Ericksen bill to assist berry farms in Whatcom County moves forward

BerriesA bill I brought forward to assist area farmers by ensuring their water-conservation efforts are recognized by the state Department of Ecology was approved by the state Senate and will now move to the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 5199 requires DOE to initiate a process to allow berry farmers with drip-irrigation systems to have their water rights recognized by the state. By limiting the process to counties that have at least 6,000 acres in raspberry production, the bill is narrowly tailored to effect only farmers in Whatcom County.

A similar bill to SB 5199, House Bill 1438, was introduced in the House by Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden. As Rep. Buys noted, our farmers have been struggling to maintain their existing water rights for more than 20 years and this bill can bring them relief.

In my mind, what makes Whatcom County truly special is its agricultural land-base and heritage. Recognizing the water-conservation efforts of our area’s berry farmers will preserve jobs and ensure our region continues to be a leader in agricultural production.

Henry Bierlink, Executive Director of Whatcom Farm Friends, also shared his support for the bill, saying that he appreciates this attempt to try and get the state’s water code in line with where agriculture is today.  He looks at this bill as a key piece in solving some of the problems related to water supply which challenge the existence of agriculture in Whatcom County. I couldn’t agree more.