Bill Introduced in Washington State to Allow Small Farms to Legally Host Farm Interns and Apprentices (Action Item)

The Farm Internship Subcommittee of the San Juan County Agricultural Resources Committee sent this notification about a bill that has been introduced in the Washington State Senate: SB 6349:  Proposed state law on farm interns

Article by Chrys Ostrander, Director of Farming Programs, People for Environmental Action and Community Health

Proposal San Juan County's Agricultural Resources Committee (ARC) has proposed that the State Legislature alter state statures to allow internships on small family farms. Senator Kevin Ranker (with cosponsors Haugen, Holmquist, Hobbs, Becker, and Shin) have submitted SB 6349 which adheres to the purpose and spirit of the existing internship classification by requiring farmers to provide interns with vocational knowledge and skills. SB 6349 Basically, SB 6349 provides the following:  A new worker category, "farm intern," would be created, and they could be paid less than minimum wage. Farmers must submit a written application for certification, to be reviewed and accepted by L&I.  Only farms with gross sales less than $250,000 per year could employ farm interns, and the farm would be required to specify the nature of work and how it will provide the intern with vocational knowledge and skills.   To review the entire bill, and to track amendments and hearing dates, visit Action Needed A hearing on SB 6349 legislation will be held in Labor and Commerce Committee in Olympia on Tuesday, January 19, 2010. The time of the hearing will be specified at a later date.  Successful passage of SB 6349 will require broad based support, including testimony at the hearing, as well as calls to your legislators encouraging support. Background Small family farms are a vital part of Washington State's agriculture industry.  Effective training and mentoring of new farmers is critical in ensuring continued growth in the agricultural industry. Recent audits of small farm internship practices by Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) have raised a serious issue for the small farmers in our state. Washington State labor law does not recognize farm internships as a valid worker category unless the participants are matriculated at a recognized educational institution that accepts work as part of the educational experience. Moreover, L&I has noted that small farms should pay at least minimum wage for non-student interns and that room and board should be counted toward compensation, which contradicts the Federal tax code. As a result, the majority of small farms that use interns are likely not in compliance with L&I's requirements and would find it difficult if not impossible to comply. SB 6349 would alleviate the situation. For information about how to take action in support of the bill click 'Read More'

I know the Farm Internship Subcommittee of the San Juan County Agricultural Resources Committee has worked long and hard on this. I’ve read the bill and I feel like it is definitely worthy of your support.

At the bottom of this message are the members of the Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee (to which committee the bill has been sent for consideration) with their contact information. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be helpful to contact your state Senator if s/he is on the Senate Agriculture & Rural Economic Development Committee (click that link to find its members) and ask support for the bill or for co-sponsorship.

Chrys Ostrander, Director of Farming Programs,
People for Environmental Action and Community Health
“Our Fresh Future for Spokane”

Senate Labor, Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee Members

Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Olympia Office:
219 John A. Cherberg Building
PO Box 40436
Olympia, WA 98504-0436
(360) 786-7670
Fax: (360) 786-1999 District Office:
(206) 281-6854


Senator Karen Keiser

Olympia Office:
224 John A. Cherberg Building
PO Box 40433
Olympia, WA 98504-0433
(360) 786-7664
Fax: (360) 786-1999 District Office:
(206) 878-2748
Fax: (206) 878-2743


Senator Janéa Holmquist

Olympia Office:
106B Irv Newhouse Building
PO Box 40413
Olympia, WA 98504-0413
(360) 786-7624
District Office:
(509) 766-6585
Fax: (509) 766-6586


Senator Rosa Franklin
President Pro Tempore

Olympia Office:
312 Legislative Building
PO Box 40429
Olympia, WA 98504-0429
(360) 786-7656
Fax: (360) 786-7520


Senator Jim Honeyford

Olympia Office:
107 Irv Newhouse Building
PO Box 40415
Olympia, WA 98504-0415
(360) 786-7684
Fax: (360) 786-1999


Senator Curtis King

Olympia Office:
205 Irv Newhouse Building
PO Box 40414
Olympia, WA 98504-0414
(360) 786-7626


Senator Adam Kline

Olympia Office:
223 John A. Cherberg Building
PO Box 40437
Olympia, WA 98504-0437
(360) 786-7688
Fax: (360) 786-1999

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