Legisletter – February 8, 2019

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Week Four
The fourth week of the 2019 legislative session is now behind us.
This means that we are a quarter of the way done.
Only 79 more days.
Bre Elsey, WFB GR staff, and Farm Bureau members
April Clayton and Burr Mosby in front of Senate Labor Committee
H-2A Bill Hearing in the Senate This Week
Yesterday morning the Senate held their public hearing on Senate Bill 5438 (HB 1398) regarding additional fees for the H-2A program. We are very grateful to April Clayton (Chelan-Douglas Farm Bureau) and Burr Mosby (King-Pierce Farm Bureau) for making the trip to Olympia to testify. To see their testimony, click here.
Having our farm families involved in this fight makes all the difference.
The representative from Columbia Legal Services called H-2A labor a “captive and compliant workforce,” while the activist from Community to Community Development called the H-2A program an “exploitative almost quasi slave labor program.” There were also references made to the death of a worker even though the farmer they were referring to was cleared of any wrongdoing after a thorough investigation by the Department of Labor and Industries. To hear the testimony of the labor activists, click here.
This the typical foul rhetoric we face on labor bills, and the volume by the labor activists has only increased now that the Democrats control both the House and Senate. However, the calm, reasonable testimony from our Farm Bureau members has really stood out the past two weeks in comparison to the shrill, unreasonable messages of the labor activists. Legislators from both parties have noted the stark contrast and we believe that is why the original bill won’t be voted on. We may see a substitute bill being offered, but it will contain none of the damaging components of the original bill. Stay tuned for further updates.
Thank you again to April and Burr for traveling to Olympia yesterday to provide legislators with real-life information regarding the importance of the H-2A program and the challenges of finding enough domestic workers to meet current and future farmworker needs.
Wolf Update
A wolf was shot by a ranch in Adams County this week. The WA Department of Fish & Wildlife has confirmed that a ranch employee checking on cattle killed a wolf in northeastern Adams County in a “caught-in-the-act” scenario. The ranch employee noticed cattle running, then saw three wolves chasing the cattle. When the employee yelled at the wolves, two retreated. The remaining wolf paused, then continued to pursue a cow. The ranch employee shot and killed the wolf from approximately 120 yards away.
Department staff were on scene within two hours and WDFW law enforcement performed an on-site investigation. Based on the preliminary findings, WDFW law enforcement indicated that the shooting was lawful and consistent with state regulations. In areas of Washington where wolves are not listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, WAC 220-440-080 states the owner of domestic animals (or an immediate family member, agent, or employee) may kill one gray wolf without a permit issued by the WDFW director if the wolf is attacking their domestic animals.
The incident occurred outside any known pack territories, and the wolf killed was an unmarked, adult female. The breeding status of the female is unknown. Farm Bureau members have told the department that these wolves have been seen in this area for nearly two years, something WDFW was not aware of. They could be considered an additional pack.
HPA update
The Senate heard its version of the legislation that would greatly expand WDFW’s HPA regulatory authority this week (SB 5580). As in the House, we pointed out the broad expansion of authority the bill would give the department, and requested legislators rein this in. Given this is a Governor-request bill that falls under the orca recovery banner, it will likely not be possible to kill the bill, but we will do all we can to improve the bill in order to protect farmers. We have also provided written comments to the prime sponsors in the House and Senate that highlight our concerns and the changes that are necessary to protect landowners.
Low Carbon Fuel Standard
Your Government Relations team joined with other like-minded business interests this week to discuss how to defeat legislation that would create a low carbon fuel standard in Washington. Similar legislation in California has done little to decrease carbon production, but has increased gas prices by 13 ½ cents. Unlike a gas tax, drivers would see no benefit from a low carbon fuel standard. And farmers would be faced with yet another cost increase in an essential farm input.
Next Week’s Hearing Schedule
Monday, Feb. 11
Labor & Commerce (Senate)
·        SB 5693 – Public Hearing – Creating transparency in agricultural supply chains. (Oppose/High)
Labor & Workplace Standards (House)
·        HB 1725 – Public Hearing – Implementing the recommendations of the pesticide application safety work group. (Support/Medium)
Tuesday, Feb. 12
Labor & Commerce (Senate)
·        SB 5438 – Exec Session – Concerning the H-2A temporary agricultural program. (Oppose/High)
Environment, Energy & Technology (Senate)
·        SB 5135 – Public Hearing – Preventing toxic pollution that affects public health or the environment. (Oppose/High)
Innovation, Technology & Economic Development (House)
·        HB 1498 – Exec Session – Expanding affordable, resilient broadband service to enable economic development, public safety, health care, and education in Washington’s communities. (Support/High)
Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources (House)
·        HB 1731 – Public Hearing – Continuing the work of the Washington food policy forum. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1733 – Public Hearing – Retaining productive farmland. (Support/Medium)
Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks (Senate)
·        SB 5352 – Public Hearing – Concerning the Walla Walla watershed management pilot program. (Support/Medium)
·        SJM 8005 – Public Hearing – Supporting the continued research, development, production, and application of biochar from our forests and agricultural lands. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation (Senate)
·        SB 5583 – Exec Session – Increasing access to fruits and vegetables for individuals with limited incomes. (Support/Medium)
Environment & Energy (House)
·        HB 1597 – Public Hearing – Incorporating comprehensive measurements of greenhouse gas emissions from certain fossil fuels into state environmental laws. (Oppose/Medium)
·        HB 1194 – Exec Session – Preventing toxic pollution that affects public health or the environment. (Concerns/Monitoring)
Labor & Workplace Standards (House)
·        HB 1725 – Exec Session – Implementing the recommendations of the pesticide application safety work group. (Support/Medium)
Ways & Means (Senate)
·        SSB 5259 – Public Hearing – Encouraging the success of agriculture on agricultural land. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5550 – Public Hearing – Implementing the recommendations of the pesticide application safety work group. (Neutral/Monitoring)
Wednesday, Feb. 13
Appropriations (House)
·        HB 1891 – Public Hearing – Concerning the use of career and technical education resources. (Support/Medium)
Thursday, Feb. 14
Environment & Energy (House)
·        HB 1824 – Public Hearing – Addressing the impacts of pinnipeds on populations of threatened southern resident orca prey. (Support/Medium)
·        HB 1194 – Exec Session – Preventing toxic pollution that affects public health or the environment. (Concerns/Monitoring)
Labor & Workplace Standards (House)
·        HB 1841 – Public Hearing – Establishing minimum crew size on certain trains. (Oppose/High)
Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks (Senate)
·        SB 5352 – Exec Session – Concerning the Walla Walla watershed management pilot program. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5525 – Public Hearing – Concerning whitetail deer population estimates. (Support/Medium)
·        SB 5620 – Public Hearing – Establishing a pilot project to test elk fencing. (Support/High)
·        SB 5552 – Public Hearing – Concerning the protection of native pollinators, including bees. (Hearing on the proposed substitute). (Neutral/Monitoring)
·        SB 5675 – Public Hearing – Concerning drought preparedness and response. (Concerns/High)
Friday, Feb. 15
Innovation, Technology & Economic Development (House)
·        HB 1498 – Exec Session – Expanding affordable, resilient broadband service to enable economic development, public safety, health care, and education in Washington’s communities. (Support/High)
Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources (House)
·        HB 1875 – Public Hearing – Concerning wildlife damage to agricultural crops. (Support/High)
·        HB 1516 – Exec Session – Establishing a department of fish and wildlife directed nonlethal program for the purpose of training dogs. (Support/High)
·        HB 1622 – Exec Session – Concerning drought preparedness and response. (Concerns/High)