Rep. Dan Kristiansen’s ‘Legislation in Focus’ – House Bill 2493 and Senate Bill 5123: Helping agriculture contribute to Washington’s economy


May 27, 2014

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Legislation in Focus
House Bill 2493 and Senate Bill 5123: Helping agriculture contribute to Washington’s economy
By Rep. Dan Kristiansen
Special to the chambers of commerce

While the aerospace industry can lay claim to a significant portion of jobs in Washington, the state’s $49 billion agriculture and food industry is not far behind, employing more than 160,000 people and contributing more than 13 percent to Washington’s economy. The nearly 40,000 farms across Washington produced almost $10 billion in farm commodities, including apples, wheat, cattle, milk, potatoes, grapes, pears and dry edible beans. In our neck of the woods, there are more than 4,600 farms in combined total in King, Snohomish and Skagit counties, producing more than $500 million in crops and livestock. When you look at these figures, there is no denying that agriculture is an important cornerstone of Washington’s economy.

As your state representative, I am always looking for opportunities to improve our state’s economy, help retain existing jobs and create new ones. It is particularly satisfying if we can help our farmers so that they can continue to contribute to Washington’s economy. This year in the Legislature, I had the opportunity to support several bills to help agriculture, including House Bill 2493 and Senate Bill 5123.

House Bill 2493 is a measure that will allow nurseries to keep their farm and agricultural land-use classification whether they grow their crops in pots or in the ground. The bill addresses an emerging problem in which some counties are throwing nursery owners out of the farm and agricultural land-use classification because they grow some plants in pots rather than in the ground. Landowners who unexpectedly have their land-use classification changed are subject to a big tax increase. Imagine how this could affect these small businesses all across Washington if they were suddenly faced with huge tax bills! Nurseries are the eighth largest agricultural commodity in Washington. We passed this bill to protect these small business owners and the jobs they create.

Senate Bill 5123 extends a pilot program that allows farms with gross sales of less than $250,000 annually to create internship programs for future farmers. The average farmer is about 57 years old and many are reaching retirement age. We want to make sure younger people have an opportunity to enter this important industry and build on our state’s farming heritage. The measure allows farms in certain counties around the state, including King, Snohomish and Skagit, to employ up to three interns who are not enrolled in classes to work on those farms. Farms will be required to submit an application to the state Department of Labor and Industries and complete an agreement with the intern that includes a description of the work and any wages paid. This bill, which I supported and which passed the Legislature and was signed into law, is a small but important step to ensure that the legacy of small farms in Washington is passed on to future generations.

It is critical for state lawmakers to understand the importance of the food and agriculture industry and its economic impact on the whole state. And they must continue to advance policies that allow our state to capitalize on its advantages. Our Legislature has committees in both the House and Senate dedicated to agriculture. If you are a part of this industry, I invite you to learn more about these committees, become involved and provide your viewpoints on the issues and legislation that could affect agriculture. Go to the legislative website at: and click on the link on the left of the page that says “Legislative Committees.” You’ll find links to the agriculture committees in both the House and Senate.

As always, you can also contact my office any time with your questions, comments or suggestions about legislation, including agriculture-related bills. My phone number is (360) 786-7967. Or you can reach me through my website at:

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District.


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