Kretz calls governor’s salmon bill a threat to agriculture, forestry, and food security

Legislation introduced in Olympia at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee poses an enormous threat to those involved in agriculture, says Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda.

House Bill 1838 received a public hearing recently in the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources (RDAN) Committee. It would mandate riparian buffers as wide as 250 feet in some areas for salmon habitat. Landowners would have to pay up to 30% of the cost of planting trees and other mitigation actions, and could be fined $10,000 per day for noncompliance.

After two days of public testimony, Kretz, who is a long-time member of the committee, said he feared for the future of farming in Washington state.

“This is one of the worst bills I've seen in my time serving in the state House of Representatives,” said Kretz, who is currently serving his 9th two-year term in the Legislature. “This proposal mandates riparian buffers that would devastate family farms, orchards, cattle and ranching operations, dairy farms, and even small forest landowners. It's an unrealistic expectation that places fish habitat above the needs and realities of the agriculture families that feed our state and nation. I've talked to several local farmers and ranchers who have looked at their own land and said this would put them out of business the day it becomes law.”

Kretz also expressed his frustration that little-to-no cooperation was attempted outside of the governor's office, calling it the 'ultimate silo bill.'

“This is not how you pass legislation in Olympia,” said Kretz. “The agriculture industry in our state feeds millions, employs thousands, and has long been on the cutting edge of true conservation. But no one outside the governor's office – no stakeholders – were really brought to the table to talk about these issues to come up with workable solutions. The bill was drafted in a silo of information representing one extreme idea – that salmon habitat is the most important piece of this puzzle and damn everyone else.”

Kretz doesn't know if the bill will move beyond the House committee during this short, 60-day remote session, but stressed he's working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to kill the bill. Instead, he'd like to bring a variety of interests and expertise together to find solutions that can make a difference without destroying agriculture families in the process.

“I think there are workable solutions to pretty much any problem as long as you can get the right people in the room and have honest, open debate,” said Kretz, who has worked across the aisle successfully in the past on forest fire prevention and forest health legislation. “I think the drafters of this bill focused on a few bad apples and then applied their version of a solution across the entire state. That's not the right approach. They're ignoring, whether purposefully or through ignorance, the good work that landowners have done over the last few decades to improve their land and help fish habitat. We need to bring all those efforts to the table, share them, and find ways to incentivize and encourage these actions over time, rather than put a gun to the head of the Ag industry.”

Kretz said he's heard from several tribes that no longer support the bill in its current form and said they could be a huge ally in finding solutions that work.

“We have worked with our local tribes on a number of issues, from accessing credit for small businesses to working on healthy forests, to responding to local wildfires,” said Kretz. “The agriculture industry and the tribes have a lot in common, in terms of the things that are important to them: sustainability, family legacies, feeding communities, and opportunities for economic freedom and food security. I can see our local tribes being part of the solution as we work to counter what the governor has put on the table.”

Kretz said concerned citizens can contact the chair of the RDAN committee, Rep. Mike Chapman, at (564) 888-2321, to request he kill the bill.

The 60-day remote 2022 legislative session began Jan. 10.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov