The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) supports the viability and vitality of agriculture while protecting consumers, public health, and the environment. This includes providing fee-based services to the agriculture community, promoting Washington agricultural products, and ensuring regulations are observed.
A From the Heart of Washington Program was begun by WSDA in June 2002 and funded with one-time federal grant moneys. The purpose of the program and campaign was to increase demand for Washington agricultural products in state and to present an accurate picture of the value of agriculture as part of the state's economy and its role in sustaining rural communities. After federal funds were exhausted, WSDA was given the ability to establish a private, non-profit corporation under the Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act to continue the program. The program was formally dissolved in 2008.
The director of WSDA must establish an advisory committee of representatives from interested agriculture and food production organizations. The purpose of the committee is to identify the appropriate scope and nature of a voluntary location-based program to promote local food and agricultural products. The director is required to submit a report with recommendations for implementing and developing a program to the Legislature during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2024. The director may then adopt rules necessary to implement the program, but must consult with representatives of appropriate boards and commissions before creating criteria related to agricultural products under their jurisdiction.
WSDA and other agencies, boards, commissions, and associations may separately promote food and agricultural products.
Funds received for the program must be deposited into the Agricultural Local Fund. WSDA must actively seek nonstate funding sources to support program operation and may receive gifts, grants, or endowments.
The From the Heart of Washington Program is repealed.
PRO: A large percentage of the market is outside of Washington and the program would allow for better marketing outside of Washington. Washington has strong product reputation but there is no consistent way to identify Washington State products. This program is very important for expansion and is a great way to market Washington products specifically. Washington is one of only five states that does not have a state-wide policy like this and the program could help increase visibility and strengthen the state's food system.
PRO: This is the initial stage of figuring out branding for Washington State products. Washington's agricultural products are recognized globally for their quality, safety, and value, but in the absence of a state promotion program, there is no consistently recognizable way for people to identify and select products from Washington growers. Increasing visibility promotes viability and this bill helps producers better differentiate their products in various markets. There may be more resources needed to fund this program in the future.