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$500,000 in Ag Pilot Projects Funded

PULLMAN, Wash. – Agricultural pilot projects will receive $500,000 in funding from the Washington State Legislature. The agriculture projects are designed to increase wider adoption of direct seeding in Spokane County, create farmland habitat for shorebirds in Skagit County, encourage wider adoption of environmentally friendly integrated pest management strategies, and to test the feasibility and repeatability of converting land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program into a vertically integrated grass-fed beef production system.

The William D. Ruckelshaus Center announced the funding February 11, 2008.

The pilots were selected by an Oversight Committee and approved by the Governor’s office for demonstrating dual goals: increased profitability to agriculture while providing environmental benefits. The Oversight Committee, appointed by Bill Ruckelshaus, the chair of the Ruckelshaus Center Advisory Board, is an independent body with representatives from the agricultural, environmental, tribal, local government, and scientific communities.

“When we started this project, I don’t think we had a real concept of how new and fresh the proposals would be, or how many would be submitted,” said Deborah Moore, committee chair and former Grant County commissioner. “I am happy to say that it was a very hard decision to pick only four pilots to fund.”

Mark Clark, executive director of the Washington State Conservation Commission, which administers the grants for the projects, said, “The selected pilots have enormous potential for the state of Washington. This is the type of innovation that embraces economic growth while protecting Washington’s precious natural resources. The Conservation Commission is excited to undertake such innovative projects with the partnership of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center.”

The direct-seeding project, led by Ty Meyer, Production Ag Manager, Spokane County Conservation District, will increase the adoption of direct seed operations through the use of a mentoring program, an on-farm demonstration of direct seeding and a side-by-side case study comparing direct seeding with conventionally tilled ground. Mentors will educate new direct-seed operators, and provide equipment and custom seeding as a first step in transitioning to direct seeding.

The Farming for Wildlife project will test the novel concept of creating habitat for shorebirds on farmland by implementing habitat rotations. Among other things, the project will examine the potential disease and pathogen control benefits associated with habitat rotations and flooded farm fields. This project is being directed by Kevin Morse, the manager of the Nature Conservancy’s Skagit Delta Project.

Jim Hazen, executive director of the Washington State Horticultural Association, is leading the Insect Pest Management (IPM) project which will change practices, attitudes and perceptions of IPM among farmers while maintaining acceptable crop protection, sustaining grower profitability, reducing pesticide exposure risks to farm laborers, and enhancing environmental health.

Don Nelson, Washington State University Extension beef specialist, will test the feasibility and repeatability of converting land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program into a vertically integrated grass-fed beef production system.

The William D. Ruckelshaus Center represents a joint effort by Washington State University and the University of Washington to act as a neutral resource for collaborative problem solving in the region. Center staff will continue to provide administrative oversight of the project and support for the Oversight Committee as well as oversee the monitoring and evaluation of each pilot project.

For more information about the Agricultural Pilots Project, go to http://ruckelshauscenter.wsu.edu/projects/app.html. For more information about the project, email agpilots@u.washington.edu or call (509) 335-2937.

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