Olympia — Local organizations can help farmers secure their natural legacy for the next generation with help from a little-known grant program.
In early 2014, local organizations may apply on behalf of Washington farmers for the next round of grants through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
The grant program is administered by a state agency, the Recreation and Conservation Office. Since its inception in 1990, the WWRP has funded more than 1,100 projects statewide from parks and trails, wildlife habitat, water access, and working farms. Nonprofits like land trusts, local and state agencies, local governments and Native American tribes can apply for these grants.
“Our farmers are our true homeland security,” said Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center). “We must make every effort to assure that they continue to be productive. This grant system is one step in that direction.”
“The WWRP grant program is great news for farmers,” said Senator John Braun (R-Centralia). “Agriculture is an important industry in our state. I’m pleased to see these grants helping farming families hold on to their properties and pass them on to future generations.”
This year, more than a dozen farmers received grants for conservation easements protecting more than 6,500 acres of working land. These farms represent the richness and diversity of Washington’s agricultural identity, protecting everything from seed farms in the Skagit Valley, to grass-fed beef ranches in Spokane County and on the Olympic Peninsula.
“Saving our farms isn’t just about protecting local jobs, it ensures we can pass on our agricultural legacy,” said Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), “We have a moral obligation to ensure that we leave this earth a better place for our kids and grandkids”
“Agriculture is integral to our state’s identity and essential for ensuring all our families have access to affordable, fresh food,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, a nonprofit citizens group that advocates for the WWRP. “For many family farmers, WWRP grants allow them to keep their land in tact instead of having the soils ruined by subdivision and unrelated development. We all benefit when farming is affordable for the next generation.”
These grants support the $46 billion food and agriculture industry that employs approximately 160,000 people, according to the Washington Department of Agriculture.
Up to half of WWRP farmland preservation dollars may be used for restoration. The WWRP is the only source of state funding for farmland preservation.
Individuals interested in submitting a grant in 2014 should visit the RCO’s website: www.rco.wa.gov/grants/wwrp.shtml.
Updated December 4, 2013.