Rep. Chris Corry’s bill was unanimously approved by the Senate this week. The measure seeks to provide compensation for ranchers and farmers whose land leases are terminated early by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“Along with DNR, several Washington state farmers and ranchers spent a considerable amount of time putting this solution together,” said Corry, R-Yakima. “I’m thankful all our hard work has produced a plan that balances the financial investments made by lessees, with the public’s interest in benefiting from these state-owned lands.”
The revenue generated from state trust lands provides funding for K-12 school construction and other projects throughout the state. According to state law, DNR can use a non-default termination to replace a lessee with a higher-revenue tenant. When the early termination of a land lease occurs, farmers and ranchers-who frequently invest thousands of dollars in the property-face tremendous financial uncertainty.
House Bill 1199 would provide some compensation for those losses, including infrastructure investments made on the land like fencing and other improvements. The measure would establish a formula for leases, along with other obligations, that would support both land lessees and state interests.
“Many farmers and ranchers rely on leased land, including DNR land, for a good portion of their income. It’s unsettling, to say the least, to know that at any time, that land could be pulled out from under you. I’m delighted to see these new financial protections are moving forward,” said Corry.
The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to end April 25.