Gluesenkamp Perez Introduces Bill to Strengthen Farmers’ Resilience to Extreme Weather and Improve Soil Health

Jan 31, 2024
Press
Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez holds a listening session with farmers and producers in Long Beach in June.

Yesterday, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), along with Reps. Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), introduced the Partnerships for Agricultural Climate Action (PACA) Act of 2024.

This bill would scale and replicate a bipartisan Washington state agriculture innovation program called the Sustainable Farms and Fields program which incentivizes voluntary conservation practices, serves farmers of all sizes with an emphasis on those historically underserved, enhances producer innovation and viability, and enables locally led emissions reductions.

Southwest Washington producers are facing challenges with worsening extreme weather that haven’t been faced as acutely by prior generations of farmers. At a time when the United States imports roughly 40 percent of its fresh fruits and vegetables, the PACA Act will help local producers have the tools they need to keep their farms operating for years to come.

Beyond scaling a successful state agriculture model, this bill allows local farmers to best utilize their land and implement regionally relevant agricultural practices. This allows potential practitioners, trusted partners, and state and Tribal governments to use their PACA grants at their discretion to support climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

“As small farmers across Southwest Washington face increasingly challenging growing conditions, there shouldn’t be high barriers to entry for improving climate resiliency and soil health,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “At a time when it’s difficult enough to keep a family farm afloat, the PACA Act would help producers protect their operations from extreme weather, stay competitive, and reduce emissions in ways that make sense for their bottom line.”

The PACA Act of 2024 will:

  • Establish a new subprogram under USDA’s existing Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) for local partners, States, and Tribes to improve and expedite resource access for producers who are reducing emissions, enhancing soil carbon storage, and improving resilience to extreme weather.
  • Enable local, State, and Tribal entities and partnerships to direct climate action in ways that are regionally relevant and appropriate for local agricultural operations.
  • Support first-time, low-income, and minority farmers by providing technical and financial assistance.
  • Ultimately, make it easier and more affordable for farmers and ranchers to implement climate-smart practices that are regionally relevant.

“Supporting our agricultural community remains a top priority of mine, especially as our farmers both confront emerging threats and contribute to addressing climate change,” said Rep. Schrier. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the PACA Act, which will scale up and replicate an existing bipartisan Washington state program to help growers here in my district and across the country voluntarily strengthen their climate resiliency, contribute to climate solutions, stay in business, and improve their bottom line.”

“The vast majority of farms in Washington state are operated by small farmers, who need support as they prioritize conservation and sustainability while remaining profitable,” said Rep. Strickland. “The Partnerships for Agricultural Climate Action Act prioritizes funding for climate-resilient innovative crops from low-income and minority farmers.”

“The Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) thanks Representative Schrier for her efforts to make adoption of climate-smart practices easier and more affordable for farmers and ranchers across the country and in Washington state,” said SCC Executive Director James Thompson. “The PACA Act of 2024 would provide federal resources to scale the voluntary and incentive-based model we know works in our state. SCC’s Sustainable Farm and Fields program is helping to mitigate climate change impacts by sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, helping to increase our resiliency to drought, floods, fire, and other environmental catastrophes. Adopting these climate-smart practices saves producers money and enhances their long-term viability.” 

“Successful conservation programs have always hinged on voluntary participation by farmers,” said Jeremy Visser, Northwest Dairy Association board member and dairy farmer. “That is the case with the Partnership for Agricultural Climate Action Act, just like its predecessor program, the Washington Sustainable Farms and Fields program.  Making it easier and more cost effective to implement climate-smart practices makes those practices more achievable, which is good for the environment and good for us as stewards of the land.” 

“The bill provides a path towards benefiting underserved farm families regarding needed resources for voluntary conservation practices,” said Matt Harris, Director of Governmental Affairs at the Washington State Potato Commission. “Farms, fish, and rural communities will benefit from this innovative bill.” 

The Partnerships for Agricultural Climate Action (PACA) Act of 2024 is supported by Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold, Washington State Potato Commission, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Washington State Conservation Commission, Washington State Farm Bureau, Carbon180, and Carbon Washington.

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