Warnick agritourism bill garners Legislature’s approval

Sen. Judy Warnick’s legislation to limit liability for ranchers and farmers engaged in agritourism activities cleared its final legislative hurdle Monday. Minor changes made to Senate Bill 5808 by the House of Representatives received near-unanimous approval from the Senate. The measure now goes to the governor to be signed.

“Agritourism, in the form of opening up farming operations to the public, represents an increasingly popular and viable revenue stream for our agricultural producers,” said Warnick, R-Moses Lake, chair of the Senate agriculture committee. “Farm work can be dangerous, and this bill clarifies liability when they open up their operations to the public to cut down their own Christmas trees, or pick their pumpkins for Halloween.”

Twenty other states have similar laws aimed at clarifying and limiting liability for agritourism. The industry provides millions of dollars to the local economies. Kittitas County, in Warnick’s district, is home to at least 15 such agritourism operations.

“Getting insurance for these kinds of activities can be unduly expensive,” said Warnick. “We need this clarification to help family farms be more economically viable, engage with broader audiences, and have some protections when they are acting responsibly.”