This summary is intended to be a more accessible listing of the 2022 bills that WACD supports and opposes, and a brief explanation of WACD’s reasons for each position. Note that WACD’s position on a bill may change due to new information or changes to the legislation.
Please refer to the longer 2022 Legislative Watch List for a tabular listing of bills that WACD is monitoring.
FOR – House Bill 1631 Supporting Washington’s food production system by providing technical assistance in support of improved voluntary environmental stewardship
WACD supports HB 1631 and recognizes the need to increase conservation districts’ ability to assist producers and landowners in increasing energy efficiency and providing information on local, state, and federal funding opportunities to implement practices that help reduce the carbon footprint. WACD signed in PRO on HB 1631.
FOR – House Bill 1652 Concerning conservation district elections
HB 1652 seeks to update the conservation district election system in Washington State. We support the modernization features of the legislation (four-year term of office, elections held every other year) and staying true to the locally-led concept. HB 1652 adopts the recommendations from the Joint Committee on Elections, a combined effort of the Washington State Conservation Commission and WACD. These recommendations can increase outreach while maintaining local flexibility, in recognition of the unique duties of these special purpose districts operating without taxing or regulatory authority. WACD testified PRO on HB 1652.
FOR – House Bill 1750 Authorizing an agricultural employer to select any 12 weeks in a calendar year as special circumstance weeks for labor demand, during which in each of the selected 12 weeks, the agricultural employer may employ agricultural employees for up to 50 hours before the requirement to pay overtime applies under RCW 49.46.130
WACD supports HB 1750 and other legislation that reinstates the historic agricultural work exemptions from certain overtime standards during periods of harvest. HB 1750 aligns with resolution 2021-13 as adopted by WACD members.
CONCERNS and TESTIFY – House Bill 1838 Protecting, restoring, and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery
WACD supports the goal of salmon recovery and believes it should not be achieved at the expense of the time-tested and effective voluntary conservation delivery system. Conservation districts exist to provide an incentive-based approach to natural resource conservation but voluntary approaches have been hindered by the absence of the necessary financial commitment to fully succeed in achieving the outcome of improved salmon habitat. Proposals like HB 1838 present an unbalanced solution that undercuts the voluntary approach to conservation. If voluntary conservation programs were adequately funded, we would not need this heavy-handed regulatory approach to salmon recovery. We seek to increase the state’s support for voluntary conservation programs like VSP, CREP, or EQIP as part of any salmon recovery proposal. Read WACD’s testimony on HB 1838. WACD testified OTHER on HB 1838.
CONCERNS – House Bill 1856 Adding counties to the voluntary stewardship program
WACD supports the Voluntary Stewardship Program but is concerned that adding more counties to the program could dilute funding available for current VSP counties unless new funds are added to the VSP.
FOR – House Bill 1891 Concerning a rangeland fire protection association pilot project
WACD supports HB 1891 and future legislation that authorizes and supports the creation of rangeland fire protection districts in Washington State to allow those on unprotected lands to have access to the training and equipment necessary for the detection, prevention, or suppression of wildfire. WACD signed in PRO on HB 1891.
AGAINST – House Bill 1910 Concerning conservation district elections
WACD opposes HB 1910 which would require all conservation district elections to be held under the provisions of RCW 29A general election law. The consensus positions of the Joint Committee on Elections are not reflected in HB 1910. WACD opposes reducing funds available for conservation implementation by funding RCW 29A elections. WACD signed in to testify CON on HB 1910.
FOR – House Bill 2051 Providing short-term disaster recovery financial assistance to agricultural producers
WACD supports assistance to agricultural producers who need help following a disater. HB 2051 directs the Conservation Commission to develop and implement a short-term disaster recovery financial assistance program for farmers and ranchers. Program funding must initially address physical damage or economic losses caused by flooding in Whatcom County during November 2021. WACD signed in PRO on HB 2051.
AGAINST – Senate Bill 5665 Protecting, restoring, and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery and Senate Bill 5727 Protecting, restoring, and maintaining habitat for salmon recovery
SB 5665 and SB 5727 are the same bills but were brought forward as request legislation from different parties. HB 1838 is the companion bill to SB 5727. WACD opposes HB 1838 for the reasons described above.
FOR – Senate Bill 5746 Concerning drought preparedness, response, and funding
WACD supports SB 5746 because it increases funding for drought response. The Department of Ecology is authorized to make loans or grants from emergency water supply funds when necessary to help alleviate drought conditions.
AGAINST – Senate Bill 5857 Concerning dedicating funding from the model toxics control accounts for pollution cleanup, water flow management, water supply, and aquatic resource protection
WACD opposes SB 5857 because it would cut about $1.1 million in funding for the Washington State Conservation Commission. Loss of those funds may impact service to Washington’s 45 conservation districts. WACD signed in CON on SB 5857.
FOR – Senate Bill 5882 Clarifying the existence of riparian stock watering rights
WACD supports HB 5882 and the need to clarify riparian stock watering rights. Removing the off-channel watering exemption would significantly impair the potential for voluntary water quality and riparian habitat protections. It jeopardizes livestock grazing operations which do not have previously documented water rights. WACD signed in PRO on SB 5882.
OPERATING BUDGET PRIORITY
Sustainable Farms and Fields (SFF)
Despite its creation by the Legislature in 2020, the SFF grant program has yet to be funded. Granting the necessary financial backing would help producers and landowners overcome the financial barriers to adopting more environmentally friendly practices. The urgency of this need comes from the economic disruptions caused by COVID-19 and acknowledgement that the natural resources sector is a vital component to reaching the state’s climate goals.
Conservation districts and other public entities would utilize the grant program to increase climate resiliency through increased local agricultural viability. Eligible farming practices would provide an economic benefit to the cooperator while simultaneously achieving environmental improvement. CDs would provide the necessary technical and financial assistance to willing cooperators to adopt site-specific practices.
Though not a budget priority in this session, the Washington Association of Conservation Districts continually advocates for support of:
Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)
Funding increases landowner participation rates in voluntary conservation programs. CTA ensures conservation districts have the capacity to provide support in the form of financial assistance, engineering project designs, assistance navigating permitting processes, and other services to empower landowners to conserve natural resources.
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
The CREP program leverages State funds to acquire federal Farm Bill dollars at a 1:3 ratio (every $1 in State funds is matched by $3 in Federal funds). This is a critical funding mechanism for restoring riparian buffers and enhancing salmonid habitat on private lands.