Muzzall bill to save farm internship program signed by governor

In a televised, private ceremony due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Inslee signed legislation sponsored by state Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor this past Friday. The new law revives a popular and effective farm internship program administered by the state Dept. of Labor and Industries that recently expired.

“Restarting this successful and innovative program is needed given the current state of farming, it’s one that will hopefully provide options in our current economic situation,” Muzzall said. “We know that the program can be a significant help to support smaller farming operations around the state. Keeping the program gives an opportunity for people to explore more career options and a chance for younger generations to be exposed to farming.”

Muzzall’s bill removes regulatory barriers to employ interns generally on small farms. Participants will receive training and other benefits, such as housing, while they may be starting their own farming operations under the pilot program. Begun in 2010, it’s been active in 20 of Washington’s 39 counties before it expired at the end of 2019.

“The future of family farming is at stake nationally and here in Washington. That is a big problem for us since agriculture is such a significant driver of our economy,” Muzzall said. “As a fourth-generation family farmer, I know firsthand that we have to get creative. This program will be extremely helpful to develop a sustainable workforce needed in agriculture.”

The law goes into effect immediately with a sunset date at the end of 2025. It requires a comprehensive report to the Legislature due the year prior to its expiration.