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Vets look to sustainable farming for sustenance

Turning protectors into providers

The Sustainable Farms and Fields Program, SB 5947, is a grant-based program that would allow farmers to invest in efficient and effective practices designed to address climate change. Under the proposed bill, farms could customized the carbon reduction and sequestration practices appropriate to their business, their scale, and their priorities.

Veterans Ecological Trades Collective, 501c3, (VETC) is composed of veterans who are or aspire to become, agricultural producers across Washington State. Under SB 5947, both seasoned and beginning producers in the network would benefit from the investments made in their farm enterprises, helping ensure that operations overseen by VETS Cafe members are viable for decades to come.

The Sustainable Farms and Fields grant program:

  • will invest in farmers whose vision is to operate viable farms for the coming decades
  • support producers developing carbon sequestering solutions to participate and take leadership in Washington’s discussion about climate change
  • will provide resources and resiliency for both farmers and rural communities
  • is an investment in cost efficient and effective practices and approaches to address climate change
  • will provide resources to Washington’s conservation districts to support farmers implementing Sustainable Farms and Fields Practices

The Sustainable Farms and Fields bill was introduced in the Washington State legislature in 2019.

The bipartisan bill advanced to the House, but did not receive a full vote. Washington State Conservation District (WSCC) and Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) provided a budget provision to conduct a gap analysis and stakeholder engagement process. VETC became aware of the bill at this time, and is enthusiastic about several key improvements we expect to be incorporated into SB 5947 during this legislative session.

A diverse group of agricultural stakeholders identified these key improvements:

  • that funds allocated will not take away from resources for other agricultural conservation programs
  • that conservation districts receive funds to support farmers in adopting new practices
  • that the needs of marginalized and low-income farmers (such as our disabled veterans and beginning farmers) be especially considered

The WSCC survey conducted in late 2019 found that 90% of farmers surveyed would seek to adopt climate-friendly farming practices via the Sustainable Farms and Fields program. VETC membership supports SB 5947, and its potential to support our members’ farm enterprises in pursuing impactful carbon reduction and sequestration strategies.

Deston Dennison is an Army Veteran and Executive director of VETS CAFÉ. For more details about VETC’s approaches to carbon negative farming, contact vetscafeolywa@gmail.com.

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