Senate Bill 6392 – Expanded farm internship program. In 2010, the Senate agriculture committee heard testimony that Washington is facing a crisis of aging farmers. The average age is 56, and 70 percent of farmland is expected to change hands in the next 20 years. To help bring young people into farming as a career, the Legislature established a farm internship pilot program for San Juan and Skagit counties in 2011. This on-the-job training opportunity is exempt from minimum wage requirements and unemployment insurance. L&I was directed to create a special industrial insurance risk class for farm interns. SB 6392 expands the farm internship pilot program to Whatcom, Kitsap, Pierce, Jefferson, Spokane, Yakima, Chelan, Grant, Kittitas, Lincoln, and Thurston counties. (Passed the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee on February 21).
The Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee held a hearing Thursday on Senate Bill 6397, a measure that would harm Washington’s agricultural community by restricting the use of pesticides. I am opposed to the legislation since our district has large agricultural regions.
I am greatly concerned about what this bill will do to Washington citizens and their businesses, from the rural farmer to homeowners taking care of their yards. Washington already has rules and agencies to regulate pesticides and to protect our workers. This legislation is an attack on Washington agriculture at a time farmers are asking for help.
The bill would:
- Prohibit applying pesticide that may drift within a half a mile of a child care facility, residence school or “any person outdoors or within the distance necessary to avoid pesticide drift, given the conditions;”
- Require written notice to individuals and employers within the buffer zone that the applicator, “can reasonably determine will likely be outdoors within the buffer zone at any time during the application of the pesticide.”
- If notice is given to employers, this bill requires them to provide copies to each employee in the appropriate language. Employers must also make sure employees remain outside the buffer zone or work in fully enclosed indoor work spaces while the pesticide is applied.
This measure would place arbitrary and onerous burdens on industry and non-industry employers and individuals with no history of non-compliance. It would also cost taxpayers millions. Some of my colleagues have even questioned whether the sponsors of this legislation know what it takes to spray pesticides and the effect this bill will have on the farming community and exports in the state.