News you should care about

POLICY NEWS
Week ending February 25, 2022


The end is in sight on this short session. The major bill of concern is HB 1117 (salmon recovery/net ecological gains on public planning). This bill is scheduled to be taken up in the Senate Ways and Means committee next week. I have been told that this bill will die in committee due to its expense to communities and tribes, but crazier things have happened this year so we continue to follow this closely and advocate against it. Both the House and Senate budgets are out, and both include salmon recovery/riparian habitat program funding. Session ends March 10th.

WA Legislative Bill Roundup as of today:
HB 1099 (Improving the state's climate response ) - scheduled for Ways & Means public hearing Feb. 24
HB 1117 (salmon priority in planning) - scheduled for Ways & Means public hearing Feb. 26
SB 5882 (stockwater policy) - died in the Senate Rules Committee
HB 1856 (adding VSP counties) - died in the Senate Rules Committee
HB 1812 (expands energy site evaluation council to meet state's clean energy goals) - scheduled for Ways & Means public hearing Feb. 26
HB 2026 (implementing per mile charge on vehicles) - died in committee
HB 1837 (ergonomics included in L&I rules) - passed to Senate Rules committee

 

News

Washington bill treads familiar path to buffers (Capital Press)
SUMMARY: A Senate Democrat warned Thursday that a salmon recovery bill moving through the Legislature would repeat Gov. Jay Inslee's mistake of not consulting with farmers before proposing riparian buffers. House Bill 1117 calls for Inslee and tribes to develop riparian buffer standards for Western Washington cities and counties. Sen. Jesse Salomon, D-Shoreline, said the same process was fatal to Inslee's push to force buffers on farmland.

Washington farm groups gird for Round 2 of ergonomics fight (Capital Press)
SUMMARY: House Bill 1837 would repeal a 2003 voters initiative that banned the department from writing ergonomics rules. Voters were reacting to an L&I rule that required all employers to identify “caution zone jobs.” HB 1837 passed the House 50-48 on Feb. 14 after an eight-hour session, in which majority Democrats rejected an onslaught of Republican amendments. The Senate Labor Committee will have a hearing on the bill Feb. 23.

Republicans bash new House, Senate budgets over lack of tax cuts (CenterSquare)
SUMMARY: Republicans did not hide their disdain with the fact the Senate and House supplemental budgets unveiled by Democrats for the 2021-23 biennium contained no broad-based tax relief. Senate Republican leader John Braun and House Republican leader J.T. Wilcox issued a joint statement on the Senate and House supplemental budgets from Democrats. “The time for relief is now when we have a historic surplus,” they said. “State spending has nearly doubled since Gov. [Jay] Inslee took office, far outpacing average worker wage growth. It’s up 90% from 2011-13 to 2021-23 and it’s grown at a rate roughly four times that of inflation. When do taxpayers get relief from that level of government greed?”

 

OPINION: Governor is unaware of his broken relationship with Washington ag (WA Policy Ctr)
SUMMARY: It is not often Gov. Inslee directly addresses Washington’s agricultural community. Last week, Capital Press ran a cover story featuring our governor doing just that. The interview revealed how out of touch Gov. Inslee has become with the farmers and ranchers of our state and, yet, how certain he is of his own ability to maintain a relationship with that same community. When asked how he would “characterize his relationship” with the agricultural community, the governor responded, “Maybe it’s a little easier for me to do that than others, because I spent two decades in Selah, trying to set my little irrigation box to just the right amount of water to water my hay field, surrounded by orchardists and people in the ag industry. So I think it’s a little easier for me to have that relationship …”

 

OPINION: Senate and House budgets take differing approaches to salmon recovery (WA Policy Ctr)
SUMMARY: With billions in additional revenue, both budgets supplement salmon recovery with additional funding. This is something we’ve been calling for in each of the past several budgets. Setting aside the funding levels, it is worth considering how each budget spends the additional funds. The House’s proposal adds $50 million in funding for “a statewide, competitive riparian [streamside] habitat conservation grant program to protect and restore habitat with a focus on acquiring and restoring riparian habitat to fully functioning healthy conditions.” By way of comparison, the Senate’s proposed budget offers three big funding increases. It offers $50 million to restore the Duckabush estuary on the Olympic Peninsula. It adds another $50 million for “grants for projects valued at greater than $5,000,000 each that will benefit salmon recovery.”

 

OPINION: Transportation tax package is partisan and divisive (WA Policy Ctr)
SUMMARY: The 16-year, $16.8 billion Democrat transportation revenue package overspends on transit and rail, and underspends on maintenance and preservation. Further, the legislation was developed to the exclusion of Republicans – it is partisan, has no fiscal note, was not referred to Ways and Means, and does not contain a lot of detail in terms of how exactly money will be spent.

GENERAL AG NEWS

Fresh potato access to more of Mexico delayed (Capital Press)
SUMMARY: Unanticipated new requirements by the Mexican government will make U.S. fresh potato shippers’ wait longer to access the entire country, according to National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles. Mexico limits U.S. fresh potatoes to an area within 16.15 miles of the U.S. border. The Mexican Supreme Court on April 28 lifted the restriction.

Driver shortage frustrates trucking industry, agricultural producers (Capital Press)
SUMMARY: For years, the trucking industry has suffered a debilitating shortage of drivers. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, that shortage has mushroomed into a crisis. The American Trucking Association estimates the driver shortage peaked this year at 81,000 — up from 51,000 pre-pandemic. With fewer trucks on the road and port bottlenecks plaguing the supply chain, agricultural producers and exporters face spiraling transportation costs.

State Department of Agriculture makes plans to eradicate invasive Japanese beetles (MyNW)
SUMMARY: Asian giant hornets are not the only invasive species Washington state has to worry about. The state Department of Agriculture is unveiling a new plan to target Japanese beetles. The Japanese beetle is a type of invasive insect with no natural predators in Washington. Last year, about 24,000 beetles were caught in the Grandview area, between Yakima and the Tri-Cities, but WSDA’s assumption is that for every beetle caught, there were many others that went unnoticed.

Grad student wins fellowship to study buckwheat’s potential (WSU CAHNRS)
SUMMARY: In Washington state, buckwheat is often grown as a cover crop, not harvested or sold. Breslauer will investigate whether growers can turn buckwheat into a profitable crop thanks to a new USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture predoctoral fellowship. “We know cover crops are valuable,” she said. “The main question is, what varieties can perform well as cover crops and be productive as well?” To answer that question, Breslauer received the $120,000 NIFA Agriculture and Research Initiative fellowship, which includes professional development, research, and travel funding.