West Coast Ag Stakeholders Readying for More Policy Battles

Ideas, whether good or bad, seem to flow from west to east. Thus here on the Short Rows, we like to keep an eye on what’s taking place on the west coast when it comes to initiatives impacting agriculture.

A couple of bills that would not have been ideal for agriculture in the state of Washington failed to make it through the last legislative session there.

Bre Elsey, Governmental Affairs Director at the Washington Farm Bureau, says one of them dealt with offering unemployment insurance for striking workers.

“This was labor’s number one priority this year, and they did not get it. This would have been incredibly expensive to offer unemployment insurance to striking workers.”

Elsey says the existing unemployment insurance system has been a good one for those workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

“Because we’ve had this fundamental principle in Washington state, our unemployment insurance account has been quite solvent, actually one of the best in the nation as far as not being susceptible to radical changes such as the COVID pandemic. Our system remained in very good standing.”

Washington only has to look to the south to realize what a bad idea this is.

“This program would be so expensive that it was passed in California and even Governor Newsom vetoed that legislation. So, it just goes to show you that there’s even a point where California thinks there’s bad policy that’s so bad even, they won’t pass it.”

Elsey says another bad idea involved unions and farmworkers.

“The Governmental Affairs team had heard that they were going to drop a unionization for farm workers, and we never actually saw that bill come to fruition and we don’t know why.”