Rep. Brad Hawkins: Agriculture is the cornerstone of Washington’s economy
Traveling our 12th District, orchards and fields are found as far as the eye can see. Tourists often enjoy a stop at fruit stands along the highways to pick up fresh fruit on their way home or vacation in our area specifically to visit local vineyards and wineries. For those of us who live here, agriculture is not just an occasional occurrence, but a part of our everyday life and culture. Clearly, agriculture is an integral part our local economy.
While Western Washington often focuses on the aerospace and technology sectors, which indeed are important, agriculture remained one of our state’s strongest sectors throughout the recent recession. In fact, Washington’s agriculture accounts for 13 percent of the state’s economy and employs about 160,000 people. I definitely support airplanes and computer software, but I always try to remind folks in Olympia about the importance of agriculture to our state economy and some of the issues confronting our communities.
In order to be successful, ranchers, growers and producers face several challenges. First, growers and ranchers need access to adequate water and land to feed animals and grow crops. This is an obvious need, but one that sometimes is under-emphasized in Western Washington. Many groups are interested in the stewardship of our natural resources, but few can doubt that our farmers are the original conservationists. After all, it is in their best interest to take care of the land and water resources to protect their livelihood, grow crops for others to consume and leave sustainable land for future generations.
Fortunately, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is one of the most collaborative in the Legislature. The members who serve on the committee use sound judgment and take a balanced approach to passing legislation. Democrats and Republicans work well together to ensure wise decisions are made, and spend time getting to know the issues.
While I do not serve on this committee, I never miss an opportunity to advocate for agriculture when given the opportunity. During the Transportation Committee on which I serve, legislators were asked to share experiences about products from our districts that utilize our state transportation system. I invited representatives from Columbia Marketing International (CMI) from Wenatchee and officials from the Port of Quincy to share information about the increased popularity of the Cold Train, a refrigerated rail transport facility in Quincy. This facility helps ship our wonderful goods to various domestic markets.
More than 800 containers per month of Washington state fresh produce and frozen food are currently being shipped on the refrigerated Cold Train to the Midwest and East Coast. Of those, about half are the Washington apples of which we are so proud. The importance of rail ?in getting our goods to market in a safe and efficient way ? cannot be understated for our agriculture industry. It was an honor to help facilitate and help make this presentation before the full House Transportation Committee. We even provided committee members some fresh apples to they could fully appreciate and enjoy what our agricultural economy has to offer!
Sharing information is key to ensuring that agriculture remains strong now and for generations to come.
Rep. Brad Hawkins serves as a representative to the 12th Legislative District, which includes all of Chelan and Douglas counties as well as parts of Grant and Okanogan counties.
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