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.

CarbonWA board policy chair Greg Rock talks about prospects for the bill in the latest edition of CarbonCast.

The 18 people who gave public testimony in support of SB 5947 highlighted the importance of the agricultural community finding common ground to address climate change, which is already impacting farms in Washington State. They also highlighted the reasons why they believe the sustainable farms and fields bill takes a common-sense approach to supporting farming practices that are both good for climate and good for farm businesses:

“Our dairy farmers are being asked by their customers to offer low-carbon milk, and there’s some exciting technology to be able to work on that, and this bill holds innovative things like that.” — Jay Gordon, Washington Dairy Federation

“This represents the type of program that gets bipartisan reception.This is an incentive-based program that I think catalyzes innovation, innovation around best practices…and then best practices can be shared.” — Jake Steward, Sweetwater Farm

“Farming practices that are good for the climate have been good for my local farm business. The more we’ve built our soil and restored our intermixed native forest, we see less pests, less disease, and invasives. And produce more, better quality vegetables. And our customers are asking us more and more about our environmental sustainability efforts. We like how this bill is designed for diverse and innovative farm operations.” — Lisa Hasselman, Forest Garden Farm

“As a natural resources manager in Washington, we are already seeing the impact of climate change today. And our fisheries are particularly in danger… I believe this bill gives us a tool that not only allows for farmers to benefit from their actions but will also help increase water quality in our area and store carbon in our native soils.” — Margaret Homerding, shellfish farmer and natural resources manager

In addition to those who testified on Feb. 7, many others have voiced their support for SB 5947. Fourth-generation farmer Jason Bishop created this video describing the importance of the Sustainable Farms and Fields grant program to support healthy soils in eastern Washington. Along with 114 other farms, businesses, and organizations, Jason has signed on to a letter of support for the Sustainable Farms and Fields grant program. Many others have shared information about the bill with farmers in their communities or contacted their state legislators to voice their support for SB 5947.

All of this momentum is critical to not only to establish the Sustainable Farms and Fields grant program in 2020, but also to advocate for adequate funding to set the program up for success.

Carbon Washington and Audubon Washington, along with the Tilth Alliance and the Washington Young Farmers Coalition, has made passage of this bill a top priority, conducting outreach and research to support the legislative process.

Is your representative on the House Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources committee or a member of the Senate Ways and Means committee? If they are, give them a call! Tell them that you want to see them vote for the SB 5947 and ensure that it is funded in the budget. Find your district here.