Eye on the Prize
We have to keep our eye on the prize, which is enactment of SHB 1437 by the State Legislature and signing into law by Governor Inslee. The outcome is property tax fairness for small farmers in Washington State and healthy and vibrant communities on both sides of the Cascades. No kidding; the more we learn the more we come to understand that small farms are one of the building blocks of healthy communities.
Why do I say “eye on the prize?” Because getting a law changed is not easy, it has many steps and processes, and we can’t rest now. Each juncture requires input from advocates, supporters, well wishers, constituents, and friends of farms.
Action Needed Now
The next stage is for the Finance Committee to take up the measure in executive session. The crux is a 5pm deadline on Friday. We need the Committee to take action soon.
Simply email the Finance Committee members and request that SHB 1437 be exec’d as soon as possible.
Here are the email addresses:
Reuven.Carlyle@leg.wa.gov, Steve.Tharinger@leg.wa.gov, Terry.Nealey@leg.wa.gov,Ed.Orcutt@leg.wa.gov, Cary.Condotta@leg.wa.gov, Joe.Fitzgibbon@leg.wa.gov, Drew.Hansen@leg.wa.gov,Kristine.Lytton@leg.wa.gov, Gerry.Pollet@leg.wa.gov, Chris.Reykdal@leg.wa.gov, Larry.Springer@leg.wa.gov,Brandon.Vick@leg.wa.gov, JT.Wilcox@leg.wa.gov
Recap of the Hearing
A good hearing is a thing of beauty, and today’s hearing was lovely. Great testimony from small farmers, Commonground Farm, County Commissioner Sandra Romero, the State Grange, the Farm Bureau, the South of the Sound Farmland Trust, the Thurston County Agricultural Advisory Board, the Shellfish Growers, farming professors, and others. Signing in as supporting were the League of Women Voters, the State Conservation Commission, Calliope Farms, Lisa Smith, and the Washington State Realtors. This broad coalition is an indication that the proposal is reasonable, timely, and has the public’s interest in mind.
The Public’s Interest
The public’s interest is preserving farmland and farm productivity, while assuring that the favorable tax treatment results in real value to the public. To do that the current use program has eligibility criteria based on size of farm. The larger the farm, the less degree of risk to the public. The public is looking for two things – maintaining a farmland base and active farming. To establish commercial farming a farm under 20 acres has to prove income levels in order to participate in the program. This makes sense and SHB 1437 continues this principle and uses the same three-tiered approach for tax administration found in the program today. SHB 1437 is about the tax treatment of the land under the residence on a farm parcel. To address any issues with abuse the proposal includes an income threshold of $10,000 for very small farms who seek to get their homesite valued at current use. This is a bright line and underscores the public’s interest in assuring active farming by the homeowner.
Growth in Grass Roots Support!
We are hearing from farmers in Jefferson, Clallam, Lewis, Chelan, Spokane, Thurston, Grays Harbor, Wakiakum, King, Pierce, Skagit, San Juan, Mason, Kitsap, Pacific, Cowlitz, Whatcom, Snohomish, and elsewhere. Keep spreading the word. All politics is local and it would be great if every Representative and Senator could hear from a constituent about this issue.
Visualize a tomorrow that includes tax fairness for small farmers.