Letter sent out by Save Family Farming Jan. 15

WHATCOM — On Jan. 15 the Save Family Farming organization sent a letter to committee members and caucus leaders as the 2019 Washington State Legislature opened in Olympia, along with a detailed paper outlining the precarious status of many family farms. It identified a number of issues — including labor, pesticides, energy costs, climate change, fish habitat and water access — that may be considered in this legislative session and could harm the future of farmers.

Rising costs, low prices and foreign imports weigh heavily on farmers, who ask that legislators  understand these and other impacts when considering new farm-related laws, Save Family Farming says.

“Our elected representatives are more and more elected by the growing urban populations and so getting farther away from farms and the critical issues we face,” said Larry Stap, of Lynden, president of Save Family Farming. “This letter is intended to encourage them to talk to us, learn about the realities of farming and consider the many negative consequences if they take action to cause the further loss of our family farms.”

The issue of labor is already on the table. The Washington Farm Bureau issued an alert on Jan. 18 that a bill will be considered that would “punish farmers” who use the guest worker program to help ease the severe shortage of farm workers. Save Family Farming says the federal H-2A program is very important to workers who depend on the pay they receive to support their families — pay that is 20 to 30 times more than what they can earn in foreign farm fields.

“We are rapidly losing out to foreign growers as our labor costs continue to rise far beyond theirs,” said Gerald Baron, executive director of Save Family Farming. “We just want our legislators to be aware of the harmful consequences of adding significant new burdens on our already stretched farmers. They need to see how unnecessary new costs and regulations harm workers and consumers as well as farmers.”

Pesticide legislation passed in the last session of the Legislature provides an example of why it is so important for legislators to talk to farmers and farm representatives. “They are not necessarily getting the straight facts from activists pushing this kind of legislation,” Baron said.

Another major issue that farmers pinpoint relates to aquatic habitat. The Orca Task Force and Gov. Jay Inslee have asked for $1.1 billion to help save the Southern Resident killer whales and the chinook salmon they feed on.

“We have many concerns about this plan and funding,” Baron said, pointing to a video and position paper Save Family Farming has developed that show current science does not support the direction proposed. “Some keep wanting to take more farmland for fish habitat, as they tried with the disastrous ‘What’s Upstream’ campaign,” Baron said, “but science shows habitat is not the critical issue. Farmers are already voluntarily doing perhaps more than anyone to protect and enhance habitat.”

The legislative appeal letter and detailed document are available on the Save Family Farming website at http://www.savefamilyfarming.org.

Save Family Farming was formed in early 2016 in response to the federally funded anti-farm lobbying campaign “What’s Upstream.” It addresses issues that affect the future of family farming in Washington state. Save Family Farming has as affiliates Whatcom Family Farmers, Skagit Family Farmers and the new Eastern Washington Family Farmers.