Legisletter- 2020 Final Wrap Up

posted in: Legisletter, News | 0

Last week the final day of the 2020 legislative session was eclipsed by the growing concerns over the impacts of COVID-19, both here and abroad.

Speaking of concerns, many of the bills we fought to kill or change this year failed to pass but will likely return next January. The ability to kill bad legislation is getting more difficult each year due to the election of more liberal urban legislators and fewer people in the Capitol who understand the work that farmers do or the essential importance of maintaining and protecting the entire food supply chain.

However, a bright spot has been the quantity and quality of the testimony Farm Bureau members provided again this year on key legislation. We are very appreciative of those who traveled so far, even during bad weather, to testify. It’s yet another example that the true strength of the Farm Bureau is its members.

One of the final bills the Legislature approved before leaving Olympia was the supplemental budget. The budget bill is the largest, most important policy bill the Legislature approves each year.

Here’s a quick look at some of the items in the budget that impact agriculture broken out by state agencies:

Department of Ecology
  • A Water Banking Work Group is created to study the design and use of the state water trust laws, water banking and water transfers. The group will include a representative from the farming industry.
Conservation Commission
  • $332,000 for conservation districts to provide additional technical assistance to help landowners in “environmental stewardship and achieving agricultural sustainability.”
Department of Fish & Wildlife
  • $300,000 for elk fencing in Skagit County – mentions Concrete School District playfields specifically.
  • $462,000 for reducing pinnipeds (seals, sea lions) population on lower Columbia River.
  • Net Ecological Gain – directs WDFW to study and prepare a report for the Legislature on how to incorporate NEG into the state’s land use, development and environmental laws. Report must include analysis of what legal challenges and additional costs exist in any effort to incorporate NEG.
Department of Agriculture
  • $87,000 to evaluate pesticide investigation rules and processes, including how complaints should be reported and ensuring that complaints are properly referred. Much of the focus is on review of aerial application of herbicides in timber management.
  • No money was provided for additional commercial pesticide training which had been agreed to.
  • $320,000 for range riders in the NE corner of the state to help livestock producers who have been most impacted by wolves. The budget states the range riders are to conduct proactive deterrence activities to reduce the likelihood of cattle being injured or killed by wolves on federal grazing allotments. It also requires range riders contracted under this funding to use geo-referenced photo points and written descriptions to prove their work. The bottom line is the governor is pressuring WDFW to kill fewer wolves and use more non-lethal methods instead. If the department follows this course, the grazing allotments will become worthless to the producers.
Key Legislation Update

HB 1110would have created a statewide Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The Puget Sound Clear Air Agency’s analysis showed that this policy could increase gasoline prices by up to 57 cents per gallon and diesel up to 63 cents per gallon. What makes this bill worse is that there is no revenue benefit to the state associated with these price increases. Although this bill did not pass, this fight is far from over! The PSCAA board is in the middle of rulemaking to implement LCFS in a four-county area (Kitsap, King, Snohomish & Pierce). Continue to check your email for action alerts as we push back on the progression of this rule. Died in the Senate.

HB 2322allocates spending for the supplemental transportation budget. This $10.4 billion budget resumes work on transportation projects that were temporarily paused via order by the Governor last fall. Although there were no new taxes in this budget, expect a tax package to be introduced in next year’s biennial transportation budget. Passed.

HB 2498 would have required the Department of Natural Resources, for the first time, to compensate a lessee when the department triggers an early termination of a lease. This would allow the lessee to receive compensation for lost revenue and improvements made to the land leased for agricultural or grazing purposes. The bill died in the Senatebut broad support remains for the bill, so it is likely to be reintroduced next year.

HB 2947 was one of the bills designed to outlaw gun magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. It would have also created an unnecessary buy-back program through the WA State Patrol. The bill did not pass.

HB 2957was a response to the state Supreme Court’s case of Association of Washington Business v. Washington Department of Ecology where it was found that the agency did not have the authority to implement emission standards under the Clean Air Rule. This bill would have given Department of Ecology that authority, which likely would have meant the ability to implement a Low Carbon Fuel Standard via rule. Fortunately, this bill did not pass.

SB 5947creates the Sustainable Farms and Fields grant program operated through the Conservation Commission. The bill was rewritten this year to ensure it was completely voluntary and that no funds could be diverted from existing conservation grant programs. The bill passed the Legislature, and if funding is approved in the future, the voluntary grant program will provide grant funds for:

  • Annual payments to enrolled participants for successfully delivered carbon storage or reduction
  • Up-front payments for contracted carbon storage
  • Down payments on equipment
  • Purchases of equipment
  • Purchases of seed, seedlings, spores, animal feed, and amendments
  • Services to landowners, such as the development of site-specific conservation plans to increase soil organic levels or to increase usage of precision agricultural practices, or design and implementation of best management practices to reduce livestock emissions

 

SB 6518, as passed out of the Senate, would have banned the use of chlorpyrifos for some crops and allowed limited use by others. This complicated approach was unworkable and not founded on good science. The bill was amended in the House to direct the Department of Agriculture to “adopt emergency rules that take effect by January 1, 2022, that include specific control measures for chlorpyrifos that are designed to reduce emissions sufficiently so the public is not subject to levels of exposure that may cause or contribute to significant adverse health effects.” The bill passed the Legislature

 

Support

 

Bill # Abbrev. Title Short Description Status Sponsor Priority
ESHB 1622 (SB 5675) Drought preparedness Concerning drought preparedness and response. Del to Gov Blake Medium
EHB 2811 (SB 6124) Environmental education Establishing a statewide environmental sustainability education program. Del to Gov Johnson Medium
EHB 2819 (SSB 6578) Pumped storage projects Designating pumped storage projects located in a county bordering the Columbia river utilizing statutorily authorized water rights to be projects of statewide significance. Del to Gov Mosbrucker Medium
2SSB 5947 (HB 2095) Sustainable farms and fields Establishing the sustainable farms and fields grant program. Del to Gov McCoy Medium
SSB 6306 Soil health initiative Creating the Washington soil health initiative. Del to Gov Liias High
ESB 6421 Farm internship program Extending the farm internship program. Del to Gov Muzzall Medium

Oppose

 

Bill # Abbrev. Title Short Description Status Sponsor Priority
HB 1841 (SB 5877) Crew size on certain trains Establishing minimum crew size on certain trains. Del to Gov Riccelli High
E2SHB 2311 (SB 6272) Greenhouse gas emissions Amending state greenhouse gas emission limits for consistency with the most recent assessment of climate change science. Del to Gov Slatter High
ESSB 5434 (HB 1530) Weapons in certain locations Restricting possession of weapons in certain locations. Del to Gov Wilson Medium
ESSB 6440 (HB 2689) Workers’ comp medical exam Concerning industrial insurance medical examinations. Del to Gov Stanford High