News Releases

Standing Up for Local Producers, Murray Calls on Administration to Clarify Emerson Trust Wheat Rules

Oct 06 2003

Letter to USDA Secretary Ann Veneman asks USDA to consider impact on local and rural farms

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In her second letter in six months, Sen. Patty Murray has called on the Bush Administration to fix its management of the Emerson Humanitarian Trust, so that local farms and businesses are not hurt by the Administration’s actions again this year.

Last year, the Administration caused disruption in the soft white wheat market for farmers and local elevator operators in Washington state. In April, Murray – along with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue a report to Congress outlining the Administration’s food aid policy.

“The department’s actions last year created distrust and concern among many Washington state wheat producers,” Murray wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Anne Veneman on October 3rd. “It is my hope that this will not again be the case this year.”

In her letter to Sec. Veneman, Sen. Murray called on the Bush Administration to do two things to lessen the impact on local producers:

1) Have the USDA issue a report to Congress outlining its food aid policy, particularly with respect to the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT).

2) Promulgate a rule pertaining to the sale of commodities from the BEHT that would ensure that sales be conducted in a manner that does not negatively affect local farms and businesses and would increase the transparency of the BEHT’s administration.

“Soft white wheat is the predominant class of wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest and it accounts for almost 11 percent of the total U.S. wheat production,” Murray wrote. “The lack of a clear management policy from your department has both producers and elevator operators very concerned with regards to the Administration’s plans for the BEHT in fiscal year 2004.”

A copy of the letter is attached.

October 3, 2003




The Honorable Ann Veneman
Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250



Dear Secretary Veneman:

I am again writing with regard to the management of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT).

Although no wheat from the BEHT was monetized in fiscal year 2003, I remain deeply concerned with your department’s administration of this program. Last year, the USDA’s cumbersome and closed-door management of the BEHT caused disruption in the soft white wheat market for farmers and local elevator companies in Washington state.

In light of actions by your department that negatively affected farmers and local elevator companies in my state, I requested, along with Senators Cantwell and Wyden, that your department issue a report to Congress outlining the Administration’s food aid policy, particularly with respect to the BEHT. In addition, we urged you to promulgate a proposed rule pertaining to the sale of commodities from the BEHT that would: (1) ensure that sales be conducted in a manner that does not negatively affect local farms and/or rural businesses and (2) increases the general transparency of the BEHT’s administration. I am still waiting for your response.

The BEHT currently contains over 60 million bushels of wheat, 45 percent of which is soft white wheat. Soft white wheat is the predominant class of wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest and it accounts for almost 11 percent of the total U.S. wheat production. Monetization of wheat by class has a profound effect on the market discovery process. The lack of a clear management policy from your department has both producers and elevator operators very concerned with regards to the Administration’s plans for the BEHT in fiscal year 2004.

I urge you to fully consider the effects that USDA’s administration of the BEHT has had on producers and rural businesses in Washington state over the last year. In addition to providing humanitarian relief to the world’s hungry, a central aim in administering the BEHT should be to provide price stability for our farmers. Regrettably, the department’s actions last year created distrust and concern among many Washington state wheat producers. It is my hope that this will not again be the case this year.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,



Patty Murray
United States Senator