Rep. McEntire fears for the future of farming after public hearing on governor’s salmon bill

After two days of testimony on Gov. Jay Inslee's salmon habitat and recovery legislation, Rep. Joel McEntire left the hearing worried about the future of farming and timber harvesting in Washington.

The public hearing for the governor's House Bill 1838 was heard over two days in the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee due to the number of citizens, organizations and associations testifying on the governor's proposal.

“What I learned about this bill over the two days of testimony was frightening if you farm or own land that contains natural resources. Mandatory riparian buffers under the governor's plan would be devastating to farms, especially in regions with rivers, streams and tall trees,” said McEntire, R-Cathlamet. “I am concerned many farmers or those representing them, testified that none of them were contacted when this legislation was being drafted. Our agriculture industry feeds a lot of people in Washington and across the country. We also export a great deal of our products and the number of jobs tied to agriculture and natural resources is immense. Yet, farmers and the ag industry were not invited to the table to discuss the potential impacts or offer input or solutions.”

Equally concerning to McEntire was some of the testimony before the committee.

“I heard comments such as 'the forest industry has been dealing with the riparian regulations for decades. They have not been bankrupted by riparian regulations.' That may be the case with the logging industry, since those are multi-million dollar corporations and have the resources and dollars to adapt. What about small family farms and local economies in rural areas? We have seen the devastation environmental shackles have placed on our logging industry in the past. These types of policies have had a huge downstream financial cost other than those endured by the business itself,” added McEntire.

“I also heard testimony that basically besmirched the plight of our family farmers as they stand in the way of progress,” said McEntire.

Some of the testimony given Wednesday included:

“We must navigate the decisions that were made 20, 40 or even 80 years ago, and people do lose money when they have invested everything in what we later know to be harmful systems that must be dismantled. History is full of these painful, but necessary changes.”

McEntire fears farms may be sacrificed for salmon. “Are we to say it is alright for farms to go underwater provided we increase fish habitat? This legislation would sacrifice family farms and food sources to protect salmon,” said McEntire.

Under the legislation, buffers could be as wide as 250 feet in some areas. Landowners would have to pay up to 30% of the costs to plant trees to be in compliance with the riparian buffer zones. Property owners could be fined $10,000 a day if they don't comply with the planting of trees.

“There are many flaws with this legislation. Local governments are worried about unfunded mandates. There is concern about the rulemaking process by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and who is determining the best available science that is to be used,” said McEntire. “There are enough valid concerns that this bill should not be moved out of committee, and a fresh new look with all stakeholders at the table needs to happen before anything else. Our farms and ag industry are depending on it.”

The 60-day legislative session began Jan. 10 and will continue through March 10.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov