Shewmake legislation to help farmers facing climate change

BELLINGHAM – A bipartisan stakeholder group commissioned by State Representative Sharon Shewmake, D – Whatcom, released its final report making recommendations to the legislature of how they can best support farmers fighting climate change. Agricultural trade groups, climate advocates and state agencies met over the last eight months to produce the recommendations detailed in the report.

“Agriculture is one of the most climate-dependent sectors of our economy, so to fight back as our climate changes, our farmers need help such as technical assistance and voluntary cost-share programs,” said Rep. Shewmake, who serves as vice chair of the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources. “Farming is a hard business and farmers deserve recognition as stewards of our environment.  We need to make sure they have the right tools to do the right things for their farms, for our food, and for our future.”

The idea to ensure a good faith dialogue by funding the stakeholder group emerged from conversations between Shewmake and agricultural trade groups, including the Washington State Farm Bureau and the Washington State Dairy Federation, during the debate over the 2019 Sustainable Farms and Fields Act. The bill (HB 2095/SB 5947) was sponsored by a uniquely bipartisan group of eight Republicans and eight Democrats, but agricultural groups raised concerns and the lawmakers agreed to take a step back to allow for a more meaningful exchange.

“The farmers in Whatcom county provide local food and jobs,” said Jay Gordon, policy director for the Washington State Dairy Federation. “Behind the picturesque farm scenery is the hard work of generations of farmers to protect and conserve their land for future generations. This bill will help our farmers with their efforts to raise food, improve their lands and increase the sustainability of Whatcom county agriculture as well as farmers across the state.”

As part of the outreach process to compile the report, staff at the Washington State Conservation Commission surveyed farmers in 26 counties. They found that 82 percent already implement carbon sequestration or greenhouse gas emissions reducing measures on their farms, and that 90 percent would adopt additional practices if state grants became available.

“Our idea is that the state Legislature can come in and share the cost with farmers, if they ask us to,” said Rep. Shewmake. “I’m excited to take all of this feedback and research to craft a solution that will set Washington’s farmers up for success, now and into the future.”

Rep. Shewmake also serves on the House Transportation Committee and the Environment & Energy Committee.