Legislation to help farmers markets becomes law
'With local economies continuing to struggle, and with families trying to keep food on the table, farmers markets are playing a more vital role for both,' says Short
Legislation introduced during the 2010 legislative session to help farmers markets is now law in Washington state.
Substitute House Bill 2402, which was signed by the governor last week, will allow non-profit organizations and churches to retain their property tax exemptions when loaning or renting out their property to qualified farmers markets for up to 53 days per year, as opposed to the law's previous 15-day time limit.
Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, worked with Republican and Democrat colleagues on the proposal and helped guide the legislation through the process.
“With local economies continuing to struggle, and with families trying to keep food on the table, farmers markets are playing a more vital role for both,” Short said. “Farmers markets are becoming an important tool for local farmers to sell and market their produce. With the economic situation we're in now, and with the increasing competition from around the globe, local farmers markets play a critical role in helping our farmers survive.”
Short said the law's original time limit of 15 days per year made it difficult to expand farmers markets, which could end up hurting small growers and producers as well as families who purchase much of their fresh produce at these community events.
“By increasing the time limit that farmers markets can occupy the space owned by churches and nonprofit organizations, we're allowing local communities more options for taking care of each other during these tough times,” Short continued. “I know in my rural district, folks are getting creative and assisting each other as much as possible. Whether it's growing their own herb garden or making their own honey and jam, people are trying to find new ways to help put food on the table and to help their neighbors out.”
In its original form, SHB 2402 included property owned by nonprofit groups only. However, Short sponsored a bill, Substitute House Bill 2439, to give the increased time limit to church property as well. Her bill passed the House unanimously but stalled in the Senate. Short then worked with the prime sponsor of SHB 2402 to have her proposal amended onto the final bill that passed the Legislature and is now law.
“I want to thank Representative Scott White for working with me on this issue and seeing the value of adding church property to his original bill,” Short said. “There are certainly issues we don't agree on, but I think this is an excellent example of how a Democrat from Seattle and a Republican from the far Northeast corner of the state can work together to make things better for their constituents. I'm very pleased with the final legislation and know that both our communities and our families will benefit because of it.”
The 2010 session ended on March 11. The Legislature is now in the third week of a 30-day special session as Democrat budget writers try to finalize their budget and tax proposals, including their plan to close the state's $2.7 billion budget shortfall.
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