The Regional Food Policy Council (RFPC), which is housed at the Puget Sound Regional Council and which I sponsored and Chair, has now completed its third year of work. During this year, the RFPC issued five ‘policy blueprints’ designed to help local governments advance local food work, organized a Food Economy Summit, completed reports on how cities can incorporate food issues into their Comprehensive Plans and how to evaluate urban agriculture, and continued to coordinate work on food issues around the region. This summer the RFPC began a comprehensive review of obstacles to the stability of Farmers Markets, and we expect to complete that later this year.

The five policy blueprints are succinct summaries that explain what the issues are for cities in supporting key aspects of the local food economy, what new policies can be deployed to boost local food work, and what experiences other cities have had with specific policy implementation. The five policy areas are:

  • Food related elements in Comprehensive Plans
  • Model ordinances to support urban agriculture
  • Model regulations and incentives for farmers markets
  • Strategies around local food procurement
  • Policies to preserve rural farmland

The blueprints have been presented to the PSRC Executive Committee, the Sound Cities Association, and the City of Kirkland, with other presentations scheduled in the future for cities and counties in the PSRC region.

The Food Economy Summit brought together economic development strategists and people active in food related enterprises to discuss the impact of food production, processing and trade on the state economy. The participants reviewed issues like the role of specialty foods in the state’s economy and the job impacts of production, processing and harvesting, as well as the key role that food related businesses have in tourism.

The Comprehensive Plan study completed for the City of Seattle is an in-depth look at what possible concepts could be included in the current update. The study informed the policy blueprint later developed, and many of the recommendations have been included in the 2013 amendments to the Seattle Comprehensive Plan.

In another contract with the City of Seattle, staff completed a report on how to measure urban agriculture activities. This includes evaluating existing tools that are being used and suggesting new ways to measure the output of activity in urban agriculture.

The Farmers Market Working Group has compiled a list of obstacles to viable Farmers Markets, divided into the categories of institutional support, market location and siting, consumer access, and market business practices. For each of the 42 identified issues, the group is assessing whether there is a role for local government in addressing the issue. The group will also develop action recommendations. While these recommendations focus on the City of Seattle, as the largest host of Farmers Markets in the region, they will be applicable to other jurisdictions as well.

The Regional Food Policy Council has worked hard and is making a difference in the local food economy. I look forward to its continued activity in the future.