(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today helped defeat a short-sighted amendment that would have stripped $74.5 million in agricultural disaster aid to fruit and vegetable producers. The measure, which Senator Murray fought against on the floor of the U.S. Senate, ultimately lost on a 37 to 61 vote.
“Specialty crop producers have been hurt by disaster all over this country. Whether from fires or drought, or from hail storms and wind - fruit and vegetable producers have faced major challenges. We need to make a commitment to help our growers in all 50 states by providing them the assistance they desperately need,” Murray said on the floor of the U.S. Senate today.
Senator Murray fought to include a $4 billion agriculture disaster provision in the Supplemental Appropriations bill when it came before her Committee. The provision was unanimously approved.
Today’s amendment – introduced by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on the floor of the U.S. Senate – would have cut the specialty crop funding out of the provision that Murray included in the overall disaster package.
“Along with 250 other fruits and vegetables produced in Washington state, the specialty crop industry represents a large segment of our agriculture economy which serves as the economic backbone of my state,” Murray said.
A full transcript of Senator Murray’s remarks in support of the disaster assistance follows:
“I oppose the Senator from Arizona’s effort to strike a portion of the agriculture disaster provision that will assist America’s fruit and vegetable producers. Our nation’s specialty crop producers are confronted with a number of challenges that threaten their viability and in some cases, their survival.
It is no secret that Washington state is a major specialty crop state. We rank number one in the nation in the production of a number of specialty crops including: apples, pears, sweet cherries, raspberries and Concord grapes to name just a few.
Along with 250 other fruits and vegetables produced in Washington state, the specialty crop industry represents a large segment of our agriculture economy which serves as the economic backbone of my state.
Unlike row crops -- crops like corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton – there is virtually no support by USDA for fruit and vegetable producers. Many do not even have access to crop insurance for their crops.
Specialty crop producers have been hurt by disaster all over this country. Whether from fires or drought, or from hail storms and wind - fruit and vegetable producers have faced major challenges during the previous two crop years.
These important industries are also being hit hard, and in some cases decimated, by the inflow of specialty crops grown overseas, a lack of access to labor, and pests and diseases. We need to make a commitment to help our growers in all 50 states by providing them the assistance they desperately need.
Many Americans do not realize that specialty crops represent 51 percent of all farm cash receipts in the U.S. - more than $41 billion in annual farm-gate value.
Although our fruit and vegetable industry is as large, if not larger, than the other commodities, they have access to relatively little of the overall ag disaster program.
The Section 32 grants to states to help Specialty crops will help fruit and vegetable producers survive these difficult conditions. Whether supporting research, promotion, marketing or other efforts, these funds will help keep fruit and vegetable farmers in business in every single state.
Voting for the McCain amendment is voting against funds that will come to your state to help your farmers stay viable. I think everyone here thinks that the US should produce as much domestic food product as it can, and the $74.5 million that is targeted by the McCain Amendment to help keep fruit and vegetable producers in business is a modest investment and commitment to keep our farmers in business.
I urge my colleagues to join in making a commitment that we will support our Specialty Crop farms and farm families, and with that, I urge that they vote against the McCain amendment.”