Monthly Archives: February 2020

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    Senate budget adds $5 million to help rural exporters hurt by coronavirus

Senate budget adds $5 million to help rural exporters hurt by coronavirus

February 27th, 2020|

The operating budget passed today by the Senate would add $5 million in assistance for local businesses whose trade has been decimated by international reactions to the coronavirus pandemic, at the request of state lawmakers representing the 19th and 24th legislative districts.

Though the funds may be requested by a number of disrupted businesses, the urgent need for help was highlighted by the example of Cosmo Specialty Fibers, a Cosmopolis textile producer that does more than 97 percent of its business with companies in Asia. With ports there closed for fear of spreading coronavirus, and with much of the countries’ workforces under quarantine, businesses there are unable to accept products or operate plants that would use the products.

“This is a local business that has thrived despite disruptive tariff and trade wars, pays its employees strong wages, and has robust potential to expand, but it’s been thrown for a loop,” said Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview), who sponsored an amendment to increase the funding pot by $3 million. “They’ve done all the right things, but through no fault of their own they haven’t received a single order in more than seven weeks, and their vessels are stranded at sea loaded with products they cannot deliver.”

The assistance will come from the state’s strategic reserve account to promote economic development, which is funded by a third of all unclaimed lottery money. The account is allocated through the state’s 39 county associate development organizations.

“Local businesses like Cosmo are the lifeblood and future in rural communities in regions like ours,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), who cosponsored Takko’s amendment. “Cosmo is a very well-run company that makes environmentally friendly products and is considering a major expansion in the area of biofuel — but the stoppage of trade could mean the end of all of that.”

The operating budget had already provided $2 million for the account, much of which was already spoken for. Budget writers added $2 million in new funds on top of that, and the $3 million in Takko’s amendment means a total of $5 million in new funds.

Takko and Van De Wege and the four other area lawmakers in the Coastal Caucus plan to seek additional assistance, beyond the operating budget funds, and are in discussions with the governor’s office and the state Commerce Department to explore grants and low-interest loans.

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    Van De Wege bill would boost local wineries and other businesses

Van De Wege bill would boost local wineries and other businesses

February 12th, 2020|

Legislation passed today by the Senate would increase the ability of regional organizations to host events that promote local wineries and draw tourists to a wide variety of local businesses.

“Groups like the Olympic Peninsula Winery Association must pay numerous redundant and exorbitant fees to host a single event, complicating their important efforts to showcase our terrific local wineries,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim). “This bill creates a single license that eliminates duplicative fees and excess administration.”

The special occasion license currently required for each winery participating in a local event — at a cost of $60 per event, per day, per winery — can cost a winery association more than $2,400 in total licensing fees for a single event. Senate Bill 6392 would allow local wine industry associations to purchase a single, $700 license that will cover up to 12 events in a year — a considerable savings that should increase the ability of the state’s regional wine associations to host events that promote local wines and wineries.

“These changes would allow events like our upcoming Red, White and Chocolate Weekend to be even more successful, which is especially important to our wineries who need the sales and attention the most,” said Amy Harksell, executive director of the Olympic Peninsula Winery Association. “In addition, over 54% of attendees at our events last year were from out of the area, boosting our local restaurants, hotels and other industries reliant on tourist dollars to stay open.”

Don Corson of Camaraderie Cellars in Port Angeles underscored the need for the streamlined license.

“This outdated law simply had to be changed, not to just be fairer for our organization but to over 1,000 wineries across the state,” Corson said. “Sen. Van De Wege’s leadership on both sides of the Cascades and both sides of the aisle was welcomed and respected, and an excellent example of good government at work.”

Having passed unanimously, SB 6392 now goes to the House for consideration.

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    Van De Wege bill would align timber industry with state carbon goals

Van De Wege bill would align timber industry with state carbon goals

February 7th, 2020|

State agencies would recognize and support efforts by timber companies to reduce carbon emissions through reforestation, afforestation, timber harvesting, and the planting of forested buffers in riparian areas, under legislation passed Thursday by the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

“There’s a presumption out there that timber harvesting and environmental protection are mutually exclusive, but we’re learning that the opposite is true,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), who chairs the committee. “By aligning timber practices and cycles with the state’s carbon reduction goals, we can boost our rural economies and improve our environmental health at the same time.”

Van De Wege’s Senate Bill 6355 would create a Forest Carbon Reforestation and Afforestation Account to provide grants to landowners that advance the state’s carbon sequestration goals and would direct the state Department of Commerce to promote markets for the state’s forest products.

“This is a mutually beneficial partnership that can enable our private timber forest owners to stay competitive and thrive,” Van De Wege said. “Timber is a sustainable, renewable product that is superior to competing products that cause harm to the environment.”

Carbon sequestration is the process by which trees and other plants absorb carbon from the air through photosynthesis and store it in trunks, foliage and soils. Recent studies, such as one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate trees sequester the most carbon during their first 40 years of their lifespan.

“It’s time to recognize the importance of trees in sequestering carbon, and the critical role our forest products industry can play in reducing emissions,” said Mark Doumit, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association. “As we think long term, we can enable rural resource-based communities to prosper while helping meet our carbon reduction goals.”

“Washington’s forested and rural areas provide a steady, natural mechanism for offsetting the state’s overall carbon emissions,” said Jason Callahan, director of governmental relations for the Washington Forest Protection Association. “This bill recognizes the value of this role and provides appropriate support for it.”