Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is often said that from apples to airplanes, our state has a diverse economy. With our rich farmland and ties to the aerospace industry, perhaps no region of the state exemplifies this diversity more than ours. As Dreamliner orders and other Boeing endeavors grab the headlines, what often goes under the radar is agriculture. For example, did you know there are more than 1,600 farms in Snohomish County and 1,200 farms in Skagit County? In these two counties, the combined market value of crops and livestock is $382 million, according to a 2007 Census of Agriculture by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To see information on all counties, click here.
When it comes to agriculture, our state has distinct advantages. Our talented farmers, rich soils, various climates and irrigation operations result in the production of 300 different commodities. We also have deep-water ports that enable our state to export these commodities all over the world – including lucrative Asian markets. In fact, more than $15 billion in food and agricultural products were exported through Washington ports in 2011 – the third largest total in the nation. It probably comes as no surprise that Washington is the nation's top producer of apples, but did you know we are also number one in sweet cherries, pears, red raspberries and hops? You can find a list of our state's top 10 commodities here. You can learn more about our state's national rankings in agriculture here.
The $46 billion food and agriculture industry also provides jobs. It employs approximately 160,000 people statewide and contributes 13 percent to our state's economy. The food processing industry alone employs more than 2,700 people in Snohomish and Skagit counties and generates more than $800 million in gross sales each year. To see similar data for all counties, click here.
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. The 2013 legislative sessions produced several pieces of legislation relating to agriculture and natural resources. The bills below were signed into law this year:
- House Bill 1075 allows a vessel to be designated for up to three Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery licenses as long as all licenses are owned by the same licensee. This is an increase from a previous designation of two.
- House Bill 1112 requires the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, before taking a significant agency action, to identify peer-reviewed literature, scientific literature and other sources reviewed and relied upon for the significant agency action.
- House Bill 1113 requires the state Department of Ecology, before taking a significant agency action within its Water Quality or Shorelands and Environmental Assistance programs, to identify peer-reviewed science, scientific literature and other sources relied upon for the significant agency action.
- House Bill 1200 addresses mislabeling of commercially-caught fish and shellfish by establishing a system for correctly identifying food for consumers.
- House Bill 1209 extends the license program for state Christmas tree growers and protects their harvests in the case of infestation.
- House Bill 1416 establishes numerous changes to provisions governing local improvement districts created by irrigation districts.
- House Bill 1146 requires certified water right examiners to furnish evidence of insurance or financial responsibility in a form acceptable to the state Department of Ecology.
- House Bill 1886 improves disease traceability by providing cost recovery to the state Department of Agriculture.
- Senate Bill 5078 modifies the property tax exemption for nonprofit fairs.
- Senate Bill 5139 streamlines and simplifies milk-sampling procedures for producers and processors.
- Senate Bill 5337 extends the contract harvesting limits on timber lands owned by the state Department of Natural Resources at their current levels through 2019.
- Senate Bill 5767 helps fill the gap of livestock traceability by providing identification of certain dairy cows (bull calves and free-martins less than 30 days old) and incentives for dairies to participate.
- The 2013-15 capital budget includes the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Management Plan – a critical blueprint for meeting the environmental, municipal and residential water needs for communities around the state. One of my colleagues, Rep. Bruce Chandler of Granger, sent out a news release on this plan that you can find here.
In your service,