COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD – RICHARD BYRD
OLYMPIA — Two laws sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, were recently signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The first piece of legislation, Senate Bill 5196, requires that air-quality rules apply to cattle feedlots, just as they do to any other agricultural operation. The bill also establishes a process and certain guidelines for activities that could have harmful effects on the environment.
“Other agricultural activities are exempt from these kinds of regulations, so this adjustment to state law makes sense,” Warnick said. “The state is still ensuring best practices to keep our environment clean and providing a transparent process when a violation occurs, but this compromise legislation balances the rights of our cattle producers with environmental concerns.”
Although cattle operations are still required to be in compliance with Department of Ecology regulations relating to dust, Warnick’s bill states that violations are required to be documented with evidence.
“We have cattle operations all around our state, and sometimes in arid areas cattle movements can be dusty,” Warnick stated. “We know that impacts are temporary, but this law clarifies what should be done when a serious violation occurs and how to deal with them. The new law creates a good balance and protections for our well meaning cattle industry partners.”
Warnick’s second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 5808, concerns the protection of agriculture tourism businesses from liability in cases of injury. The bill requires landowners to post warning signs in order to be eligible for limited liability privileges.
“The new law gives needed clarity to our ag producers when they open their operations to the public,” Warnick said. “Farms can now be better protected when they share the valuable work they do with their neighbors in a fun and safe environment.”
The bill puts Washington on a list with 20 other states that currently have similar laws in place to clarify and limit liability for agriculture tourism businesses, which pour millions of dollars into communities across the state.
“We needed this clarification to help family farms be more economically viable, engage with broader audiences, and have some protections when they are acting responsibly,” Warnick said.
Both laws go in effect July 22.
Richard Byrd can be reached via email at email@example.com.