The new grant program will fund carbon sequestration practices in the agricultural community aimed at combating climate change.
Seattle, Washington, March 19, 2020 – With broad, bipartisan support, last week, the Washington State legislature passed Sustainable Farms & Fields (SB 5947). This bill creates a voluntary grant program to support farmers in the implementation of practices that increase the quantity of carbon stored in the land through efficient carbon-reduction and sequestration practices. The bill’s passage marks a significant victory during a short session wherein legislators struggled to find consensus on other much-needed climate legislation.
Initially introduced to the legislature in 2019, Sustainable Farms & Fields is the product of more than twelve months of stakeholder engagement and policy revisions. It is a testament to the legislative process and the potential for greater bipartisan collaboration in ensuring Washington remains a leader in both climate action and agricultural production and innovation. The program has been seeded with $225,000 to create an organizational structure and develop metrics for project evaluation and the grant selection process.
“We are so grateful for all the hard work and collaboration that went into shaping this bill,” said Jessie Martin, the newly appointed executive director of Carbon Washington. “Passing the bill is a great first step, but there is much more work to do to make sure the program is a success and to support Washington farmers at the scale that is needed to see real climate impacts as well as benefits to their bottom lines.”
The bill was supported at its final public hearing by leading agricultural commodity groups, including theWashington branches of the Farm Bureau, Dairy Federation, Wheat Growers Association, Cattleman’s Association, and Potato Commission. The bill was also backed by a coalition of more than 100 farms, food system stakeholders, and environmental/conservation organizations from across the state. Carbon Washington is already working with these partners, as well as others, to expand the program and increase funding in the 2021 legislative budget.
By William Pennell and Doug Ray
Published in the Tri-City Herald on Feb. 16, 2020
Bill Pennell is a former director of the Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Research Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In addition to his research, he has served as a scientific advisor to the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Doug Ray is Chair, Board of Directors of Carbon Washington, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to net-zero carbon emissions in Washington State. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
It has been known for well over a century that human activities resulting in the emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and others) to the atmosphere have the potential for disrupting the Earth’s climate system. But until the latter part of the 20th century, such concerns were largely academic. The magnitude of the emissions and their contribution to the overall chemistry of the atmosphere were too small to be of consequence.
But by the 1970s and ‘80s, this situation was changing. Evidence began to accumulate that not only was the chemistry of the atmosphere being affected by human activities, but that the Earth’s climate was changing as well. (more…)
On Feb. 7, an exciting coalition of climate organizations, small farmers, and large farm organizations came together to testify in support of a revised version of the Sustainable Farms and Fields bill (SB 5947) in front of the House Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources committee. (Photo: A diverse panel advocating for SB 5947: the Farm Bureau, the Dairy Commission, CarbonWA, and the Nature Conservancy)
A partial list of the SB 5947 supporters:
|The Nature Conservancy||Tilth Alliance||Washington State Dairy Federation|
|Carbon Washington||Washington Young Farmer Coalition||Washington State Farm Bureau|
|Washington Farmer Veterans Coalition||Washington Association of Wheat Growers||Washington Cattleman’s Association|
|Taylor Shellfish||Wilcox Farms||And 115 farms and organizations who joined the letter of support|
In 2019, SB 5947 did not advance out of the House Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources committee in part due to concerns from several agricultural stakeholders. Throughout the summer and fall of 2019 Carbon Washington worked with partners to reach out to the farming community to improve the bill and build support for its passage in 2020.
Today, those outreach efforts paid off. At the Feb. 7 public hearing, 81 stakeholders supported the bill, while 0 opposed the bill.
Klickitat Canyon Winery in Lyle, Wash., is proving that respect for nature is good business — and that vintners can care about both grapes and meadowlarks.
The winery was founded 30 years ago by Dr. Robin Dobson, whose main job is working as an ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service. When Dobson decided to retire from winemaking, his son Kiva took over the business.
“I grew up doing this,” Kiva says. “I also studied natural resources and biology. When Dad said he was done with the winery, I said I’ll give it a shot.”
Klickitat Canyon Winery is almost directly across the Columbia from Hood River, Ore. It includes 7 acres of grapes, 7 acres used for other crops, and 20 acres of oak woodland, which they leave as natural habitat.
The winery produces about 500 cases of wine per year. Those include Organic Estate Syrah and Organic Meadowlark Gold, which the winery’s website describes as “a lively wine sourced from our Meadowlark Vineyard. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, and Viognier that creates grapefruit flavors with hints of wildflowers and earthiness on the nose.” Other varieties are made with grapes from nearby vineyards.
One reason Kiva took over the winery was his desire to continue Robin’s approach to farming — which the pair calls eco-dynamic agriculture. “By reintroducing the native wildflowers and bunch grasses between the rows and around the periphery,” he says, “we strive to increase biodiversity as much as possible. As a result, our vineyard has become a continuation of the surrounding environment, as opposed to an oasis for non-native and sometimes harmful pests. We think of it as a form of agricultural habitat restoration.” (more…)
Since 2015, when Carbon Washington became the first organization in the U.S. to put a carbon tax on a statewide ballot (I-732), it has been an active participant in state government, working closely with concerned citizens and elected officials to pass meaningful and pragmatic climate policies that work for as many people as possible.
Under the leadership of Kyle Murphy, Carbon Washington has been at the forefront of climate action in the state. With a dedicated team of volunteers and a highly engaged base across the state, Carbon Washington has organized legislative action and ballot measures that led the nation, developed insightful policy analysis, and supported climate candidates who won close races. All of this has been done with a commitment to making a meaningful difference while generating broad support across Washington.
After nearly five years of leadership with Carbon Washington, Kyle is stepping back to focus on his studies as a second-year student at the University of Washington School of Law. Continuing the organization’s mission of increasing demand for climate action and fighting for smart carbon policies, Carbon Washington is pleased to announce the appointment of Jessie Martin as the new executive director.
Jessie brings more than a decade of diverse, cross-functional, leadership experience in the corporate, public, and non-profit sectors. Most recently, she served as executive director of Earth Economics, where she developed strategies to harness the power of markets to redirect capital toward nature-based solutions to urban and rural challenges. (more…)
by Adam Maxwell and Douglas Ray, PhD
This article appeared in the Seattle Times on Jan. 13, 2020
During a short legislative session, conventional wisdom dictates that only a few small bills will pass into law, most likely on a partisan basis. Our organizations, however, choose not to accept conventional wisdom. As we have in previous legislative sessions, we will continue to work to pass several important climate bills this session while encouraging legislators — both Democrat and Republican — to support policies that protect people and birds from the worst effects of climate change.
Significant progress is possible. We know this because of our state’s tradition of transcending partisanship in the name of conservation. In 2020, elected officials can pass smart policies that reduce emissions in our state, while supporting rural economies.
So, back to that “conventional wisdom.”
Conventional wisdom No. 1: Don’t expect too much in a short legislative session.
While this might make sense in the normal course of things, we aren’t living in “normal times.” The impacts of the climate crisis are clear, here in our backyard and around the world. Audubon’s research shows that if we don’t cut emissions 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by midcentury, two-thirds of North American birds will be vulnerable to extinction. It’s not just the birds that are impacted. Drought, sea-level rise and climatic shifts threaten our whole economy and way of life.
Against this backdrop, we expect legislators to advance effective climate policy, every single year. (more…)
Agriculture produces about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But 80 miles east of Seattle, a small farm along the Yakima River is proving that agriculture can store carbon in the soil, instead — in a big way.
Spoon Full Farm is jointly run by four determined young farmers who are out to grow produce and meat in ways that maximize their taste and nutrition — while strengthening and enriching the soil with large quantities of carbon.
One of those farmers is Mericos Rhodes. He was studying philosophy at Williams College in Massachusetts when he attended a lecture by an innovative cattle rancher. “He was running around on stage yelling about soil microbes,” says Rhodes, “and describing how rotational grazing of bison built soil fertility and massive stores of carbon in the Midwest. This guy really loved his life. I wanted what he was having.”
A few years later, Rhodes’ mom and stepdad bought what is now Spoon Full Farm. “I’d been serving the Kool-Aid of carbon farming to them,” he says. “After they’d owned the land for about a year, a few friends of mine and I moved out there and started farming.” (more…)