Fish find friends in farmers


Protecting threatened salmon in the Northwest has become everybody's business, with Washington's farmers the newest group to enter the fray.

Now, farmers are under the gun: In the next 18 months, they must make sure their standards are compatible with habitat conservation guidelines published by federal agencies overseeing salmon recovery. If farmers are not in compliance with the Endangered Species and Clean Water acts at that time, they may be subject to citizen lawsuits.

"There is a steep learning curve for the agricultural community," says Patrick Batts of the Washington Farm Bureau.

A sticking point for farmers is buffers. Federal regulators want 100-200 feet on either side of a stream to remain unused. Many farmers fear they will lose too much productive land, so they've asked agency representatives to tour Washington farms for a firsthand look at how various regulations would impact farming.