The Washington State House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that seeks to compensate ranchers and farmers for financial losses when their state-owned land leases are terminated early.

House Bill 1199, sponsored by Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, would require the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reimburse lessees when DNR exercises a non-default or early termination provision in a state-owned land lease.

“We’ve worked hard over the past couple of years to bring this bill together,” said Corry. “This legislation is a great example of what can happen when citizens, agencies―in this case, the Department of Natural Resources―and state government works together to find a solution.”

The Department of Natural Resources has an interest in leasing to land-tenants who produce high revenues. 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. But 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.

Corry’s bill would establish a compensation formula for agricultural and grazing leases, along with other obligations that would support both land lessees and state interests.

“In some cases, generations of farming or ranching families have worked these lands. This bill balances both their financial investments in the land with the interests of the state and its citizens who own the property being used,” said Corry.

The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to end April 25.