Dear friends and neighbors,
Some of the most important issues to our district get heard in the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks (AWNP) Committee, often simply called the “Ag committee”. Whether it’s maintaining our competitive advantage in agriculture, supporting our rural economy, ensuring there is enough water for fish, farming and human needs or figuring out which lands are working lands and which lands are special places for protection or recreation — we all care about these issues.
This session, I’ve been the prime sponsor of seven bills that made it to the Senate Ag committee and a couple of other bills that touch on these topics but travel through other committees. Some of these bills protect or enhance natural areas by paying farmers to create salmon habitat, fixing perverse incentives from the Endangered Species Act, or simplifying the process of removing derelict vessels.
I’ve also been working on bills that will help out small food producers, milk producers who want to lower their emissions in transportation and their on-farm emissions through manure management and methane reductions, and other producers who want to be part of our climate solutions with things like solar panels on barns or energy efficiency for our processors.
Additionally, I’ve got two bills involving agricultural commodity commissions. Commodity commissions are places where producers collaborate on efforts that benefit the entire industry—usually research and development, but also marketing and sales efforts. You might have eaten a Cosmic Crisp apple, developed by research supported by the apple commission, or followed a recipe from the red raspberry commission when you’re cooking or baking at home. Producers see the value of the commissions, which they pay for with assessments based on how much they produce. I’ve been working with the beef commission who would like to increase their assessment or “checkoff” because they see the high return on investment – as much as $12 in benefit to ranchers for every $1 we spend.
My other commission bill is to create a new one, a cannabis commission. Just as traditional agriculture industries benefit from a commission, so can cannabis growers benefit from coordinated research into issues like from how much nitrogen do different plants need, finding the safe and effective way to deal with pests, how to avoid odor and waste and be good environmental stewards, what lights work best where, and much more. Since there aren’t federal funds for this sort of research, the need for collaboration in the industry is even higher. The cannabis commission wouldn’t do marketing like some other commissions, due to the sensitive nature of their product, but it would help the industry come together on research projects that would help lift all boats in this market at a low cost. Washington State has the opportunity to lead the nation with a sustainable, safe, and efficient cannabis industry, and a cannabis commission generates the knowledge for them to do it.
Save the date for our 42nd LD town hall!
Next month, my seatmates and I will be holding a town hall meeting to discuss the legislative session, share the issues we’re working on, and hear from you about your thoughts, concerns, and questions. It’s an important chance for us to get feedback and I’m glad that Rep. Alicia Rule, Rep. Joe Timmons, and I will be doing this together. I wanted to share the information with you now the date is set so you can join us.
Saturday, March 18th, 2023, from 1 – 2 p.m.
Ferndale High School Auditorium
5830 Golden Eagle Dr.
Ferndale, WA 98248
I hope to see you there!
If you can’t attend our town hall, or you have thoughts or questions before then, you can always reach me at Sharon.Shewmake@leg.wa.gov. As always, thank you for reading!
Sen. Sharon Shewmake