Sen. Maria Cantwell calls for bipartisan action on Farm Bill

By:  KREM - Othello Richards

A Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30 that would revert back to an old bill from 1949 unless Congress acts.

A devastating hail storm wiped out an entire farmer's wheat field and caused damage to many others  in July. She said crop insurance helps cover the loss and that insurance comes packaged in the Farm Bill.

"If we didn't have crop insurance, if we ever had a drought or a terrible storm that came through and took out our crop, we would be left without a safety net," said Kara Rowe of the Washing Association of Wheat Growers.

Rowe joined other farmers on Monday along with Senator Maria Cantwell at the Spokane Grain Inspection Lab. The group addressed concerns about what could happen in the state's agriculture industry if the current Farm Bill expires on September 30. The expiration would put federal crop insurance in jeopardy that farmers say is critical to an industry with high expenses and volatile income at best.

"If one isn't passed in 56 days, any type of research program associated with specialty crops or export programs essentially vanish," said Chris Voigt, the Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission.

Senator Cantwell joined Eastern Washington wheat and potato growers at a grain-inspection lab on Monday to call for bipartisan action on a new Farm Bill.

"This is all important for Washington growers because these are big operations for our state," said Senator Cantwell. "They employ a lot of people in our state, not just on the farms but in the moving of product and getting this done is very important for the economy." 

Senator Cantwell also joined leaders from the Washington Wheat Association and the Washington State Potato Commission and detailed the potential impact on Washington farmers of the Farm Bill's expiration, including the end of research and export programs.

Washington State farmers will lose critical tools that increase wheat and potato exports to overseas markets if the Farm Bill expires. The expiration would also mean the end of new grants for research that increases crop yields by reducing damage from diseases and pests.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has one of the nation's busiest grain testing operations. Washington State labs support the state's $925 million wheat industry and 25,000 jobs in Washington that are tied to wheat farming.

The Senator is calling for passage of the bill, rather than extension.