Agriculture update: March 26, 2013
CONTACT: Brendon Wold, Deputy Communications Director | 360-786-7698
Agriculture update: March 26, 2013
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the 72nd day of the 105-day session. With the “house of origin cutoff” two weeks ago, the House and Senate are now hearing each other's bills. This week several important agriculture bills are moving forward. We have until April 3 to move most agriculture/water/natural resources bills forward, or they are considered dead for the year.
Update on House bills
Here's an update on some of the House bills relating to agriculture. Some may be heard in the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee or the Natural Resources and Parks Committee:
- House Bill 1350 to address growth and water resources passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, but did not move forward in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. This legislation was a request from counties to have more authority to address exempt wells and water management. The committee heard a great deal of concern from different groups, and I think this is just the beginning of the discussion on how best to manage exempt wells and the roles played by the state Department of Ecology and counties.
- House Bill 1135 to remove the sales limit on cottage food operations did not get out of committee and is likely dead for the year.
- House Bill 1209 to extend Christmas tree grower licensing passed the House unanimously and could come up for a vote in the Senate soon.
- House Bill 1188 to restore under-producing agriculture lands in Western Washington did not pass the House and will likely not move forward.
- House Bill 1558 to extend a tax exemption for honey beekeepers passed the House unanimously and is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Senate bills coming to the House
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is now hearing Senate bills which passed the Senate. Here are just a few I'm watching:
- Senate Bill 5219 would require that when private land is sold to the state, the Department of Ecology must determine if water rights are valid, and if they are, the agency must make the land available to the next water right applicant in line. This would ensure we retain water resources for our local economies and would not have an impact on current appropriations. This bill had a hearing March 21 and is scheduled for a vote by the committee on Thursday, March 28.
- Senate Bill 5199 would allow Whatcom County farmers who have transitioned to more efficient irrigation technologies to have their water rights recognized by the state. This bill could help bring relief to berry farmers struggling to keep their existing water rights. The proposal had a hearing March 21 and is scheduled to be voted for a vote by the committee on Thursday, March 28.
- Senate Bill 5200 would allow a new exempt well to be consolidated into an existing public water system. This legislation received a public hearing March 21 and is scheduled for a vote by the committee on Thursday, March 28.
- Senate Bill 5054 would require the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and State Parks to submit a request to the Legislature and obtain its approval before buying public land. This will ensure the state has the resources and personnel to effectively manage additional land before making the purchase. The bill had a public hearing March 26.
Many people across Washington have been following how the state will address the rapidly growing wolf population that has threatened or harmed people, pets and livestock. Though the Legislature considered several proposals to address wolf management, most will likely not move forward. There is a lack of understanding by many in the Legislature of the very real and growing threat of wolves on private property. If the state does not adequately address this challenge, human-wolf encounters will increase. This is not simply a matter of natural resource management anymore, but also public safety.
Proposals that have been introduced would:
- allow people to defend their pets and livestock during a wolf attack on their private property;
- relocate some gray wolves to Western Washington where the habitat and land permits;
- re-classify the gray wolf as endangered only in areas recognized in the Federal Endangered Species Act; and,
- allow counties to declare an imminent threat to commercial livestock when a wolf pack is a serious threat and the Department of Fish and Wildlife has not taken sufficient action.
Though only one House bill passed the House (House Bill 1501 to set up a wolf interaction conflict account to reimburse people whose livestock is injured or killed by a wolf), the Senate passed several proposals the House is now considering. These bills have until April 3 to move forward in the House or they will likely be considered dead for the year:
- Senate Bill 5187 (companion House Bill 1191) would allow people to defend their pets and livestock during a wolf attack on their private property. This bill was supported by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and passed the Senate 25-23. It received a hearing in the House March 20. Read more about the hearing here.
- Senate Bill 5193 (companion House Bill 1219) would create a mechanism for livestock owners to be reimbursed for livestock injured or killed by a wolf. It passed the Senate 28-21 and had a hearing in the House March 20.
Yakima Basin Integrated Water Management Plan
Though House Bill 1414 to carry out the Yakima Basin integrated water management plan did not move forward, I fully expect the plan to be part of the final capital budget adopted by the Legislature. Current concerns rest with the immediate purchase of Teanaway timber land. I am committed to ensuring all parts of the agreed upon plan move forward concurrently. Without one part of the plan, the entire plan could be jeopardized, and the hard work of the interim working group might not move forward.
Agriculture in the news
- Hover brings ranching background to WSDA (Capital Press)
- Washington wolf bills under discussion (Capital Press)
- Legislators move bills on generating power from irrigation canals (Capital Press)
- The true cost of food? Ask an undocumented agricultural worker (Crosscut.com)
- Grower grateful for pesticide collection (Capital Press)
- State closes Seattle soy plant; dirty conditions cited (Seattle Times)
- OPINION: Initiative 522: a test of what you believe about genetically modified foods (Bruce Ramsey/The Seattle Times)
- EDITORIAL: Agreement is step forward on pollution in water wells (Yakima Herald-Republic)
As the Legislature moves into the final leg of the 105-day session, please stay in contact with me. I want to hear what you have to say and ensure we adequately discuss agriculture, water and natural resources issues for our state. Agriculture makes up 13 percent of Washington's economy, and it's one sector of our state that has remained steady during the economic downturn. We must ensure we help growers, ranchers, food processors and everyone involved in this cornerstone industry to thrive for generations to come.
Please feel free to contact my office anytime – my information is below.
State Representative Bruce Chandler
15th Legislative District
427B Legislative Building – P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7960 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000
###Washington State House Republican Communications