Ag committee looks at Warnick bills that would protect farmland

Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, has introduced three pieces of legislation aimed at preserving and clarifying the use of agricultural lands in the context of the state’s shoreline-management and growth-management laws. All three received public hearings Tuesday before the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee.

“Agricultural land cannot be created. It can be developed but it’s hard to get it back,” Warnick told the committee, which she chairs. “I wanted to start a discussion about how land use affects our farmers and looking at options to preserve these vital lands.”

Under the Growth Management Act of 1990 and Shoreline Management Act of 1971, local jurisdictions are required to adopt master plans relating to land use and development. Although preservation of agricultural land is a goal of the GMA much land designated as agricultural land is subject to conflicting rules.

Warnick’s bills are:

  • Senate Bill 5168, which would clarify the definition of “agricultural land” and protect current and future agricultural use from wetland conversion, fish habitat creation or inundation.
  • Senate Bill 5169, which would focus on preventing the conversion of agricultural land to wetland or fish habitat or making it subject to tidal inundation.
  • Senate Bill 5170 – Clarifies the definition of “agricultural land” under the SMA and protects agricultural land.

“Conservation of our state’s natural resources is important and no one knows that more than our farmers,” Warnick said. “The GMA and SMA take into account the importance of preserving agricultural land but there are still challenges. We need a healthy debate on this issue but we also need to ensure a valuable resource like agricultural land is preserved.”