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Issue Position: Agriculture

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Washington ranks 12th in the nation in terms of total agricultural cash receipts, but is second only to California in the diversity of crops grown (about 230 different ones).

Washington's highest dollar crop is apples. This state produces 57% of all the apples in the nation at a farm gate value of $1.75 billion.

Milk is the second most valuable agricultural commodity, followed by wheat, potatoes, and cattle and calves.

Washington leads the nation in the production of several crops: 92% of all raspberries are raised here,77% of all hops, 75% of the nation's supply of spearmint oil, 51% of sweet cherries, 46% of concord grapes, 46% of pears, 41% of all peppermint oil, and38% of all prunes and plums.

Other crops grown include: barley, alfalfa hay, corn, lentils, onions, wine grapes, apricots,peaches, canola, garbanzo beans, blueberries, aquaculture, forest products, and many varieties of vegetable seed.

Washington also produces oysters, mussels, clams, Geoduck, Salmon and trout.

We must protect agricultural resources to continue the tradition of growing and manufacturing in our state to ensure we have a stable economy for future generations.

An economic recovery depends on the success of agriculture in our state. It is one of the largest employers - with 160,000 jobs -- and contributes 12 percent of our state's economy. In 2008, almost $15 billion in agricultural products were exported from Washington throughout the rest of the country and internationally.

However, this vital part of our economy is constantly threatened by a lack of:

* available land and water,

* a stable workforce,

* future affordable energy, and

* capital and credit for operations.

From 2002 to 2007, there were 345,000 less acres of farms in Washington. Despite this, the average market value of products increased 27 percent in this same time period. Washington farmers are efficient at managing their resources and producing the very best products for our state and national economy.

In 2007, producers saw a 6-7 percent labor shortage, resulting in higher costs for harvest or manufacturing. Washington's abundant energy sources are being threatened and could result in higher costs for food and manufacturing businesses.

Access to long term capital and short-term credit for facilities, equipment and operations has been restricted with the economic downturn. This hampers new operations from being competitive and viable.

We must protect agricultural resources to continue the tradition of growing and manufacturing in our state to ensure we have a stable economy for future generations.

Solutions I support:

* Allow an application to the Department of Ecology for a change in a water right to be sufficient cause for non-use. Since every water right transfer requires DOE approval and the department, due to budget constraints has severely curtailed their staff for the processing of water right applications, we believe water rights must be protected from relinquishment while idling in DOE's change/transfer application line.

* Require courts and the department to "liberally construe" legitimate reasons for protecting a water right from relinquishment. The language proposed in this bill would especially be helpful anytime a water right comes before the department for a change/transfer or when an adjudication is initiated by a county court pertaining to a particular basin.

* Allow the continuance of a water right if the owner uses at least a portion of the water right for the established purpose of use. This would be a huge incentive for farmers and other water rights holders to conserve water and leave more in the stream for fish and habitat.

* Change the definition of "crop rotation" so both short and long-term changes in crops are included in considering a loss of a water right. If you're producing a high duty crop, and then you switch to a different crop to regenerate your soil or meet market demands, it is currently very difficult to switch back to a high duty crop since you've most likely lost your water right after five years of beneficial use.

All of these proposals would allow water rights holders to optimize their water rights and consequently allow more water to remain in stream for environmental and fish values.

Effectively managing water resources requires balancing supply and demand. During the winter and spring, we have the supply from the melting snow, but not the demand. During the summer, we have little supply and yet a high demand for crops and personal use. If we properly manage our water resources with efficient irrigation, water storage, and in our municipal water systems, we can ensure we have the water when it's needed and where it's needed. This flexibility would help farms and communities address challenges better with changing economies and climates.

"Our Government is in place to protect our rights and freedoms, not to protect us from them."~ Dan Griffey


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