Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The regular session concluded April 28, and a 30-day special session began May 13. While the operating and capital budgets are negotiated, most legislation addressing agriculture has been wrapped up.
- House Bill 1112, sponsored by Rep. Shelly Short, requires the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify the sources of information reviewed and relied upon before taking significant agency action. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed by the governor April 25.
- House Bill 1200 will address mislabeling of commercially caught fish and shellfish by establishing a system for correctly identifying food for consumers. This passed both chambers unanimously and is scheduled to be signed into law May 20.
- House Bill 1209, sponsored by Rep. Drew MacEwen, extends the license program for state Christmas tree growers and protects their harvests in the case of infestation. The governor signed the bill into law April 25.
- House Bill 1764, which I sponsored, increases the efficiency within our state geoduck industry by preserving resources and increasing safety in the diving community. The bill was signed by the governor May 10.
- House Bill 1886, which I sponsored, will improve disease traceability by providing cost recovery to the Department of Agriculture. It passed both the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law April 23.
- Senate Bill 5139 will streamline and simplify milk sampling procedures for producers and processors. It passed unanimously through the House and Senate, and was signed into law April 17.
- Senate Bill 5337 extends the contract harvesting limits on timber lands owned by the Department of Natural Resources at their current levels through 2019. It passed both chambers unanimously and was signed by the governor May 15.
- Senate Bill 5767 will help fill the gap of livestock traceability by providing identification of certain dairy cows (bull calves and free-martins less than 30 days old) and provide incentives for dairies to participate. It is scheduled to be signed by the governor May 20.
Fish and Wildlife Commission establishes emergency rule to address wolf threat
Though Senate Bill 5187 did not pass during the session, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission recently established an emergency rule to allow property owners to kill a wolf that is in the act of attacking livestock or a pet. After it appeared the bill would not move forward, a bipartisan group of lawmakers requested action by the Commission to protect livestock and pets.
The new Washington Administrative Code (WAC) rule can be read here, on page 3. It requires a property owner who kills a wolf in the act of killing livestock or a domestic animal to:
- report the incident within 24 hours;
- surrender the wolf carcass to the Department of Fish and Wildlife; and,
- provide access to the property where the wolf was killed so the case can be thoroughly investigated.
The emergency rule, which was adopted in a special meeting via conference call, lasts 120 days. Afterward, the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife has discretion to extend the rule. Public comment can be provided now, and a permanent rule will be considered later this year.
Capital budget negotiations affecting agriculture
The Yakima Basin Integrated Water Management Plan, comprised of seven elements that must move forward together, remains part of the ongoing capital budget negotiations. This is an important next step in meeting the municipal, environmental and residential water needs for future generations. I am optimistic that in the end we will be able to move forward with the plan and make a significant investment in the infrastructure needed. All parties, including the governor, recognize the importance of this plan to future water needs.
There has also been funding proposed in the capital budget to establish a more comprehensive animal disease traceability system. This will allow our state to be at the forefront of food safety, potentially preempting federal regulations.
I'll provide an update on the capital budget when the special session concludes.
Agriculture in the News:
- State Veterinarian urges owners to vaccinate horses against West Nile virus (Department of Agriculture)
- Western Washington growers build a grain economy (Capital Press)
- Irrigation district gears up for Odessa project (Capital Press)
- A growing need in record year for Washington apples (Yakima Herald Republic)
- Ag still the engine that drives the Valley's economy (Yakima Herald-Republic)
- Longtime state agriculture inspection chief to retire (Yakima Herald-Republic)
- Upcoming seminar: Immigration Reform: The Impact of Current Legislation on Washington Employers (Puget Sound Business Journal)
- EDITORIAL: Fruit industry needs to speak now about food safety changes (Yakima Herald-Republic)
Please feel free to contact me with questions, concerns or suggestions.