(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray voted to pass the bipartisan, compromise Farm Bill, which includes strong funding levels and provisions to support agricultural industries in Eastern and Central Washington. Among other agriculture programs important to Washington state, the Farm Bill includes:
- Increased funding for the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN), which supports the Clean Plant Center Northwest based at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser. The Clean Plant Center Northwest ensures nurseries can provide safe, virus-free plant materials to orchards, vineyards, and other growers. Studies have shown that the cost of continued research to improve detection and eradication of viruses is significantly less than the potential millions of dollars it would cost to eradicate a virus in an established vineyard, orchard or farm.
- Senator Murray was instrumental in creating the NCPN, which brings together scientists, researchers, nurseries and growers to support U.S. specialty crop production at WSU-Prosser and throughout the nation.
- This legislation consolidates the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Programs and increases annual funding to $62.5 million and $75 million beginning in 2018.
- $410 million for a one-year extension of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, a critical lifeline for rural counties throughout Washington state, which offsets property tax losses caused to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. The PILT program helps fund basic local services, including police, fire, and emergency response.
- As Agriculture Committee leaders negotiated the final legislation in January, Senator Murray joined a bipartisan group of Senators in urging committee leaders to include funding for the PILT program in the final legislation.
- Provisions to ensure the Washington agriculture industry remains competitive in the global marketplace through reauthorization of the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Program, and the technical assistance for specialty crops program.
- Increased funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants, which benefit producers of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops
- Annual funding for these grants increases from $55 million in the 2008 Farm Bill to $72.5 million and $85 million beginning in 2018.
- Increased funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which funds key research projects for fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.
- Average annual funding increases from less than $50 million in the 2008 Farm Bill to $80 million per year.
“Washington state’s economy is driven by dozens of successful agriculture industries, and the Farm Bill we passed today doubles down on important investments in the farmers and growers who have made Washington’s agricultural products world famous.
“To be sure, this legislation is a compromise, and nobody got everything they wanted, but I’m proud that we were able to secure critical wins for Eastern and Central Washington’s agricultural industries. From the PILT program, which serves as a lifeline for rural counties, to funding for WSU’s Clean Plant Center Northwest and investments in specialty crops, this legislation will support Washington state’s economy for years to come.
“Despite the hard-fought victories for agriculture programs and industries, I’m very disappointed that this compromise makes harmful cuts to nutrition programs for low-income families in Washington state. Food assistance was there for my family when we needed it, and now is not the time to leave behind families and children who need help putting food on the table. That’s why I’ll continue working with my colleagues to strengthen the SNAP program that families across our country rely on.”
The compromise Farm Bill includes cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but restored billions in additional cuts included in the original House proposal. During negotiations Senator Murray urged House and Senate leaders to fully fund nutrition programs.
Other highlights for Washington state include:
- $200 million in mandatory funding to establish the SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) Pilot program, authored by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and modeled after Washington state’s successful E&T program. The program is designed to expand job-training programs for SNAP recipients, who have increased difficulty moving into good-paying jobs. Over three years, the program would establish E&T pilot programs in up to 10 states.
- None of the House-passed, draconian cuts to critical nutrition programs, including:
- Elimination of categorical eligibility, which would have kicked millions of low-income families off SNAP.
- Financial incentives for states to remove families from the SNAP rolls.
- Cutting off benefits for unemployed childless adults in areas of high-unemployment.
- Drug-testing all SNAP recipients.
- Barring people from SNAP for life if they are ever convicted of certain felonies.
- $10 million to create the Pulse School Pilot Program and authorize the Pulse Health Initiative. The Pulse School Pilot Program will support the purchase of pulse crops and pulse crop products as part of the school lunch and breakfast programs, while the Pulse Health Initiative will support expanded research into the health and nutritional benefits of pulse crops.
- $879 million in additional mandatory funding for alternative energy programs, which was not included in the House-passed Farm Bill, supporting programs such as the Rural Energy for American Program.
- Provisions to streamline conservation programs to make them work better for farmers and for administrators.
- Reauthorization of Stewardship Contracting, which allows timber contract revenues to be reinvested in local forest projects, such as hazardous fuel reduction and stream restoration.
- Expansion of crop insurance coverage to continue to provide a safety net for farmers, including a new shallow-loss crop insurance program, an extension of crop insurance to cover organic crops, and a new pilot program for weather-based crop insurance focused on underserved specialty crops and livestock.
- Individual farm option in the Agriculture Risk Coverage program, which helps Washington state commodity growers manage risk and was not included in the House-passed Farm Bill.
- Provisions to curb over-production of milk and milk price collapses. While the Farm Bill does not include the Dairy Market Stabilization Program, which was in the Senate-passed Farm Bill, this compromise will set separate insurance premiums for small and large farms and allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy up some excess milk supply, in order to combat price collapses due to over-production and provide support to dairy farmers.