News Releases

Murray Helps Pass Farm Bill that Provides Critical Assistance for Washington State Farmers

Dec 14 2007

$2.2 billion included to help farmers who grow fruits and vegetables is a windfall for Washington state

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) helped pass the 2007 Farm Bill, which will provide much-needed help for Washington state’s farmers. 

This is the best farm bill in years for Washington state farmers, largely because of the $2.2 billion it includes to help farmers who grow fruits and vegetables – which are referred to in the bill as specialty crops.  Washington ranks third in the nation for specialty crop production overall.  It is first in the nation in the production of several individual specialty crops, including apples, red raspberries, sweet cherries, pears, and Concord grapes.  

"There’s so much in this bill that will help all of Washington’s farmers. I’m thrilled that for the first time the Farm Bill includes specialty crops in a comprehensive and meaningful way," said Senator Murray. "Specialty crop growers contribute greatly to making agriculture Washington’s largest industry. I’m pleased that our efforts to include specialty crops were successful, and that we were also able to ensure that a safety net for Washington’s wheat and pulse crop growers remains in place."

The Farm Bill also contains important nutrition provisions to ensure that families and children receive the food assistance they need. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 79-14. 

“With its important increases in funding for nutrition programs, this bill will help low-income Washingtonians struggling to put a full, nutritious meal on the table for their family each day,” Murray said. "More than half of the spending in this bill goes to improve and increase funds for nutrition programs. These programs help food banks provide emergency food assistance to low-income citizens in critical need, help families qualify for increased food assistance to feed their families, and to ensure that our students are getting nutritious fruits and vegetables in school so that they stay healthy and ready to learn.”

The 2007 Senate Farm Bill includes $2.2 billion for specialty crops in the form of Specialty Crop Block Grants, marketing assistance, research, and pest and disease mitigation, and other programs.  The bill also includes an additional $850 million to be set aside for specialty crops in a disaster relief trust fund.  

Portions of the Farm Bill reflect legislation introduced earlier this year in the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act (S. 1160), which Murray co-sponsored.  Key provisions for Washington agricultural producers include a market loss assistance program for asparagus growers, and mandatory funding for the National Clean Plant Network, which will ensure safe, virus-free plant materials are available to orchards, vineyards and other growers.  Washington State University-Prosser will play a crucial role in the new program.  More detailed information on specialty crop provisions is available below. (For an explanation of the Clean Plant Network visit HERE)

The Food and Nutrition Program

The 2007 Farm Bill also contains funding increases for important nutrition programs, such as the Food and Nutrition Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program).  Increased funding for the Food Stamp Program will strengthen the food purchasing power of low-income Americans.  

The bill also eliminates the existing cap on child care costs that can be deducted for Food and Nutrition Program beneficiaries.  This is especially important to low-income recipients in Washington, which has the nation’s third-highest cost of infant care and the fifth-highest cost of preschool care.  

The bill’s additional funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (Snack) program will dramatically expand the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables available to children in school.  The Farm Bill also increases funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to help food banks, soup kitchens, and other providers supplement the diets of low-income needy people.  

Farm Conservation Programs

The 2007 Farm Bill boosts funding for conservation programs that are critical to Washington agricultural producers, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  Murray also added two amendments that will benefit Washington’s farmers.  Her work will ensure that producers in Washington managing cropland to meet state and federal wildlife plans will not be forced out of the Conservation Reserve Program.  This will assist many farmers in Douglas and Asotin counties who are managing their land under these plans.  

Puget Sound Conservation

Murray also worked to make Puget Sound a priority area under the Partnerships and Cooperation program, which will help conservation efforts get off the ground.  This program, based on the highly successful Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), will be open to conservation districts, tribes, local and state governments, and non-governmental organization.

Important Specialty Crops Provisions

Washington state’s specialty crop growers will benefit from several provisions in the bill, including:

  • Increased funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which will allow state agriculture departments to partner with local stakeholders and assist local growers with the specific investments that will increase the competitiveness of their crops.
  • A research grant program that will allow producers to increase their efficiency and remain competitive in the global marketplace.
  • Increased funding to enhance specialty crop exports, including the Market Assistance Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops.
  • A new program, the National Clean Plant Network, to ensure safe, virus-free plant materials are available to orchards, vineyards and other growers.  A single plant or grape vine has the potential to infect an established orchard or vineyard, and crops such as apples and grapes are particularly vulnerable to viruses.
  • A new program to compensate asparagus growers in Washington, Michigan, and California, who were harmed by the Andean Trade Preference Act.
  • A number of programs to prevent and eradicate invasive pests and diseases, which can devastate specialty crops.  This funding is included through the Finance Committee-passed package.
  • Increased funding to expand a pilot program that ensures fresh fruits and vegetables are available in schools nationwide.  The program is designed to improve the overall health of children, fight obesity, and improve academic performance.
  • Increased payments to growers for tree removal and replacement after a natural disaster.  This funding is included through the Finance Committee-passed package.