July 19, 2024 3:31 pm

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Farm Bureau endorses Van De Wege for lands commissioner

Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-Lake Sutherland) has received the Washington State Farm Bureau’s endorsement for state lands commissioner.

Van De Wege’s selection from among numerous candidates is based on his knowledge of the state’s multifaceted natural resources and his longtime efforts in support of farm and ranch families, Farm Bureau officials said.

Van De Wege, who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, has served on natural resource committees in every one of his 18 years as an elected official in the Senate and House. Prior to winning election to the Senate in 2016, Van De Wege served five terms in the House.

“It means a lot to me to know the Farm Bureau values what I’ve done on behalf of farm families,” Van De Wege said. “I learned the importance of agriculture at an early age, not just in 4-H but in jobs on area dairy farms during my high school years. I know the critical role farms play in our economy and what they provide to households all over our state.”

Van De Wege spent his early professional years working at a dairy before becoming a volunteer firefighter and pursuing a career in firefighting. Along the way, he earned degrees in fire administration and fire investigation, certification as a paramedic, a BA in Social Science from Washington State University and an MA in Public Administration from Fort Hays University.

“You have to understand and deal with a wide range of issues in natural resources, and almost every one of them has a potential impact on farms,” Van De Wege said. “The devil is in the details, and the details in the laws we pass in Olympia can make or break a family’s ability to run and maintain a farm.”

In the past year alone, Van De Wege took action on multiple farm issues, including:

  • Prior to the 2024 legislative session, Van De Wege asked the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to collaborate with Farm Bureau staff on agency-request legislation to improve the state’s outdated process for mitigating damage to crops from deer and elk. Passed and signed into law, the legislation updates the limits on damage claims to reflect modern costs and prioritizes payouts according to percentage of loss compared to gross sales, ensuring that smaller farmers receive faster relief. The bill also funds a three-year pilot program to monitor elk and develop recommendations to prevent crop and property damage and, ultimately, reduce reliance on the damage program.
  • A bill heard by Van De Wege’s committee during session, SB 5972, proposed sweeping limits on the use of insecticides identified as harmful to populations of pollinators. Van De Wege solicited Farm Bureau staff to identify potential unintended consequences to crops and then amended the bill to exempt the use of the insecticides to licensed applications and the production of agricultural commodities. This version, which passed and was signed into law, improves environmental protections without disrupting crops critical to the farm community and the state economy.
  • More broadly, Van De Wege invited Farm Bureau staff to testify in a pre-session work session on critical issues facing the industry, including agriculture overtime and agriculture-exempt fuels under the Climate Commitment Act, providing background on issues expected to come up in the 2024 legislative session. 
  • To protect the agriculture industry from adverse impacts stemming from the use of erroneous or statistically unsound data, Van De Wege amended HB 2226 to require academic standards for employee survey data on the H-2A worker program and from certain hand harvesters.

In addition to the Farm Bureau, recent endorsements of Van De Wege were made last late week by the Washington State Council of Firefighters and Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane).

Other statewide organizations endorsing Van De Wege include: the Washington State Building Trades; the Washington Federation of State Employees; the Spokane Regional Labor Council; the Iron Workers Union; the Sheet Metal Workers Union; Bricklayers Local 1; IBEW 76; IUPAT District 5 Council.

Firefighting organizations that endorse Van De Wege include: the Washington State Council of Firefighters; Sunnyside (Local 3542); East Jefferson (Local 2032); Kennewick (Local 1296); Puget Sound / Kent (Local 1747); Bremerton (Local 437); Bellevue (Local 1604); South King County (Local 1828); Vancouver (Local 452); West Pierce (Local 1488); Spokane (Local 29); Renton (Local 864); Olympia (Local 1537); Gig Harbor (Local 2024); Key Peninsula Firefighters (Local 3152); East Side (Issaquah, Sammamish, Snoqualmie, North Bend) (Local 1762); Seattle Firefighters (Local 27); Marysville Firefighters (Local 3219).

Public leaders who endorse Van De Wege include: 21st District State Sen. Marko Liias; 28th District State Sen. T’wina Nobles; former 36th District Rep. and Port of Seattle Commissioner Gael Tarleton; former Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson; Grays Harbor County Commissioner Vicki Raines; Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias; Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson; Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki; Elma City Councilmember Mike Cooper; East Wenatchee City Councilmember Matthew Hepner.

SOURCE:  Committee to Elect Kevin Van De Wege

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