A strong and thriving agricultural sector is essential to Washington state’s economic success. Washington state’s agriculture industry is worth $40 billion, employs 160,000 people and accounts for 12 percent of the state’s economy. On behalf of farmers, Maria promotes Washington agriculture by expanding fair access to foreign markets, by supporting Washington crops, and by investing in agriculture innovation and research.


Supporting Washington Farmers

Washington state crops are known across the country – and around the world – for their quality. The state is home to 250 types of valuable specialty crops including apples, cherries, lentils, chickpeas, hops, and asparagus.

  • Expanding Specialty Crops: In April 2012 Maria successfully urged the Senate Agriculture Committee to continue strong support for specialty crop programs in the 2012 Farm Bill.

    “Investing in these programs helps Washington state farmers and producers compete in an increasingly competitive global market,” Maria said, after the proposed 2012 Farm Bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I will continue urging my colleagues to support our agricultural economy as the bill comes to the full Senate for consideration.”

    Maria has long been a strong advocate for specialty crop programs. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Maria first pushed to support specialty crops – which include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops – in the 2007 Farm Bill. Maria’s leadership was key in passing the Farm Bill with new programs that partner state agriculture departments with local farms to help expand specialty crop exports. Maria also championed the passage of a number of programs that boost specialty crops by improving on-farm food safety and preventing invasive pests and diseases from devastating specialty crops. 

    Read about state and local partnerships that are boosting Washington specialty crops.

  • Supporting Wheat, Pea and Lentil Growers: Wheat is extremely important to the livelihoods of thousands of Washington families. In fact, Whitman County produces more wheat than any other county in the nation.

    Washington wheat producers rely on chickpeas and lentils as rotation crops to keep dangerous pathogens out of the state’s produce. These crops slow the process of soil depletion, which means fertile soil and a strong future for agriculture. Washington producers are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the country’s chickpeas and close to 20 percent of the country’s lentils. In the 2008 Farm Bill, Maria led efforts to pass provisions that increase support for specialty crops like peas and lentils, providing these growers with long overdue support.

    Maria has also championed the use of pulse crops, which include dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils, in federal nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program. This program operates in 277 public school districts and 56 residential child care institutions across Washington. Promoting the use of pulse crops in school lunch and breakfast programs provides new economic opportunities for Washington pulse crop growers and provides healthy food options for Washington students. In 2011, Maria helped pass the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which provides wider and more affordable access to nutritious food options, including pulse crops, in school cafeterias.
  • Boosting Washington Apple Exports: Washington state is the nation’s leading producer of apples. Between 2005 and 2009 the value of apple production ranged from $1 to $1.7 billion. Maria has aggressively promoted Washington products in foreign markets for years. In 2011 Maria led efforts to pass a new trade bill with Columbia that eliminates a 15 percent tariff on apples.

    In 2002 Maria was instrumental in opening up the new, high-demand market of Cuba to Washington state’s apple growers. Maria said: "With this purchase, Washington state growers will sell about $4.5 million of peas and apples to Cuba. Today's announcement is a first-step in our effort to expand exports of Washington state agricultural products to Cuba."

    Maria has also pushed to deliver better disaster relief to apple growers. In 2008 Maria rallied her colleagues for support and successfully passed a provision that helps apple farms fight off destructive viruses. 

    Maria was also a leader in the three-year long battle to successfully eliminate exorbitant Mexican tariffs on Washington apples. Read more.

Farmers Markets 

  • Promoting Washington Farmers' Markets:  Farmers' markets have increased in popularity in recent years, enabling Washingtonians to get fresh produce while supporting their local agriculture economies.

    Maria has championed programs that bolster Washington farmers' markets. In 2008, Maria was key in passing the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which promotes and improves farmers’ markets, roadside stands and other direct producer-to-consumer marketing opportunities. Maria also worked to extend the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which increases access to affordable produce and fresh, nutritious foods from farmers’ markets. In 2010, 130 Washington state farmers' markets participated in the program, in partnership with 855 farmers from 38 counties across the state, according to the Washington Farmers Market Association.
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Promoting Products Overseas

Washington’s world-class crops are in high demand around the world – and a key part of Washington’s trade economy. Thanks in large part to agriculture, Washington state is the 3rd largest exporting state in the country. In 2010, export activity at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma generated $704 million in state revenue. 

Maria has supported agriculture and trade jobs by aggressively working to expand the sales of Washington state products in foreign countries. She has visited with officials from Cuba, China and several other countries to broker important deals that promote Washington products. She has also been a leader on trade agreements that expand the market for Washington goods in countries from South Korea to Panama.

The Seattle Times hailed the South Korea and other free trade agreements in an October 2011 editorial, stating, “But no sales are made or jobs created without market access. Washington agriculture is a clear winner, especially with the Korea agreement… Let Washington products into the overseas markets, and their quality will prevail…”   

  • South Korea Free Trade Agreement: South Korea is the fourth largest export market for Washington state goods, taking in $1.4 billion worth of agriculture exports from the state in 2011.  

    Maria was a leader in advocating for the bipartisan South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which went into effect in March 2012, lifting tariffs on the sale of Washington goods to South Korea. Maria helped shepherd the agreement through a key Senate committee, and she helped to pass it in October 2011.

    Mark Powers of the Northwest Horticultural Council applauded Maria’s leadership on the South Korea FTA, saying, “The Northwest Horticultural Council enthusiastically supports the efforts by Congress, Senator Maria Cantwell and President Obama to pass the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama. Collectively these trade agreements will benefit apple, pear and cherry growers and bring millions of dollars from overseas into the Washington state economy.” 

    The Korea Free Trade Agreement will have far-reaching impacts in Washington:
    • Boosting the cherry trade – In 2009, Washington’s farmers exported $7 million worth of cherries to South Korea, despite a 24 percent tariff. The Free Trade Agreement immediately eliminates that tariff, reducing the cost of Washington state cherries by approximately 75 cents a pound. Eliminating the tariff is projected to boost sales by $18 to $20 million per year over the next few years, according to the Northwest Cherry Growers.
    • Increasing wine sales – From mid-2007 to mid-2008, Washington and Oregon exported 11,801 cases of wine to South Korea, with a value of more than $700,000. The Free Trade Agreement eliminates a 15 percent tariff on wine, which could increase the volume of wine sold in South Korea by 45 percent and increase the value of wine exports by 188 percent, according to estimates.
    • Expanding potato exports – Washington is the largest producer of frozen potato products in the nation, and the state’s frozen foods industry supports thousands of jobs. The Korea FTA bolsters Washington’s potato producers by eliminating an 18 percent tariff on frozen potato products and, over time, eliminating a 30 percent tariff on fresh potato products.
    • Increasing beef exports – The Free Trade Agreement eliminates a 40 percent tariff on beef over 15 years. Beef exports are expected to increase by $7 million per year, according to the American Farm Bureau. Beef production is the state’s 5th largest commodity and the market for American beef in South Korea has the potential to reach $1 billion.
    • Ending other tariffs – Over a 5 to 10 year period, the Korea FTA will phase out and eliminate a 30 percent tariff on frozen sweet corn and a 45 percent tariff on frozen berries and most types of apples and pears.  Washington is the nation’s leading producer of apples, pears and red raspberries, and the second leading producer of processed sweet corn.

"I actually think that Washington, of all the states in the country, stands to benefit the most," said Eric Schinfeld, President of the Washington Council on International Trade.

  • Increasing Trade with South America: Maria was instrumental in passing free trade agreements in 2011 that open up markets in Panama and Columbia to Washington producers. Combined with the South Korea FTA, these free trade agreements could increase Washington exports by $52.8 million per year and support Washington economic growth.  

    Opening up the Colombian market to Washington producers will bolster the state’s wheat and fruit producers. By lifting a 10 percent tariff on wheat, Washington wheat exports to Columbia could increase by $5.9 million per year. The agreement will also immediately lift a 15 percent tariff on pears; in 2010 Washington state exported $2.54 million worth of pears to Colombia – a figure that is projected to increase with the removal of the tariffs. The FTA could also significantly boost Washington’s apple trade with Columbia. Despite a tariff on apples, Washington apple exports to Columbia were valued at $4.5 million this year. By immediately eliminating a 15 percent tariff on apples, the FTA could lead to increases in shipments of 50 to 100 percent to Columbia this season, according to the Washington Apple Commission.

    "Due to the high tariffs charged on U.S. imports, our agricultural products have been at a competitive disadvantage for far too long,” said Steve Appel, Washington Farm Bureau President and third-generation wheat farmer from Dusty, Washington. “With an estimated one in three jobs in our state dependent on international trade, passage of these agreements is a critical step in the right direction.” 
  • Stopping Unfair Mexican Tariffs:  Maria worked to end harmful tariffs on agricultural exports that inhibited trade between Mexico and Washington for nearly a decade. The tariffs were finally lifted in October 2011, after years of work by Maria and others in the Washington delegation.

    Mexican tariffs on potatoes, pears, apples, and other food goods took a serious toll on Washington state’s agriculture industry. Since the tariffs went into place in 2003, state exports dropped by at least $82 million, according to the Washington Department of Commerce. Washington farmers saw a $39 million decline in potato exports, a $39 million drop in pear exports and $2 million declines in both cherry and apricot exports. 

    Maria relentlessly urged the Obama administration to work out an agreement with Mexico to remove the burdensome tariffs. She publicly questioned U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the administration’s lack of progress, and she called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to expedite negotiations with Mexico. Just a few months later the Department of Transportation announced an agreement to fully lift Mexico tariffs on 99 U.S. goods, including apples, grapes, pears, cherries, and potatoes. Maria hailed the agreement as a victory and a major step forward for Washington.

    “Today, Washington farmers can breathe a sigh of relief,” Maria said. “After years of work, these retaliatory tariffs have finally been lifted. Now, Washington farmers can compete more fairly in the Mexican market and continue to create jobs for our agricultural economy.”
  • Supporting Washington’s Growing Wine Industry: Washington is the 2nd largest premium wine producer in the United States – with more than 700 wineries and over 350 wine grape growers. The Washington wine industry supports nearly 30,000 jobs and brings in $3 billion in economic activity, according to a 2012 study.

    Maria has worked to expand market access for Washington wine and help promote sales in markets around the world – including the neighboring Canadian market. In October 2002, Maria negotiated with the British Columbia government  to permit the sale of wine from eight new Washington state wineries and boost Washington’s market share in British Columbia to nearly five percent. In 2010 Washington state exported nearly $5 million of wine to Canada, according to a 2011 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Opening Cuba to Washington Crops: Maria has worked to create new trade opportunities for Washington farmers and producers by opening foreign markets to their goods. In 2002, she traveled to Cuba with a Washington delegation to promote Washington farm products and meet with a wide range of government officials. The meetings resulted in the first Washington state exports of apples, pears, peas, and lentils to Cuba in more than 40 years. Read more.

    Maria continued to push for expanded trade with Cuba. In 2005, Maria took the lead on urging the administration of President George W. Bush to drop new Treasury Department rules that threatened to jeopardize Washington trade with Cuba. “If you care about jobs in Washington state, you need to care about agriculture,” she said. “We need to be cutting through the red tape that complicates trade with Cuba, rather than adding additional layers of bureaucracy.”  

    Cuba's top representative to the United States, Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, hailed Maria’s efforts to open up the market to peas, lentils and apples. "You are the pioneers of what we expect to be a mutually beneficial and lasting relationship,” he told Maria and local agriculture leaders at Pike Place Market in 2002.

    Maria also cosponsored – and continues to support – the Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act to further expand trade with Cuba and increase exports of Washington products (S.1089).
  • Expanding U.S. Beef Exports:  After the 2003 discovery of a case of Mad Cow disease in Washington state, Japan closed its borders to American beef imports. Although the infected cow had been imported to Washington from Canada, many Washington cattle ranchers were affected: The Japanese import ban cost Washington cattle producers $190 million per year. During the import ban, the meat industry lost more than 10,000 jobs nationwide.

    Maria held hearings and numerous meetings, leading Senate efforts to restore confidence and expand exports in U.S. beef in overseas markets. She was a leader in pushing the Department of Agriculture to pass common-sense protections that keep high-risk materials out of animal feed, and she fought to implement a safer tracking system on cattle imports from Canada.

    She also publicly called on then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman to advance negotiations with Japan and restore American beef’s full access to the Japanese market. In 2006 Japan and the U.S. finally reached an agreement to resume U.S. beef exports to Japan.
  • Expanding the Market for Washington Farmers: In Washington state 85 percent of wheat, 60 percent of hops and 30 percent of apples are exported. Foreign markets present substantial opportunities for Washington’s farmers to expand, but these markets can be difficult to navigate.

    That’s why Maria is a lead advocate for the Market Access Program, which helps farmers promote their crops in new foreign markets. Early in her Senate career, Maria led the fight to expand the Market Access Program through 2006, and she has repeatedly supported restoring and reauthorizing full support for it. In April 2012 Maria called on a key Senate Committee to continue robust support for the Market Access Program. The Washington State Fruit Commission, the Washington Apple Commission and the Northwest Cherry Growers are just a few of the Washington organizations that have participated in the Market Access Program to boost exports.

    Maria continues working to expand the market for Washington agricultural exports. Between 2006 and 2010 total Washington agriculture exports increased by over $5 billion. In 2010 Washington’s total export economy directly supported nearly 200,000 jobs with $6.1 billion worth of food and agricultural products, making Washington third in the nation for total agriculture and food exports.
  • Cutting Red Tape for Cherry Exports: Cherries are integral to Washington’s agriculture economy, with Washington farmers producing more than half of America’s cherries. In 2010, Washington cherry production contributed $367 million to the state's economy.

    Cherry growers must be efficient to successfully export their product. To stay safe and fresh, cherries need to be picked, packed and shipped within 24 hours. In order to remain competitive and increase Washington exports, Washington cherry farmers cannot withstand delays caused by inefficient Transportation Security Administration screening processes. As chair of the Aviation Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, Maria is committed to cutting red tape and improving screening processes to streamline exports of perishable Washington produce.
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“Sen. Cantwell has assumed a key leadership role in renewable fuels in Washington state and nationally. We regard her as a key supporter who thoroughly understands the issues and the importance of making biodiesel a part of our nation's energy security plan." – National Biodiesel Board Member/Imperium Renewables Vice President Graham Noyes, 11/14/07

  • Launching a Washington State Biofuels Industry: Maria is working to forge a Washington state biofuels industry to create another valuable market for farmers. She has been a national leader on developing advanced biofuels that can be grown, processed and used by vehicles and airplanes in Washington state. More than five years ago, Maria convened the Biofuels Business Collaborative – a group of Washington businesses, farmers, investors, and fuel consumers – to build the foundation for biofuel development. 

    Today, that vision is becoming a reality – with Alaska Airlines taking its first commercial passenger biofuel-powered flights out of Seattle and Portland, Oregon, on November 9, 2011. Following Alaska Airlines’ recent announcement, Maria said,Since the first transatlantic flight, Washington’s workforce has powered America’s commercial aviation industry. Biofuel powered jets are now ready to take off, and the Pacific Northwest is poised to be in the lead.”

    In May 2011 Maria, along with Senator Patty Murray, introduced legislation to extend the length of contracts between the Department of Defense and biofuel producers from the current limit of 5 years to 15 years. Allowing for longer-term contracts with the largest single consumer of energy in the country would help companies in Washington state to obtain the financing they need to grow their operations. In 2011, Maria also chaired a hearing of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee to highlight the importance of the emerging jet biofuel industry in Washington.

    At the hearing, Tom Todaro, CEO of Seattle-based AltAir Fuels, praised Maria’s efforts to promote Washington biofuels. Todaro said, “Renewable aviation fuel is a reality. There are no technological barriers for either the production or use of these domestic, renewable fuels. This homegrown energy is fueling our jetfighters and commercial airplanes in the U.S. today.”

    Maria worked with officials from the Port of Grays Harbor and representatives from Imperium Renewables in 2006 to develop one of the nation’s largest biodiesel plants at the Port of Grays Harbor.

    Maria also helped broker a 2005 landmark agreement for the Port of Seattle and SSA Marine, the world's largest privately held cargo terminal operator and cargo handling company, to convert its entire vehicle fleet to run on Washington-produced biodiesel. Mic Dinsmore, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Seattle, thanked Maria for her leadership on the biodiesel initiative. Dinsmore said Maria's “...vision for a cleaner environment and strong Washington economy on both sides of the Cascades got this deal done.”
  • Investing in Biodiesel Jobs: Maria has repeatedly led efforts to extend financial incentives to companies that transition to biofuels through a biodiesel production tax credit. In 2011, Maria introduced bipartisan legislation to extend this credit through 2014, supporting Washington’s biofuel industry and the transition to cleaner, more sustainable fuels. Between 2004 and 2008 this biodiesel tax credit helped biofuel production grow from 25 million gallons to 690 million gallons and supported thousands of biofuel jobs across Washington state.

    “These lawmakers should be applauded for recognizing the value of this incentive… If Congress is serious about digging our way out of this recession and creating good-paying jobs, this bill is a no-brainer,” said Gary Haer, Chairman of the National Biodiesel Board in July 2011. “It will help us create thousands of new jobs while improving the environment and displacing foreign oil with a renewable, low-carbon fuel that's produced in virtually every state in the country.” 
  • Creating a Biofuel Research Hub in Washington State: As Chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, Maria has played a key role in expanding research and development of aviation biofuels. She has continually fought to ensure that Washington state remains a leader in innovative aviation research and skilled aviation workers. 

    Maria wrote language – which she helped to pass into law in February 2012 as part of a larger Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill – that paves the way for the FAA to create a Center of Excellence in Alternative Jet-Fuel Research in Civil Aircraft.   

    After President Barack Obama signed the FAA bill into law, Maria toured the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) on the WSU-Tri-Cities campus, highlighting the Tri-Cities leadership in biofuel research and the benefits of a possible Center of Excellence for biofuel research:

    “The cutting-edge research I saw at this lab is exactly why Washington state is uniquely positioned to lead the aviation biofuel industry,” Maria said during her tour of the WSU-Tri Cities lab. “I’m calling on the FAA to create an aviation biofuel Center of Excellence, because green jet fuel means more jobs. Now it’s time to jumpstart the research and development of 21st century fuel to power airplanes and drive innovation.”

Farming Innovation

  • Supporting Organic Farms: In recent years, many Washington farmers have adopted organic farming practices. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of certified organic acres of farm land doubled in Washington; the state is now home to more than 100,000 certified organic crop acres. Some 735 certified organic farms across the state generate more than $200 million in crop sales. Maria has worked to support the growth of this burgeoning agriculture sector. To protect the integrity of the organics program and ensure growth, Maria is fighting efforts that would weaken organic certification and labeling rules. Without reliable criteria, organic certification loses value, and organic farms cannot compete.

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  • Improving Child Nutrition: In 2008 Maria was central in passing a provision to strengthen the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and expand the program from 14 states to the entire country. This program brings local fruit and vegetables into schools to encourage healthy eating habits, which improve both physical health and academic performance. By promoting purchases of local food, these programs help local communities invest in their own economies. For example, one study that covered the Seattle area showed that shifting just 20 percent of food dollars into spending on local vendors would result in almost a $500 million annual income increase in King County and a nearly $1 billion increase in the Central Puget Sound area.
  • Combating Child Obesity: Recent studies show that obesity rates are climbing in the United States. Between 1990 and 2009 the percentage of obese adults in Washington state more than doubled, and in 2009, 27 percent of Washington adults were considered obese. Combating child obesity is key to preventing adult obesity and essential to lifelong health.

    In 2011, Maria helped pass the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which provides wider and more affordable access to nutritious food options in school cafeterias for low-income children. This law implements nutritional standards at all schools and encourages healthy lifestyles for Washington state’s youth. Maria remains committed to finding new strategies to give more children access to nutritious foods.
  • Improving Food Safety: Maria has worked to build a national framework that can prevent and stop the spread of contaminated food. She supports enhancing the safety of food supplies through scientific risk-based systems that ensure safety while supporting local food production. In 2010 Maria helped pass the Food Safety Modernization Act – the first significant overhaul of the food safety system in decades. The law includes many provisions to protect the health and safety of Washington citizens. These include: empowering the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue mandatory recalls of contaminated products; requiring the FDA to establish minimum standards for safe food production; improving the FDA’s ability to trace the source of contaminated foods; increasing foodborne illness surveillance; and ensuring that small farmers can meet food safety requirements.
  • Protecting against Mad Cow Outbreaks: After the nation’s first case of Mad Cow disease was discovered in Mabton, Washington, on December 23, 2003, Maria went to work investigating the cause and crafting legislation to prevent further cases. She has introduced legislation to keep high-risk materials out of cattle feed, and has pushed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to act quickly in closing known feed ban loopholes that can lead to Mad Cow infections. Plugging the loopholes in animal feed rules is essential to improving the safety of domestic food supply and the health of Washington consumers.
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Disaster Relief

Maria has long fought to help Washington farms survive unforeseen natural disasters. Maria has worked with the Washington delegation to bring urgent federal relief to help farmers recover.

  • Agricultural Disaster Relief Trust Fund: In 2008 Maria was instrumental in passing legislation to assist farmers impacted by natural disasters. She helped to expand a program that ensures Washington apple, pear, grape, and cherry growers have the support they need to get back on their feet quickly after storms. The Tree Assistance Program (TAP) helps growers replace and replant crop-producing trees damaged during a disaster. When the trees that grow fruit are destroyed, it is a long, costly process for orchardists to rebuild their trees and begin to produce crops again. Maria was key in pushing an amendment that expands the program to orchardists who were previously unable to seek assistance. She also helped pass the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE), which ensures that vulnerable farms in high-risk disaster areas have crop insurance to help offset losses. 
  • Supporting Ranchers: The livestock industry in Washington state supports thousands of jobs. Washington’s dairy industry accounts for $1 billion in economic output, and poultry and egg production account for $226 million. Additionally, the cattle and ranching industry employs approximately 11,700 Washingtonians and accounts for $600 million in economic output. Natural disasters can severely strain Washington ranchers, often forcing them to sell off their livestock and accept large losses just to stay in business. That is why Maria fought to provide relief to ranchers after devastating storms.

    In 2008 Maria helped pass three programs that are crucial to Washington ranchers. The Livestock Indemnity Program supports ranchers at a rate of 75 percent of market value for livestock killed in a disaster. The Livestock Forage Disaster Program assists ranchers who graze livestock on drought-affected pastureland or grazing land. To help prevent major gaps in disaster coverage, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program provides emergency relief to Washington producers whose losses are not covered under other disaster programs.
  • Rescuing the Asparagus Crop: For years foreign competition ate away at Washington’s asparagus crop. Washington state lost approximately 60 percent of its asparagus acreage between 2000 and 2006, largely because of foreign imports. In the 2008 Farm Bill legislation, Maria successfully led the charge to save the Asparagus Market Loss Program, which helps offset losses suffered by asparagus producers as a result of foreign imports.

    Steve Danz, a third generation asparagus grower from Mesa, praised Maria’s leadership on the Asparagus Market Loss Program. He said, It's been a hardship on our farm since the Dayton Seneca asparagus plant closed and shipped its mechanical asparagus packing equipment to Peru…I think this bill will help us be more competitive.”

    In June 2010 the Department of Agriculture launched the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Farmers. TAA helps offset losses for farmers who have been affected by foreign imports, and provides training to help Washington asparagus rebound. In September 2011 Maria helped to pass an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers through the Senate.

Farmland Conservation

  • Farmland Conservation: Maria has long supported initiatives that set aside farmland for conservation. Maria helped pass the Conservation Stewardship Program in 2008, which provides financial and technical assistance to promote conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant, and animal life. She has also fought to maintain the Conservation Reserve Program, which provides technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner.

    Maria also cosponsored the bipartisan Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act of 2011, which would have made permanent an expanded tax credit for donating conservation easements to charities. The credit, originally expanded in 2006 with Maria’s support, provides an enhanced tax deduction to encourage farmers and landowners to donate development rights to land trusts and other organizations that help preserve agricultural lands for future generations. Maria has voted to extend the expanded credit twice, and she has cosponsored legislation – in both the 112th and the 111th Congresses – that would have made the credit permanent.
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