News Releases

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has secured nearly $4.7 million for Washington state agriculture priorities in the fiscal year 2004 Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill, which passed the full Senate 93-1 on Thursday night. This federal funding will support ongoing research for a broad range of agriculture sectors in the Northwest, including wheat, potatoes, barley, shellfish, wine grapes, organic foods, hops and small fruits.

The bill must now go to a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences with the House-passed spending bill.

“Increased funding for these research programs will lead to better products and to bigger markets for Washington agricultural products,” Senator Murray said. “We must do all we can to support industries which will provide jobs and economic growth to our rural communities.”

Protecting and Enhancing Washington’s Wine Industry - ($150,000) The Agriculture bill includes $150,000 to develop a clean “motherblock” for the Washington wine industry. As the industry grows, it needs a disease and virus-free “motherblock” of plant material. The industry has grown so rapidly that there are increasing concerns that farmers are planting grapevine that may contain viruses that could devastate the industry. The research dollars secured will help to build a new, clean rootstock for distribution to existing and new growers.

Senator Murray first secured $150,000 for this project in the fiscal year 2003 Appropriations bill. This added funding will bring total funding up to $300,000 for the industry to prevent contaminated rootstock.

Strengthening Organic Crops Research and Education - ($126,000) Washington state enjoys a rapidly growing organic foods industry, which is valued at more than $100 million. The Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources is developing a comprehensive organic farming research and education program. The Center’s plans include developing organic seed protection and production technology, determining the effect of production practices on nutritional content, and developing organic weed control methods. Senator Murray first secured $124,000 for this program in the fiscal year 2003 Appropriations bill. Total funding for organic cropping will now be $250,000.

Hops Genetic Research - ($250,000) Senator Murray secured $250,000 for research to develop new hop varieties that are resistant to disease. Economically sustainable hop production in the Pacific Northwest has been seriously threatened by recent outbreaks of powdery mildew, a fungal disease. Chemical control of the disease involves repeated application of fungicides, which can raise management costs by $600 per acre. There is a need to develop new methods to limit the impact of fungal and viral diseases on hop production. This funding will enable a plant pathologist to conduct genetic and biological research on powdery mildew and other fungal and viral diseases, and to develop management practices that reduce the occurrence and impact of these pathogens. There was no funding for this in the fiscal year 2003 bill.

Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research - ($250,000) The Agriculture bill includes $250,000 for the Northwest Center for Small Fruit Research, which conducts coordinated research for berry and grape growers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Breeding and genetics research have tremendous potential to enhance the productivity and profitability of the small fruits industry in the Pacific Northwest. The Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research is essential to the future viability of the industry due to its work on genetics research, plant breeding, pest management and product quality improvement methods. The Center recently celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Restoring ARS Programs Cut from the President’s Budget - ($3.908 million) President Bush’s proposed fiscal year 2004 budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed eliminating fifteen existing Agricultural Research Service (ARS) programs important to Washington state and the region. Most of these programs are currently ongoing in Prosser, Pullman or Wapato, Washington. Senator Murray successfully restored funding for the following programs: Potato Research Enhancement, Minor Use Pesticides, Virus Free Fruit Tree Cultivars, Viticulture, Root Diseases in Wheat and Barley, Grain Legume Plant Pathologist Position, Malignant Catarrhal Fever Virus, Microbial Genomics, National Germplasm Resources Program, Western Wheat Quality Lab, Temperate Fruit Flies, Hops Research, Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research, Shellfish Genetics and Barley Food Health Benefits.