State level sustainable ag bill in Washington addresses the 10% of nationwide carbon emissions from farms

Just days after its introduction, a Carbon Washington-backed bill promoting sustainable farming has accumulated a powerful and bipartisan list of sponsors in the Legislature. Senate Bill 5947, the Sustainable Farms and Fields Grants bill provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers that adopt changes in management practices that reduce fossil fuel inputs and increase the quantity of carbon stored on their land.

Introduced in both chambers with Democratic and Republican backing on Feb. 15, the bill now has 16 sponsors representing an equal number of legislators in each party.

With agriculture accounting for about 10% of nationwide carbon emissions, and with farmers on the front lines of climate related events like heat waves and droughts, it is critical to invest in sustainable farming practices. Carbon Washington, along with the American Farmland Trust and the Washington Association of Conservation districts, has made passage of this bill a top priority, conducting outreach and research to support the legislative process. Other organizations that support the bill include the American Farmland Trust, Tulalip Tribe, PCC Community Markets, WA Dairy Federation, Washington Forest Protection Association, Audubon Washington, and The Nature Conservancy.

“Carbon Washington remains committed to practical, effective, and bipartisan climate action,” said Greg Rock, board chair of the Carbon Washington policy committee, who worked with the legislative sponsors to draft the bill. “The strong bipartisan legislative interest in this bill shows that even in times of political polarization we can work together on smart, practical ways of addressing carbon emissions in our state.”

SB 5947 and its companion HB2095, take aim at the carbon emissions generated in our agricultural sector by creating a grant program to assist with adopting carbon reducing practices. The program is available to a wide range of farms, including row-crop, orchard, vineyard, ranch, dairy, and poultry operations, and would fund work in three areas:

  • Reducing carbon emissions generated throughout the farming process, storing more carbon in healthier soils, and integrating trees that store carbon into agricultural and ranch settings.
  • Adoption of on-farm, inputefficiency measures that reduce the quantities of fuel, electrical, fertilizer, pesticide, or water inputs per unit of agricultural output.
  • Adoption of regenerative agricultural practice like no-till, cover-cropping, manure, and biochar additions.

The bill received its first hearing earlier this week and is scheduled for executive session in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks at 1:30 PM on Thursday, February 21.