Below are summaries and status reports (as of Feb. 21, 2017) of some livestock bills that we have been working on or closely following.
HB 2018 /SB 5750 – Concerning Livestock Inspection: The House and Senate versions are identical, and both passed out of policy committees last week. The bills are a compromise “first step” to balance income and expenses by increasing fees for brand inspection services. The brand program is 100 percent fee for service, and revenues have not kept pace with expenses. The Department of Agriculture originally asked for an increase to $42.50 per hour for inspector services. The industry suggested that a combination of efficiencies and some fee increases could close the gap and countered with a $27.50 per hour fee on inspection services, which is the amount in both bills. It is clear the WSDA brand program will need additional changes as the cost of a state employee to drive out and inspect cattle is growing prohibitively expensive. (Reminder: dairy farmers can use the electronic cattle transaction reporting system, which costs much less to use. To sign up, go here.)
SB 5793 – Assessments on Cattle: The bill increases the State Beef Commission check-off by $1.00 on cattle, except for calves with a green tag (bull calves and freemartins under 30 days old). This is the same bill as last year. Dairy farmers have expressed strong opposition to any increase on bull calves. The bill does not raise fees on green tagged calves. The bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee last week and is now in Senate Rules awaiting possible floor action.
SB 5196 – Cattle Feedlots, Odors and Dust: The bill would include cattle feedlots implementing best management practices within the statutory exemption for odor or fugitive dust caused by agricultural activity. The Cattle Feeders asked for this bill due to concerns that Ecology staff in the Spokane office were backing away from a long-standing air quality program the cattle feedlots have participated in. This bill would provide a statutory exemption for the 1996 Cattle Feeders air quality management program that has been operating under an “agreement” with Ecology. SB 5196 passed the Senate Ag Committee last week and now awaits possible floor action in the Senate Rules Committee.