Our Voice: Mid-Columbia farmers help to grow state's economy

August 28, 2013 

Agriculture plays a big role in our community and state. Keeping that vision in front of our lawmakers (and others) is a good idea.

Even the majority of people who live in the Mid-Columbia don't fully realize all that goes on in the agricultural community.

For most of us the closest we get to the land is wandering through the sheep barn at the fair or strolling the aisles of area farmers market.

It makes us even more curious about how our westside neighbors might view us or what they know about the industry since we're the ones living in the heart of ag country.

As Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, pointed out to fellow legislators who toured a few of Pasco's ag sites last week, agriculture is the state's second-largest industry when it comes to dollars.

That makes it a major player in the state's economy.

Our Washington farmers are intimately involved with your family each time you raise your fork or glass. They are also contributing to your pocketbook.

Sometimes those connections are lost or hard to see.

Some of what you might see on an agricultural tour of the Mid-Columbia is how our farmers innovate and implement water conservation techniques; how they use GPS units in their combines for more efficient planting and harvesting; how a computer can recognize the difference between a weed and a plant and apply pesticide precisely where it is needed.

Plus hundreds of other fascinating and environmentally-friendly innovations.

On the tour, dairy farmer Case VanderMeulen told the group, "We are a lot better stewards of the land."

This is true. The farmer is the most vested party when it comes to protecting his or her land.

We hope that most of the people who are elected to make laws in our state have a strong background of what their area offers and needs. However, to work together for the good of the state, they need to have insight into other areas.

Washington is a big and diverse state.

And we suspect each area of the state has its own flavor to add to the recipe that makes up the menu we call home.

Our friends in Bellingham and Colville and Aberdeen and downtown Seattle surely can make similar claims.

Collectively, Washingtonians have oceanfront and deserts, ag and technology, whales and rattlesnakes, energy and centers of population using that energy.

The recent Pasco tour was made up of 10 legislators. We don't know how many were invited.

But Washington has 49 legislative districts and each district has one senator and two representatives.

We welcome a visit from the other 137 state lawmakers -- and the rest of the state. Come and see what the Mid-Columbia is all about.

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