(Washington, DC) -- U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced a $500,000 appropriations earmark to protect land around the Washington State University Mt. Vernon Research Station. Senator Murray worked to secure this appropriations grant. The funding is included in the fiscal 2001 VA, HUD and Independent Agencies conference report. Today the Senate passed the bill for the second time, by a vote of 85 to 8.

"The future of farming in Skagit County depends on farmland protection and agricultural research," said Murray. "It's becoming more difficult to maintain our farming way of life in the Pacific Northwest, and we need to develop more effective and efficient ways to protect and farm our land."

Skagit County is working to sustain it's agricultural economy, jobs, and infrastructure, as well as open space, its rural character and quality of life. These investments are challenged by increased development and population growth. Even though agriculture contributes $180 million a year to the county's economy, a major agricultural employer recently left the area, resulting in the loss of 100 full-time jobs.

Washington State University's Mt. Vernon Research Unit is a critical part of the county's infrastructure. This appropriation will help purchase 80 acres of land to ensure the long-term viability of this research facility.