State’s ag fairs get big funding boost as McCune bill is signed into law

OLYMPIA – Funding for the state’s county, local and regional fairs will double as a result of a bill sponsored by Sen. McCune, R-Graham, signed into law Monday.

Senate Bill 5362 will increase the state’s annual allocation for agricultural fairs to $4 million a year by 2026. State funding for these 67 fairs has been capped at $2 million annually for more than 20 years.

McCune said the fairs are a point of community pride in every corner of the state. They provide a focal point for youth agricultural programs such as 4-H, and give 45,000 youths annually a chance to participate in livestock shows and other public displays and competitions.

“This really is an investment that pays the state back,” McCune said. “Many fairs would not be able to operate without state support. Yet the state collects more in sales tax than it lays out. Other economic impacts continue year-round, on everything from feed sales to veterinary services. Meanwhile, the fairs provide an important outlet for local businesses, and are a major source of revenue for non-profit organizations, everything from community service groups to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

“This new law doubles the state’s investment in fairs, allowing local boards to make needed investments and improvements. It will generate millions of dollars in tax collections, a win-win for all of us in this great state.”

The bill affects the 67 fairs supported by the state Fair Fund, which is administered by the state Department of Agriculture. State money is used to reimburse operating expenses, and is allocated to each fair according to a merit system based on attendance, youth participation and other factors.

In testimony on the bill, supporters noted that the youth agricultural programs teach children and teenagers about teamwork, leadership, public speaking, animal husbandry and healthy competition. Many who participate in the agricultural program go on to educational programs in science and engineering.

In signing the bill Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee said the fairs make an important contribution to the state, providing unique opportunities for youth, highlighting Washington’s high-value agricultural products, and promoting economic development statewide.