By CAMERON SHEPPARD
WNPA News Service
OLYMPIA — Farmers could be awarded grants for adopting and testing new sustainable farming techniques and practices after the state legislature passed Senate Bill 5947.
The bill, which awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s approval, would prompt the Department of Agriculture to establish a sustainable farms and fields grant program to incentivize and reimburse farmers for investing in new equipment and practices that conserve water, improve soil conditions and help absorb atmospheric carbon.
Under the new the bill, the state conservation commission would be in charge of the competitive grants and Washington State University would be a cooperative partner in the program, explained Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake.
Greg Rock, a policy expert with the environmental lobbying group Carbon Washington, had advocated for the bill.
According to Rock, water conservation, microbial soil health, crop carbon absorption and soil carbon absorption will all be priorities considered by the conservation commission when choosing who will be awarded the competitive grants.
Warnick said the conservation commission would still have to develop rules and specific priorities for the grant awarding process, but both small and large farming operations will be eligible.
“Farmers have already been doing these things,” Warnick said. “Farmers have always invested in sustainable farming techniques.”