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SB-5947 Support

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Published on Feb 6, 2020

Hi, my name is Jason Bishop and I farm with my father on a 2,000 acre dryland wheat farm in Eastern Washington. As my father prepares for retirement, I am looking for steps to improve the long term health of our soil and minimize chemical inputs.

With only 14” of annual rain (most of that coming during the winter months), our productivity is limited by moisture. We need to protect every drop of moisture we get from runoff and evaporation. Water is so important that annually 1.8 million acres (1) in the Inland northwest wheat country will be fallowed - left uncovered, bare and stripped of both plant and root for an entire year. The short term purpose is intended to “save moisture” for the following crop. I ask myself – what if – instead of fallowing our soil, we use that moisture to grow a cover crop to protect the soil from the heat of the sun, wind and water erosion, use plants to put nitrogen in the soil instead of chemicals, and feed our starving soil biology? That is a simple tangible step towards increasing the carbon levels of our soil; And that, in turn, increases organic matter, humus, and tilth. Just a 1 percent increase in soil organic matter content can hold an additional 19,000 gallons of water per acre (2). Long term, we put carbon in the soil to build a water absorbing sponge. Turning our attention from the soil to the atmosphere - In one year, a cover crop grown on the inland northwest 1.8 million fallowed acres has the potential of offsetting 62 million gallons (3) of gasoline burned in our automobiles.

So, why don’t more farmers adopt practices that would put more carbon in the soil? The short answer is that commodity farmers today don’t get payed to put carbon in the soil. Commodity farmers are propped up to grow cheap food for the masses. If we sacrifice moisture to plant a cover crop, it is true, we may sequester carbon… but we sacrifice moisture (in the short term) which costs us productivity and that loss could mean the difference between being economically solvent and insolvent.

I see SB 5947 as an opportunity to help farmers make a positive long term soil health decision that puts excess carbon back where it came from. Help farmers steward our plants to reclaim carbon back from the atmosphere and return it to our soils.

----------------- Sources ------------------
(1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs9Pb...
(2) https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/...
(3) https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/...
https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse...

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