OLYMPIA The Daily Sun
OLYMPIA – Two agricultural bills introduced by Sen. Jim Honeyford were signed into law Thursday, March 15, by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Senate Bill 6125 gives the state Department of Ecology six more years to enter voluntary water agreements for out-of-stream use in the Columbia Basin.
Senate Bill 6319 allows the state Department of Agriculture to implement the new federal Produce Safety Rule.
“I have always tried to look for solutions to problems that face our agricultural communities, small businesses and families,” the 15th Legislative District Republican from Sunnyside said. “I am pleased that both of these common-sense bills found broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and will soon become law.”
Both laws take effect June 7.
Current state law prevented Ecology from entering into out-of-stream water agreements after June 30, 2018, although existing agreements are permitted to remain in effect after that date. Honeyford’s bill extends Ecology’s agreement-making authority until June 30, 2024.
“Having the ability to make these regional agreements is a valuable tool for Ecology to use in managing the waters of the Columbia,” Honeyford said. “They will help provide water for new users and manage water availability during emergencies, including droughts. Although it is not used often, this authority should remain in Ecology’s toolbox and its potential explored longer.”
Senate Bill 6319 will allow the state Department of Agriculture to conduct compliance-verification activities, enforce regulatory compliance, and accept federal funding to help pay for both roles.
“Washington farmers face a host of new federal regulations and inspection regimes,” Honeyford said. “It can be hard for farmers – especially those with small family farms – to adjust to new and changing regulations.
“This new law will create a state program focused more on education than punishment. It will allow state inspectors, who know Washington agriculture and crops better than federal bureaucrats, to do the work, with funding provided by the federal Department of Agriculture.”
According to Honeyford, the changes are crucial to making sure Washington’s produce is cleared and shipped to market in a timely fashion that will prevent loss and waste tied to regulatory delays.