Senate unanimously approves Torres’ first bill, to expand farm internship program

The state Senate yesterday unanimously approved Sen. Nikki Torres’ legislation to help support the next generation of Washington farmers by expanding the state’s farm internship program. Torres’ legislation is the first Republican bill passed by the Senate this session, and reflects the freshman senator’s concern for agriculture, which is a cornerstone of Washington’s economy.

“This is a great opportunity for those who want to learn how to farm or learn how to run a farm,” said Torres, R-Pasco, who represents the largely rural and agricultural 15th Legislative District, which includes parts of five central Washington counties. “This will be a big boom for those who want to work in the hop industry, given that more than 70 percent of the nation’s hops are grown in central Washington, specifically, the 15th District.

“This bill will help expand the farm intern program across the state and make it permanent, helping those would-be farmers who currently want to participate, but are ineligible because of the county in which they happen to live.”

Substitute Senate Bill 5156 would require the state Department of Labor and Industries to certify that the participating farms would allow interns to participate in career and technical education or other educational content with courses in agriculture. The bill would define a small farm as one with annual sales of less than $265,000, rather than less than $250,000, as it is currently.

Torres’ bill now moves to the House of Representatives for its consideration.