Murray Secures Agriculture Research Funding in Omnibus Appropriations Measure

Jan 23 2004

Senator leads effort to pass Omnibus and save Washington state initiatives

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Yesterday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray successfully protected over $11 million for Washington state’s agriculture priorities in the fiscal year 2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

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.

Senator Murray joined with Democrats and Republicans to break a filibuster and approve the final appropriations measure for the fiscal year that began almost four months ago. The Omnibus now goes to the White House for the President’s certain approval.

“Like many, I had serious reservations about several provisions in the Omnibus Appropriations bill. The fight to overturn the attack on overtime and other issues is not over. But I know what’s at stake here, and it is time to move on,” Senator Murray said.

Senator Murray is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. The Omnibus Appropriations measure funds numerous Washington state agricultural initiatives championed by Senator Murray.

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

The following are some of the agricultural research projects that will be funded thanks to Senator Murray’s work:

Protecting and Enhancing Washington’s Wine Industry ($135,000)

This funding continues a project 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. Due to the industry’s growth there are concerns that farmers are planting grapevine that may contain viruses that could devastate the industry.

Senator Murray first secured $150,000 for this project in the fiscal year 2003 Appropriations bill.

Hops Genetic Research ($225,000)

This funding will support 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.

Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research ($225,000)

The Northwest Center for Small Fruit Research 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. This funding will continue the Center’s work on genetics research, plant breeding, pest management and product quality improvement methods, which are critical to the long-term viability of the industry. The Center recently celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Competitiveness of Agricultural Products (608,000)

This funding supports the International Marketing Program for Agricultural Commodities and Trade at Washington State University and the Center for International Trade in Forest Products at the University of Washington. These complementary programs apply science and technology to determine new export marketing opportunities; solve technical problems that impede exports; and, develop new products, processes, technologies, or strategies to increase exports. These programs receive matching state and private-sector funding for specific projects.

Asparagus Technology and Production ($250,000)

Washington State University and Michigan State University are investigating new methods for reducing labor costs in the asparagus industry. The industry’s labor costs, combined with federal anti-drug and trade policies that have promoted asparagus production in Latin America, have placed Washington’s asparagus industry at a competitive disadvantage. This project will help the industry reduce labor costs while shifting its workforce to value-added employment.

Strengthening Organic Crops Research and Education ($224,000)

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.

Restoring ARS Programs Cut from the President’s Budget ($3.908 million)

President Bush’s fiscal year 2004 budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed eliminating sixteen existing Agricultural Research Service 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, 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, Wheat Quality Research Lab, Temperate Fruit Flies, Minor Use Pesticides (in Prosser and Wapato), Hops Research, Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research, Shellfish Genetics and Barley Food Health Benefits.