OLYMPIA – Representative Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland) released the following statement after passage of House Bill 1395, the Equity in Farming Act, out of the House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on a party-line vote.
“Washington is seen as a great agriculture state, and it is, but that industry is dominated by white farmers and ranchers. Only about 90 of the state’s 63,000 or so producers are Black, while fewer than 1 percent are American Indian or Alaska Native, 1.37 percent are Asian, and 4.66 percent are Latinx. 97 percent of our producers are white.
“This is not because farming and ranching is hard, though it is hard. It is because for years people that looked like me were denied opportunities to participate in the agricultural industry. Black farmers were routinely denied loans by the United States Department of Agriculture, had land taken away from them under heir property laws, and have been pushed out of the industry over the last hundred years.
“We can do something about that by passing my bill, the Equity in Farming Act. I thank my Democratic colleagues who voted to pass the bill out of committee yesterday. This bill asks the Washington State Department of Agriculture to increase diversity in farming and ranching for historically underrepresented groups and to include those that are already in the industry.
“Unfortunately, discrimination based on race and ethnic background exists in our society, and that includes our agricultural industry. This bill can be an opportunity to expand economic recovery in many parts of the state and give access to those desiring to create generational wealth through farming and ranching.
“It also is a great way for us to include youth and young adults in an industry that needs more farmers and producers. The next great generation of farmers and ranchers might be young people who don’t even realize that they could have a career in agriculture. This bill provides more than just opportunities for Black farmers, Washington’s agricultural industry also benefits when the industry has more diversity.
“I look forward to continuing this discussion and ask that my colleagues see equity in farming as a way to improve our agricultural industry.”