Washington Farm Bureau Anticipates Crop Losses Due to Governor's Partial Veto of Deer and Elk Damage Program


Tuesday, March 26, Governor Inslee vetoed section 6 of the SB 5784 to create an elk collaring pilot program with a data share agreement that farmers could access to track elk before they cross private property lines and cause damage to crops. The vetoed section was replaced with a cooperative agreement between Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Yakama Tribe. Additionally, SB 5784, increases overall funding for farmers who suffer damage from deer and elk, while capping individual claims for damaged crops at $30,000. 

The damage funds available to farmers has undergone a myriad of agreements and versions since its statutory inception in 1947. Currently, a farmer can apply for funds up to $10,000 in damages to their crop. In 2009, the legislature removed the cap on appeals allowing farmers to appeal a claim for full compensation of the damaged crop. Claims exceeding $10,000 were brought before an administrative law judge where claims often exceeded the $10,000 limitation.

Due to program insolvency, WDFW put forward agency request legislation to increase the damage account from $30,000 to $300,000 while also putting a limit on appeal awards. Over the duration of the legislative session, Washington Farm Bureau (WFB), tribal comanagers, WDFW, and the prime sponsor of the legislation, Senator Van De Wege, worked closely to recognize the constraints of the program, while also identifying pathways for farmers to mitigate crop damage and reduce reliance on the fund.

Senator Van De Wege remarked, “The Governor’s decision to veto the elk collaring pilot program is disappointing in light of the significant work that stakeholders invested to address the needs of farmers to protect their crops, while helping the state reduce preventable costs.

Farmers have limited options for fencing and non-lethal deterrent programs offered by WDFW. The deer and elk damage program provides a recourse for farmers to be paid if their crop health is invalidated by buyers and food safety inspectors from the effects of contamination by wildlife.   

“The Governor’s solution to section 6 of the bill is concerning as the cooperative agreement provides no assurances that farmers will receive data from the collaring pilot program,” said Caleb Gwerder, WFB’s Governmental Affairs Coordinator. “Without the data share agreement, farmers will continue to lose the battle against wildlife damages to crops.”

The data share agreement in the bill passed by the legislature was intended to provide farmers with tools to help prevent property damage. If farmers know when elk are approaching, they can deter the elk before crossing into farm fields, damaging fences and the crops that feed people across the state. Thus, supporting farmers and protecting WDFW’s deer and elk damage fund from perpetually growing into the future.

© 2024 Washington Farm Bureau · design : hemisphere