for the immediate participants is also important, but the more broadly educational material can be distributed, the stronger the authority of the private representatives will be.
California Safe Harbor Project (National Case Studies): When the California Farm Bureau and the California ag community returned to the table with an alternative proposal for "safe-harbor" for California farmers on protections for a multitude of ESA listed species, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS) jumped at the chance to work with them and quickly took a serious look at what they had proposed. The ability of the ag community to come together on a proposal represented an opportunity the Agency was not going to pass up. When a diverse constituency group like agriculture turns up at the table with the apparent authority and willingness to "talk turkey," government agencies are strongly motivated to deal. This fact, in itself, provides a strong rationale for encouraging collective dialogues with agriculture.
Washington Timber, Fish, Wildlife Process (Class XX Project Report): The Timber, Fish, Wildlife Process stands out as an example of empowered representation. Those concerned well understood the potential consequences of the decisions of their representatives and, in the participating caucuses, process evolved to provide support and authority to the delegated representatives. As was noted in the discussion of Ag, Fish, Water, below, this may have been easier in the timber industry, where stronger and more universal representation and industry organization exists (unlike in agriculture) but even in the timber industry it was neither simple nor automatic.
The Conservation Districts process (Class XX Project Report) works well partly because it is based on a formal resolutions process that assures decisive representation, even if it is also cumbersome. With the conservation districts, however, accord is simplified because the "groups" represented are small boards of supervisors or, later in the process, relatively small regional associations. The Ag President's Group (Class XX Project Report) has largely failed to fill this role because there has been limited commitment sought from, or provided by, the participating groups to provide substantial authority to their leadership to bind the group to details of agreement. Proposals aired at the Ag Presidents are generally sent back to each of the groups for discussion and detailed consideration. Lack of decision-making authority was also attributed as a cause for the failure of the Governor's Council on Ag and the Environment (Class XX Project Report).
Washington Ag, Fish, Water (Recent Washington Case Studies): According to ag participants in the Ag, Fish, Water Process, getting the ag caucus together on a structure for their own representation and then getting the chosen representatives together to act as a cohesive group have been the toughest hurdles in the process. Each individual ag group, small or large, wanted representation at the table. All were hesitant about allowing someone else to act on their behalf. In the end, the groups selected to sit at the AFW table were the 9 largest and most established. This was done on the theory that those with staff and permanent offices were in the best position to communicate with the industry and to support participation by their elected officers.
There were other keys, however, to the agreement by the groups to this arrangement: ü The entire caucus required consensus on significant agreements in the process. This was needed in order to prevent having non-attending groups feel left out by majority vote. ü A careful and complete set of general principles was agreed to in advance so that those who were to attend at the table had guidance on the positions they would take. ü The attending groups agreed that they were to be at the table representing all of agriculture, not just representing their own interest or perspective.
ü Thorough internal communication was agreed to: § Those not attending the table were to receive information about the process and the progress of discussions. § Representatives were to receive feedback on matters of concern. ü A process was created to meet and to make decisions on issues arising in the negotiations. ü The caucus agreed to act cohesively, as a group, in the discussions.
These agreements and arrangements were a part of the understanding that was necessary in order for each of the diverse ag industry groups to feel the confidence they needed to lend their participation to the caucus or to the negotiations themselves.
Related to but separate from the authority of participants to speak for their groups is the matter of the power or ability of the groups themselves to effect change or to act on their resolutions. The government agency participants in Ag, Fish, Water are careful to repeatedly point out that despite whatever they may agree to, they cannot bind private groups who may bring lawsuits over perceived CWA or ESA violations. While there is little doubt by participants that the government agencies involved in AFW plan to put in to practice those matters agreed to in the process, some do express concern that political pressures on the agencies tends to limit what they are able to agree to. Similarly, there are concerns that the agreement by the ag groups may not bind their memberships or that agreement by participating environmental groups cannot bind other environmental groups who were not involved in the process.
There has also been concern expressed about whether the agriculture groups representing the industry in the AFW Process are truly communicating the gravity of the threat of failure to their membership. Ag participants say that they and their members are genuinely and deeply concerned about what the industry faces in the way of possible enforcement and litigation. But there is also the worry that ag leadership may be at times inclined to soften the bad news and to avoid criticism by encouraging the notion that it may be better to fight than to negotiate. This inclination, if it exists, in turn weakens the ability of the representative to deal with authority in the process and to influence decisions of their group. Yet it is probably inherent in the democratic structures of the organizations involved.
All these limits, of any kind, on the ability of representatives to manage outcomes tends to discourage participation.
f. Adequacy and Stability of Funding for the Process: Beyond the question of funding to implement the decisions that may be reached (see: c. Funding for Implementation of Incentives, above) funding as well to assure a fully effective process is critical for effective dialogue. Such funding is needed to provide coordination, staffing, participant expense, and technical backup for effectively operating the process. Without it, both the process itself and the credibility of the process will collapse. For example:
Coordination: Every process needs money to operate. Someone must design, schedule, notice, and otherwise organize the meetings. Meeting space must be arranged and paid for. Copies are needed. Postage and phone charges will be incurred. Facilitation is generally needed. And if communication with the constituents of large groups is to be effective, extra expense to assist with this communications process may be necessary.
Participant expense: Beyond these outlay and staffing expenses for coordination, there is also the expense incurred by participants in time and travel for their participation. Governments and some large private groups may be able to afford to pay for this out of their operating budgets -- but it is an expense for everyone both in staff time and in outlays for hotels, airfare, auto mileage, and food. For most voluntary associations, this can be a huge barrier, especially when a meeting process goes on for many months and many meetings most of which (in a State as large as Washington) must be held out-of-town.
Technical support: There is also the expense of adequate technical backup. Most participants in such dialogues will be policy people with limited technical expertise. Their ability to reach agreement depends upon their ability to understand and communicate the issues amongst themselves and with their membership. They need to appreciate the efficacy of proposals in addressing the environmental issue involved and to understand their impact on the activities of the group they represent. They also need to clearly and credibly educate and convince their own constituencies. Without technical help, these functions will be difficult, the process will be prolonged unnecessarily, and participants will find it difficult to reach agreement.
Adequate funding for these needs, regardless of its source, assures all participants that the time and energy invested will not be wasted on a process that is short-circuited by financial constraints before is has achieved meaningful results. The lack of stable funding can also become a tool used by some participants to manipulate the process by withdrawing political support for funding appropriations when the process does not lead in a hoped-for direction. Stable and firmly committed funding prevents this from happening.
For all or nearly all of the processes we examined from elsewhere in the country and included in our National Case Studies, process funding did not appear to be an issue. This was probably a factor in whatever level of success they achieved. From our Washington materials, there are several lessons to be learned and some examples of where a lack of process funding is or has been a significant obstacle: ü Among the factors that are said to have made continuation of the Water Resources Forum under the Chelan Agreement (Class XX Project Report) difficult was the uncertainty and inadequacy of funding for the process itself. Participant groups were left largely to their own resources and for many, drawing that heavily on volunteer time and resources over the long period of time involved was simply too burdensome. ü While the Washington Ag, Fish, Water Process (Recent Washington Case Studies) has been funded for coordination and facilitation through the State Conservation Commission, there has been resistance from the State to providing funding for expenses for private groups and private citizens. And there has not been sufficient funding to cover technical support for non-governmental (or governmental) participating groups. This burdens participation, limits the confidence with which decisions can be made, and limits both support for the process and its effectiveness. Among the complaints we heard about the AFW process is the limited funding it has received by comparison to funding received for the Timber Fish Wildlife Process (Class XX Project Report). ü Lack of funding also probably limits the effectiveness of private efforts like the Ag Presidents' Group (Class XX Project Report), which depends largely on volunteer effort and doubtless constrains its agenda. Because this is the only Washington ag industry-wide preexisting institution that has been available, it is frequently presented with ideas and issues, which are largely beyond its means. The intent was never that this group have a large staff and budget or that it engage in detailed negotiations of complex environmental (or other) issues. ü The Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Area (Class XX Project Report) has been solidly funded for process. This has allowed them to conduct highly inclusive and effective public meetings and to educate and enlist a good part of the local community in participation in both the process and in the project.
While good funding for process obviously cannot create a successful dialogue, it can be a big help. And its absence can certainly damage it.
5. Recommendations for Action and for Funding: AFT was also asked to provide recommendations to the Farming and the Environment Steering Committee for action and for funding based upon its review of projects and processes from around the country and in Washington. Because of the preeminent importance in Washington of the current Ag, Fish, Water Process (AFW), any consideration of such dialogues in our state must revolve around ways in which AFW might be changed to be more effective. AFW is, therefore, a perfect model and an object lesson for how to and how not to conduct a dialogue with agriculture. Extrapolate from what we can do to improve AFW, and one has an understanding of what might be required of future efforts, if AFW does not succeed.
a. Recommendations for Action: Our recommendation for action in Washington is that the State, Federal, Tribal and private participants in the current Ag, Fish, Water process do everything in their power to continue, strengthen, and revise this process as needed. It is absolutely critical for the future of agriculture-environmental dialogues in Washington that AFW succeed. Its launch has dramatically altered, modeled, and colored the prospects for such processes in the immediate future. Any hoped for action must respect the start that has been made by this process and appreciate the unlikelihood that its participants will readily abandon or, once abandoned, restart those efforts anew any time soon.
Given this recent history, the natural recommendation is that the AFW process be strengthened and continued so as to complete its current objectives with the anticipation that, if it is successful, it stands the chance to additionally deal with new related issues as they arise. If it fails, however, starting anew with another ag-environmental dialogue on these issues will be very difficult.
If one applies the analysis contained in our report, strengthening this process calls for several affirmative (and substantial) steps by the agencies, Tribes, and private participants involved. Since it is so critical that AFW succeed, none of these recommendations should be considered as more or less important than, or as taking priority over, any other: 1) Clarity of purpose: The participants we spoke with strongly encourage continued focus of discussion on specific management practices. Recent evolution in this direction has been seen as a positive trend. It clarifies the sense of why to participate. It provides specifics upon which to focus. 2) Strength of Motivation to participate: The ag participants do seem clearly to understand the risks of non-participation and everyone is certainly motivated to participate but the threat of regulatory outcomes weakens this motivation. Clarifying these motivations in a non-threatening manner would strengthen the process. Allowing more time for completion of this process would not decisively weaken it especially if it was linked to a specific (and more realistic) schedule for implementation which was in turn linked to funding for incentives. 3) Funding for Implementation of Incentives: In the absence of a genuine non-regulatory alternative, ag participation in AFW includes substantial risks. These risks will continue to limit the dialogue and they need to be diminished if the fullest level of success is to be hoped for. The threat of regulation through an "ag practices act" after a brief 3-year window of opportunity to use voluntary measures was unmistakably delivered in the Governor's Salmon Strategy. This deadline is fast expiring and is prejudicing the AFW process. At this point, it would greatly help if the Washington Governor's Office, the Salmon Recovery Team, the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet, and other official salmon protection leadership, would ü Publicly clarify their decided preference that non-regulatory measures succeed, ü Privately appreciate that the CREP program (as it stands) may not be a genuine solution for much of agriculture and cannot alone be treated (without some very substantial state funded improvements) as a sufficient incentive package for agriculture. ü Publicly support (and in the case of the Governor and legislators - budget for) meaningful funding for serious incentives and technical assistance to make voluntary measures more realistic. ü Acknowledge that additional time may be needed to obtain funding for incentives and for successful implementation of an incentive-based program, and provide for that time in their salmon recovery planning - perhaps with a specific, realistic schedule for implementation tied to appropriate funding. (Cooperation from the National Marine Fisheries Service would be helpful on this.)
Such assurances would go a long way to lessen the perception of unfairness that exists and would greatly improve participation in AFW. 4) Credibility of the process: ü The government participants have succeeded in demonstrating their willingness to act upon agreements arising out of the process. Additional steps, however, would help: v To strengthen the perception that they have the flexibility to actually agree, governments could encourage the process by reaching agreement on one or more early practices - thus demonstrating the possibility of success. v It would also help if there were some assurances as to the level of ESA certainty that the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies are, in fact, prepared to provide. v Some assurance would be welcome that the Federal Agencies are prepared to openly support efforts to fund implementation of agreements reached. v Demonstration of an appreciation for the importance of grassroots support by respecting the limitations under which ag and other private group leadership is forced to operate would be welcome. ü It is critical for AFW that there be the fullest possible participation from the Northwest Indian Tribes and from the environmental community. This is not yet the case. It may be impossible to get the non-participating Tribes and environmental groups to join the current structure at this late date. But the AFW process managers and participants need to initiate a separate discussion of what it would take, and at what point it might become possible, to restructure or restart this process with those changes needed to enlist fuller participation from these missing groups. This may require that portions of the current task first be completed and a natural breaking point be found, or it may conversely call for changes in the process sooner, rather than later. In either case, this problem of full participation needs to be looked at and the changes needed to accomplish it need to be considered as soon and as thoroughly as possible. ü The ag participants need to renew their commitment to this process. They should do everything possible to encourage their elected leaders to attend rather than allowing this responsibility to be delegated to their staff. 5) Authority to speak for caucus: ü The ag caucus has made great progress in establishing a process for their authority to act collectively. It would help if the limits under which they operate were respected as much as possible such as their need for time to consider proposed agreements and if written materials were prepared with a view to their redistribution by the participants to their constituents. ü The ag caucus also needs to take very seriously their need to fully communicate AFW issues to the members and constituents of their caucus and budget for and provide such communication. ü Assuming that some of the significant obstacles can be removed that have prevented participation by additional Tribal and environmental representatives, the current Tribal and environmental representatives ought to be prevailed upon to assist in the effort to help bring broader representation to the table. 6) Adequacy and Stability of Funding for the Process: ü Coordination and facilitation for this process needs to be fully and predictably funded at least at the level provided for the Timber, Fish, Wildlife Process, Washington's corresponding dialogue with its timber industry. ü Funding is needed to pay for the travel and accommodations expenses of the private (and other) participants. This is a huge burden on them, especially considering the additional expense of their uncompensated volunteer time. ü Funding is needed to help support the cost of communications to constituents of private participants. There should be some funded effort to support copying and postage for important educational materials, for example, and further opportunities to assist with the communications effort should be considered. ü Funding is needed to provide technical advice and support to private participating groups to aid in their understanding of the efficacy and impact of proposed solutions. This funding ought to be at least as much, and probably more than has been provided in the TFW process. b. Recommendations for Funding: 1) Process Funding In theory, private funding could support the AFW process, but it seems unlikely that a sufficient source of private money is likely to become available. The TFW Process was supported by public dollars and some of AFW's difficulties arise out of the unfavorable comparison with TFW and the lack of apparent public support for the process. Until now, AFW has been paid for with public funds and our recommendation is that this ought to continue. 2) Implementation Funding: For implementation as well there seems to be no real alternative to public funding probably with a percentage cost-shared with the individual farmer. Ideally the public share would be paid for with a dedicated revenue source matched to the need so that there would be some assurance of its continuation. The Washington public supports salmon recovery and has frequently indicated in opinion polls its willingness to pay reasonable costs to pay for it.
One way to accomplish this would be through the use of publicly financed conservation easements. Such easements could be taken in exchange for public payment of the costs of implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) consistent with the needs of salmon as determined by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Those needs will hopefully soon be decided through agreement in the AFW process. The easement would protect the public's interest in assuring that the land, once the BMPs are implemented, remains in agriculture. Monitoring of the easement would assure that the practices, once put in place would continue to be used. Payment for the easement would help compensate the landowner for the costs of implementation.
The public expense of such an incentive-driven program is fully justified because the public cost of allowing farmers to go out of business is likely to be greater. Farmland that falls to residential development results in considerable public expense. Residential development already costs more in public services than it produces in revenues. Farmland, on the other hand, pays considerably more in taxes than it demands in public services. This difference will grow much worse as costs of sewers, floodwater detention and management, access roads, riparian buffer management, non-point pollution control, and other salmon-affected public services dramatically increase under constantly strengthening salmon protection requirements. The negative consequences to the public purse of allowing farmers to go out of business and of allowing farmland to fall to development make it essential that the public share the farmer's salmon protection costs and prevent that from happening. This is a good deal for the general taxpayer purely as a matter of cost avoidance.
In the case of required buffers, the State needs to supplement the CREP program with sufficient funding to allow the program to offer to make the 15-year Federal CREP leases permanent for landowners who desire to do so. To provide additional financial benefit to the landowner, further protect salmon habitat and water quality, and assure personal on site management of the buffer area, the land adjacent to the CREP lease could be eligible for a further publicly funded conservation easement requiring BMPs protective of water quality or salmon habitat. This would be a bargain for both the adjacent landowner and for the public and a huge net benefit for salmon. In those urban areas where farmland is strategically placed to provide substantial flood water detention, conservation easements might be used effectively as a part of a long term plan to assure no net increases in flooding of critical salmon streams. Again, this would compensate landowners for their agreement to keep the land in agriculture for the long-term benefit of salmon.
6. Summary and Conclusions: If our nation is to stem the ongoing losses in our agriculture industry, and if we are to prevent our most valuable farmland from falling to development, we must find ways to deal with a growing host of ag/environmental issues. Dealing with those issues in a way that will prevent rather than contributing to further damage to the agriculture industry requires that the ag community be engaged in meaningful, collective public dialogue about their problems. Such dialogue is, however, difficult to accomplish. One way to improve our chances of success is to look to other groups and communities who have faced similar problems and to learn from their experience.
There are a host of lessons to be learned from the models and examples collected for this study. Among those lessons which can clearly be learned are that dialogues with agriculture over environmental issues are much more likely to succeed if we can strengthen: ü The clarity and specificity of the purpose participants understand for the process and their participation in it; ü The strength of the motivation to participate felt by private groups, citizens, and government representatives participating in the process; ü The promise of funding for incentives to implement the new laws, policies, and agreements that might be the product of the discussions without the need to resort to regulation. ü The credibility seen to be invested in the process by government and other decision makers and the resulting likelihood that agreements reached in the process will actually effect changes in law and policy; ü The authority with which each of the participants speaks on behalf of their caucus and the likelihood that agreements they make will be substantially accepted by their agencies, groups, or constituents; and, ü The adequacy, stability, and certainty that funding will be available for the costs of running the process, how it is staffed, participants' expenses of operation, and the availability of technical and scientific support.
Thus, while successfully engaging agriculture in dialogue over environmental issues is difficult to accomplish, there are clearly steps that can be taken to increase the chances of success. Given the critical importance for our agriculture industry, for both rural and urban communities, for our cultural and natural environments, and for the future of our nation, taking those steps is clearly a worthwhile investment.
This report was prepared for the Washington Farming and the Environment Project by the American Farmland Trust. For questions about this report, contact Don Stuart, AFT Pacific Northwest Regional Office, 301 - 2nd Ave. NE, Suite B, Puyallup, WA 98372, 253-446-9384, Jennifer Dempsey or Jesse Sites-Robertson, AFT Farmland Advisory Services, Herrick Mill, 1 Short St., Suite 2, Northampton, MA, 01060-3952, 413-586-9330. Dialogues with Agriculture The American Farmland Trust's report to the Washington Farming and the Environment Project on the factors for success in public dialogues with the agriculture community over environmental issues.