Olympia Days are here again

Growers criss cross state capital to meet with legislators on both sides of the aisle

Members of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and several legislator-members posed for a picture during the wheat growers’ January trip to Olympia where they advocated for the Washington wheat industry.

What do you get when you mix more than two dozen wheat growers, nearly 50 meetings with legislators and sit downs with top state agency officials? A successful 2019 Olympia Days trip, of course.

Growers and Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ (WAWG) staff flooded the state capital Jan. 30-31 prepared to talk about the industry’s top issues including: 

  • Preserving the Snake River dams;
  • Protecting existing tax policy by retaining all food and farm-related tax incentives;
  • Preserving Washington’s economic competitiveness by not disadvantaging Washington farmers through low carbon fuel standard policies;
  • Increasing pesticide safety by supporting legislation that creates a pesticide application safety panel and increases funding for pesticide safety training;
  • Advocating for the soil health initiative;
  • Enhancing shortline rail infrastructure; and
  • Completing the Washington State University Global Animal Health Facility.

“We were able to bring our message to legislators from both sides of the aisle, increasing their awareness of the impacts legislation could have on our farmers’ livelihoods,” said Jeffrey Shawver, WAWG president. “Legislators appreciate hearing directly from the farmers and their constituents. These meetings give lawmakers the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the agricultural industry in our state.”

The trip would not be successful without the hard work of WAWG staff, who prepare the meeting materials and make sure growers know where they are supposed to go, and WAWG’s lobbyist, Diana Carlen, who makes the legislative appointments and briefs growers before the meetings.

Growers were also able to meet with top agency officials, including Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture; Hilary Franz, Washington State Department of Natural Resources commissioner; Ron Pate, director of rail, freight and ports at the Washington State Department of Transportation; and Robert Duff, senior policy advisor to Gov. Inslee.

The 2019 Washington Wheat Ambassadors Evan Henning and Lacey Miller participated in the trip to learn how WAWG advocates for the wheat industry and educates legislators. They were invited to lunch in the members-only cafeteria with Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville). Growers also held an evening reception for legislators and their aides.

“We appreciate the growers who were able to make the trip to Olympia to discuss the wheat industry’s concerns with legislators and agency officials,” said Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director. “Educating legislators, especially those from urban and west-side districts, is a critical part of WAWG’s mission, but we can’t do it without the participation of our growers.”

Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, listens to Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, talk about the work his department is doing.

Sen. Mark Schoesler (left) takes a minute out of his busy day to take photos with this year’s Washington Wheat Ambassadors, Lacey Miller from Ritzville and Evan Henning from Thornton, on the Senate floor.

It’s always a pleasure to visit House Speaker Frank Chopp (second from right). Also shown, from left, are Matt Doumit, Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ (WAWG) lobbyist; Kevin Klein, Washington Grain Commission commissioner; Chopp; and Ryan Poe, WAWG vice president.

(From left) Larry Cochran, a grower from Whitman County; Nicole Berg, a grower from Benton County; Robert Duff, senior policy advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee; and Jim Kent, a grower from Walla Walla County, discuss the Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ (WAWG) natural resource and environmental concerns. WAWG expressed support for the lower Snake River dams and urged the governor to consider the impact removing the dams would have.

Waiting for their next meeting are (from left) Ryan Poe, vice president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG); Mike Carstensen, Washington Grain Commission commissioner; Howard McDonald, WAWG secretary/treasurer; Mark Booker, Adams County; and Michelle Hennings, WAWG executive director.

Sen. Judy Warnick (left) has been a strong supporter of agriculture during her time in the legislature. Here, she meets with Michele Kiesz, Adams County, and Jeff Schibel, Lincoln County.

(From left) Washington State Department of Natural Resources commissioner, Hilary Franz, speaks with Nicole Berg, Benton County; Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ lobbyist, Diana Carlen; and Kevin Klein, Washington Grain Commission commissioner.

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