The recent changes in the “other” Washington have made trade and exports a very hot topic among ranchers, farmers and growers this winter.
With so much competition for our export commodities — especially wheat — we cannot afford to lose focus on the regulatory and infrastructure issues that have helped make Washington a global competitor.
Recently, I had the opportunity to learn more about a group that is working to enhance our trade-based economy. Keep Washington Competitive — known by the initials KWC — is a coalition of labor, business, agriculture and other trade organizations united to promote policies that support trade in Washington as well as protect trade from the negative impacts of overbearing regulations.
Now, normally, you don’t always see groups like labor and the business community in agreement with one another. It’s not uncommon for many of these groups to be on opposite sides of an issue. That’s what’s so compelling about KWC. They are steadfastly united around trade and what it means for our state, and are bringing diverse groups together to offer support to policy makers who seek to improve the regulatory climate in the state.
A lot of what KWC does is educate people about what it means to be a global trade and export leader. That means advocating for transportation — for ports and rail — as key to the infrastructure that is needed to move all kinds of commodities from your fields to ports far and wide. KWC members focus on policies — like how long it takes to permit a project — which directly impacts private investment in things like rail lines or export facilities.
I don’t need to remind you that Washington state is the most trade-dependent state in the nation. You know the key stats: one in four jobs is tied to trade. We export almost 90 percent of our wheat each year, and we’re the fifth biggest exporter of wheat in the nation. Trade matters, and it matters in every corner of our state.
Those of us in the agriculture industry live this reality every day. But those outside our world need reminders. That’s the value of KWC: They bring diverse groups together to help policymakers, elected officials, the media and, really, the general public, make the connection between the wheat you grow and the quality of life we all enjoy here in Washington.
That’s why groups like Keep Washington Competitive are so critical: They keep trade and the policies that affect it on the front-burner for policymakers in Olympia. By encouraging investment in Washington’s trade industries, KWC works to make sure we are positioned to thrive in the increasingly competitive national and international marketplace.
Trade and exports are a vital piece of our economy, an economy that must grow and thrive beyond just the Puget Sound region. It’s something we all share in, and need to do our best to support.
Check out Keep Washington Competitive online at www.keepwashingtoncompetitive.org and consider joining the coalition to help others understand what you already know: Trade matters for all of Washington state but perhaps to no industry more than us in the agriculture sector.
Nicole Berg is chairwoman of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers national committee and a farmer in Paterson, Wash.