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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today voted in favor of a new six-year Farm Bill that will benefit rural communities across Washington state. The bill passed the Senate by a vote 64-35.

The new Farm Bill authorizes all commodity support programs, agricultural conservation initiatives, the Food Stamp Program, and a host of rural development, trade, research, farm credit and energy programs.

The new bill is estimated to cost $73.5 billion more than current baseline spending over the next ten years.

Senator Murray's statement follows:

"In 1996, Congress passed a Farm Bill that destroyed the safety net for Washington state wheat growers, while doing little for our state's other 230 farm products.

Today, Congress corrected that mistake by passing a new Farm Bill. This new Farm Bill means a better future for all farmers and ranchers in Washington state, for our rural communities, for salmon and the environment, and for our poorest citizens who rely on the Food Stamp Program.

This Farm Bill provides much-needed relief for our apple farmers, and I am pleased that Senator Cantwell and I prevailed in securing $94 million for apple growers.

And I am also proud to have co-sponsored the measure that establishes a new safety net for many eastern Washington farmers by creating marketing loans and loan deficiency payments for dry peas, lentils, and small chickpeas.

I am deeply disappointed, however, that the House Republican leadership stripped most of the $2.4 billion in natural disaster funding provided by the Senate, which would have provided critical assistance to farmers and ranchers hurt by last year's drought and storms.

I am also disappointed that the House eliminated my tribal forestry amendment, which would have promoted cooperation between Indian Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service in the management of forestlands and grasslands.

It is a step forward that the new bill enhances economic development opportunities for rural communities by providing $100 million for loans and loan guarantees to establish high-speed, high quality broadband service. Unfortunately, the House reduced the funding by $400 million and eliminated my amendment to enable rural communities to develop plans to bring high-speed access to their areas.

Another disturbing outcome of the conference was the House's refusal to accept the Senate-passed measure to allow private financing of food sales to Cuba. While we were all pleased that Cuba announced it would purchase Washington apples, peas and lentils, the provision rejected by the House leadership would have greatly increased Washington state exports to Cuba.

Overall, this Farm Bill is a major step forward for the poor, our farmers and producers, rural communities and the environment."