Rep. Mary Dye: Fighting for our farmers’ survival
Too many Puget Sound lawmakers never look beyond their grocery stores to understand the struggle of our farmers to keep those stores supplied. It's why Sen. Mark Schoesler, Rep. Joe Schmick, and I work so hard in Olympia to advocate for our fellow farmers, educate those in power who have no clue about agriculture, and why we fight against policies potentially devastating to agriculture. We understand the importance of our state's agricultural industry, the jobs they provide in Washington, and the billions of dollars of economic impact to our state's economy. Moreover, we know that farming is not just an occupation. It's our culture, our identity, and our way of life.
It's an uphill battle against legislation like Gov. Jay Inslee's bill last year, which would have required farmers to create buffer zones up to 250 feet wide and plant trees along waterways that cross their property, and $10,000 a day fines for those who don't comply. We stopped it and worked this year on a bipartisan riparian bill with voluntary compliance and no penalties.
In the House Environment and Energy Committee, I'm trying to stop a ban against natural gas and the decommissioning of our natural gas system underground lines. Natural gas is used to produce nitrogen fertilizer. It is also used for all of manufacturing and industries, including food processing. A natural gas ban would be a major impact on farmers, as well as all of Washington's economy. Unfortunately, four bills are pending in the Legislature that would move our state closer to prohibiting the use of natural gas. These include House bills 1390, 1391, 1433 and 1589. I am strongly opposed to each of them.
We've been fighting against the 40-cent per gallon cap-and-trade premium in diesel fuel prices because of the governor's Climate Commitment Act. When that bill passed two years ago, we joined other Republicans to exempt those farm fuels. But when it went into effect on Jan. 1, the Department of Ecology refused to shield farm fuels from cap-and-trade costs. So, Rep. Schmick and I introduced House Bill 1780 to provide monthly refunds to farmers who could show they paid the additional fuel costs. Disappointingly, we couldn't get a hearing on the bill. But we continue to seek relief.
We stand firm to protect the farmer, even as the governor seeks to breach our Snake River dams and replace the lost hydropower with 700 thousand acres of wind and solar in Eastern Washington. That's nearly the size of the existing irrigated farmland in the Columbia Basin Project. This would significantly change land use from agriculture to industrial wind and solar sprawl to keep the lights on in Seattle.
I introduced House Bill 1123 to ensure you, your neighbors and local governments have a voice in siting such large-scale energy projects and deciding our landscape. When the bill didn't get a hearing, I worked to incorporate it through an amendment in the governor's House Bill 1216 to add meaningful local input and control over where these projects can be sited to protect our environment, economy, and culture.
Ultimately, I believe we can preserve our rural way of life. It's a matter of educating Puget Sound lawmakers, helping them to realize how they too would be affected if their policies harm Washington farmers, and encouraging them to broadly look beyond the grocery store, food banks, and subsidized school lunches to truly understand the source of their food. I'm grateful to be among our 9th District team as we work together for the survival of the Washington farmer.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, represents the 9th Legislative District and serves as ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee. She and her husband, Roger, are dry land wheat farmers.