Warnick bill would grant new protections for state’s cattle industry

Sen. Judy Warnick’s legislation to have air-quality rules treat cattle feedlots the same as other agricultural operations was approved today by the state Senate.

Agricultural operations are exempt from state clean-air rules; Warnick’s Senate Bill 5196 would extend the exemption to feedlots while establishing a process and guidelines for addressing activities that may be detrimental to the environment.

“I think this is a good compromise bill which balances the rights of our cattle producers with environmental concerns, although I am disappointed with the final vote,” said Warnick, R-Moses Lake, who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Water, Trade and Economic Development Committee. “Other agricultural activities are exempt from these kinds of regulations, so this adjustment to state law makes sense. We are still ensuring best practices to keep our environment clean and providing a transparent process when a violation occurs. I wish we would have seen more bipartisan support for this common sense legislation.”

Cattle operations are still required to adhere to state Department of Ecology rules regarding dust control. The legislation would require that violations be clearly documented with evidence, setting a higher bar than current practice.

“In some areas of our state, raising cattle is a dusty business, but we know that impacts are temporary,” said Warnick. “If there are serious violations, then we want to deal with them, but this bill would provide for increased protections for our well-meaning cattle-industry partners.”

The bill was approved by a vote of 30-19 and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.