News Releases

Video

(Washington, D.C.) Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke with members of the Washington Farm Bureau about agricultural issues in the United States Senate. She addressed the group video during it’s annual Legislative Days meeting in Olympia, Washington. Murray touched on a host of topics including product labeling, foreign markets, agricultural research and Mad Cow disease.



“You are part of a proud tradition of agriculture in our state that goes back generations. I know these are tough times, and I will stand up to anyone who threatens our family farms,” Murray told the group, which in 2001 named her a “Friend of the Farm Bureau” for her work on agricultural issues. “I grew up understanding how important family-run farms and businesses are to Washington state’s economy, and I act on that knowledge every day.”



“I know this is a tough time for Washington’s farmers and cattlemen. For years, you’ve been squeezed by low prices, bad weather, unfair trade practices, and many other burdens. And just in the past few weeks, our cattlemen have felt the devastating impact of a single instance of BSE,” Murray said. “Families in every corner of our state depend on your strength and your success. That’s why in the United States Senate, I’m fighting for the things you need – from opening new markets and supporting research, to killing the estate tax, and ensuring our dams continue to provide the energy, water, and transportation you need.”

Senator Murray’s full remarks follow:

Hi, I’m Senator Patty Murray, and I want to thank you for letting me be part of your Legislative Days. I’m especially proud to be a “Friend of the Farm Bureau” based on our work together over the years.

I know this is a tough time for Washington’s farmers and cattlemen. For years, you’ve been squeezed by low prices, bad weather, unfair trade practices, and many other burdens. And just in the past few weeks, our cattlemen have felt the devastating impact of a single instance of BSE.

Yes, these are tough times, but despite the challenges, you’ve held on. And families in every corner of our state depend on your strength and your success. That’s why in the United States Senate, I’m fighting for the things you need – from opening new markets and supporting research - to killing the estate tax, and ensuring our dams continue to provide the energy, water, and transportation you need.

Last year, your hard work produced $5.5 billion for our state’s economy. Your efforts mean jobs for growers and packers, and for truckers and shippers. Your success is connected to every family in Washington state, and I’ve never forgotten that.

Today I want to update you on some of the things I’m doing in the Senate to support your work. I want to update you on country of origin labeling, recent trade developments, market access, and funding for research.

But before I turn to those issues, there’s something you should know about me. When I think about agriculture, I don’t just think about commodities and sectors. I think about families - the families that grow and run our orchards, farms, dairies, and ranches. And, I think about my own family.

That’s because in the early 1900s, my grandfather moved his family to the Tri-Cities to take a job with the Welch’s processing plant in Kennewick. I remember many trips to Central Washington at harvest time to visit my grandmother. To this day, the smell of fresh-picked fruit reminds me of my childhood. But, to my dad, it meant much more. It was how his family put food on the table and paid the mortgage. I grew up understanding how important family-run farms and businesses are to Washington state’s economy, and I act on that knowledge every day.

So, as we begin a new year and a new session of Congress, I want you to know how I’m standing up for Washington’s farmers – starting here at home with our domestic market.

Domestic Market - Labeling

There is nothing more frustrating to me then going into a grocery store and not being able to find goods that are grown and produced in Washington state.

I know that when given a choice – American families will pick produce that’s made here in the U.S. American consumers know that you produce the best, safest food in the world, and they want to support our family farmers. We should give them a chance to choose American products, and you should reap the benefits.

In the 2002 Farm Bill, farmers and ranchers supported Country of Origin Labeling. Unfortunately, that effort is now being delayed. I think a good labeling program will mean more sales for you both at home and overseas.

And I know we’ve got to do it without imposing a heavy burden on the market. So I look forward to working with you to ensure that labeling works for you and not against you. Because I know that – if given a choice – American families will support American farmers.

In addition to expanding our market here at home, we’ve got to be more aggressive at opening foreign markets – and making sure that other countries live up to the agreements they’ve made.

Foreign Markets

One of the most frustrating things for me is watching our own U.S. trade negotiators undercut American farmers when they’re drafting trade deals. Too often, agriculture is sacrificed by our own trade negotiators, and that is unacceptable.

I continue to push the Administration to treat agriculture as a priority at the negotiating table. After all, today, 1 in 4 jobs in our state rely on international trade. We cannot allow our own government to sell-out your hard work in order to prop someone else up.

I’ve had long and loud discussions with this Administration and with the U.S. Trade Representative. I’ve written letters, I’ve made phone calls, and I’ve held meetings. I want to make sure that any upcoming trade deals treat you fairly.

And let’s get one thing straight – the countries that have already made trade deals with us need to live up to every word of those agreements without delay.

Market Access

Beyond trade deals, the federal government must also continue to support your own efforts to open new markets. One way to do that is by fully funding market access programs. I’ve been a strong supporter of MAP, and I’ve worked hard to increase funding in the past two Congresses.

In 2002, I succeeded in increasing funding for MAP so that we’ll reach $200 million by 2006. That means more bang for every buck you put into market promotion.

I know that market access is only one of many challenges facing America’s farmers and ranchers today. And that’s why I’m working to support you and your families in the Senate.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve worked hard to bring federal dollars back to Washington state. The recently-passed Omnibus Appropriations bill provides $370 million for projects throughout our state. It includes funding for local schools, health care, and rural communities. It also includes funding for new roads, which will help get your goods to markets and ports.

Research

And I’m especially proud of the funding I’ve secured for agricultural research. It’s research that allows you to stay ahead of your competitors, and it’s always been a priority for me.

The budget we just passed provides $11 million to support research for a broad range of agricultural sectors in the Northwest, including asparagus, wheat, potatoes, barley, shellfish, hops, wine grapes, and small fruits.

I’m particularly happy to say that I was able to restore $3.9 million in ARS funding that the President’s budget would have eliminated. The Administration may not recognize the importance of this work, but I do, and I’ve fought to keep that funding in place.

And our budget fights are not over. As a member of both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee, I’m looking closely at how the President’s new budget affects you.

If past years are a guide, we’ll have to work to restore funding for Farm Bill programs, particularly the Conservation Security Program and Environmental Quality Incentives. I look forward to working with you to identify your funding needs and priorities for the next fiscal year.

Before I close, I want to briefly mention three other issues – BSE, dams and the estate tax.

BSE

I understand the economic impact that a single case of BSE is having on Washington’s cattlemen and dairy farmers. I have been following USDA’s investigation closely, and I’ve spoken with the Agriculture Secretary and others.

While this appears to be an isolated incident, we must work diligently to get to the bottom of it. Consumers need to know that the beef their families eat is safe, and producers must not suffer the consequences of unanswered questions about their product. I was disappointed that the President did not address this issue in his recent State of the Union address. I believe we need to be taking steps to reassure the public—and our trading partners—that our aggressive surveillance, detection and response programs are working, every day, to protect our food supply.

Dams

Let me say a word about dams. I know that our hydroelectric system has been the economic engine of our state. It’s brought energy to every corner of Washington and is vital for our agriculture economy.

I want to ensure that our dams continue to provide the energy, water and transportation you need. That means we’ve got to maintain our dam and lock system. Every year this Administration has tried to cut the Corps of Engineers budget, and every year I’ve helped restore those cuts. I know that if we don’t maintain our dam and lock system your products won’t move downriver and onto markets around the world.

Estate Tax

Finally, I want to discuss the estate tax. I know that you’ve worked hard to build your business, and you should be able to pass it on to your children and grandchildren. I’ve sponsored legislation in the past to repeal the estate tax, and I will continue to support efforts to ensure that family farms can remain intact from one generation to the next. You’ve worked too hard – and survived too many challenges -- to see your hard work go to the government when it should go to your own family.

So those are some of the things I’m doing in the in the Senate to stand up for the people who put food on our table, who drive our economy, and who represent the values that everyone in Washington takes pride in.

You are part of a proud tradition of agriculture in our state that goes back generations. I know these are tough times, and I will stand up to anyone who threatens our family farms.

I know that by working together – with your ideas and with my seniority and Committee assignments in the Senate -- we can turn things around and make Washington’s farm future – even brighter than our past. Thank you, and I look forward to working with you