The farming community is encouraged to prepare now for the 2021 Washington legislative session which gets underway next month. Bre Elsey, Director of Government Relations for the Washington Farm Bureau, said there are several issues that should be of concern for the farming community; outside of the fact that the session will be conducted remotely.
One of the biggest court decision to hit the farming community this year came when the Washington state Supreme Court struck down the state’s overtime exemption for the Ag industry. And some justices proposed the idea of forcing dairy farmers that used the overtime exemption to pay three year back pay. Elsey is hopeful lawmakers will look to address the Ag overtime issue during the upcoming session. She noted the high court did not say lawmakers couldn’t address the existing law, but rather the current wording failed to justify the Ag exemption.
“So, we’re hoping the legislature will step in, if anything, to address that three years retroactive compensation issue. Farmers will really be penalized for completely following the law. That will have been their only crime.”
Another big issues farmers need to keep an eye on, carbon legislation.
“There’s low carbon fuel standard bills, there’s cap-and-trade bills,” Elsey pointed out. “And you would think in a year where employers and the general population are struggling so much, they wouldn’t attempt to pass these massive tax bills, but unfortunately the legislature can just be inherently tone deaf. And so I urge members to look in to carbon bills and to urge the legislature not to move forward with these. This is just not the time or the place.”
Elsey added unemployment and budget discussions will also have a big impact on the farming community in 2021 and well beyond.
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