(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray released the following statement as the Senate prepares to take up the House-passed Farm Bill negotiated earlier this week by bipartisan leaders from both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
“Building on momentum from the bipartisan budget deal I reached with Congressman Paul Ryan, the Farm Bill we’re now considering represents another critical compromise in which no one got everything they wanted, but colleagues from both sides of the aisle produced legislation that will help families, businesses, and our economy continue to grow.
“As a state whose economy is driven by thriving agriculture industries, Washington’s farmers, growers, and agricultural businesses gained significant wins in this five-year Farm Bill. It makes investments in jobs, provides meaningful support for our fruit and vegetable growers, and reforms many programs while continuing the safety net for farmers.
“This bill also addresses several economic issues of particular importance to Washington state by continuing support for specialty crops, rural development, conservation, and alternative energy programs, while investing in programs that ensure Washington’s agriculture industry remains competitive in the global marketplace.
“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. I’m encouraged that this bill includes increased assistance for food banks, community food projects, and Congresswoman DelBene’s important employment and training program, but I’ll continue working with my colleagues to strengthen the SNAP program that families across our country rely on.”
The compromise Farm Bill being considered by the Senate includes cuts to SNAP and other nutrition programs, 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.
Highlights for Washington state include:
- At least $5 million per year for the National Clean Plant Network, which 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.
- Investments in critical agriculture programs to support Washington’s growers, including:
- Up to $85 million per year for Specialty Crop Block Grants.
- $30 million per year for the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion program.
- Up to $75 million per year for Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Assistance Prevention.
- Up to $65 million annually for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
- $20 million a year for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.
- $20 million annually for the Beginning Farmers Rancher and Development Program.
- Expanded access to the Beginning Farmers Rancher and Development Program to encourage veterans to begin careers in agriculture.
- $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.
- $410 million for a one-year extension of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which helps counties throughout Washington state with significant federal inholdings fund basic local services including public safety.
- $10 million to create the Pulse School Pilot Program and authorize the Pulse Health Initiative, initiatives led by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). 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 willsupport expanded research into the health and nutritional benefits of pulse crops.
- 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.
- $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.
- 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.
- 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.