Farm Bill Passage is A Big Win For Washington State Agriculture

Cantwell Secures Key Provisions Benefiting Washington's Economy and Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of her ongoing commitment to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of rural Washington, today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised passage of the 2007 Farm BillConference Report by a vote of 81-15. The Farm Bill will benefit farmers, in particular specialty crop farmers, in Washington state who grow more than 250 varieties of fruits, vegetables, as well as wheat and other crops. Cantwell has worked to make this farm bill the first to meaningfully address the specialty crops section of agriculture, which had been essentially left out of previous farm bills, despite the fact that specialty crops account for approximately 50 percent of agriculture receipts.
“Passage of this Farm Bill is a huge win for farmers and specialty crop growers in Washington state,” said Cantwell. “My top priority in this year’s Farm Bill was working through the Finance Committee to make sure farmers get the help they need and deserve.  Investing in Washington farmers makes it easier for farmers to compete in an increasingly competitive global market. On top of helping with conservation efforts, this bill expands food and nutrition programs for families, the elderly, and will improve the health and wellness of American children.” 
In December, Cantwell lead the charge to defeat Republican leadership's attempts to strip the Asparagus Market Loss Program from the 2007 Farm Bill. The program provides $15 million in assistance to help offset losses the producers suffered as a result of increased imports of asparagus due to the Andean trade Preferences Act.  
From her seat on the Finance Committee, Cantwell worked with Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to help authorize the Agricultural Disaster Relief Trust Fund.  The fund creates a permanent agricultural disaster relief program that to reduce the need to provide annual ad hoc disaster packages, that have become the norm in the last few years.  The fund will provide $3.8 billion dollars for disaster relief over the life of the farm bill. Specialty crop farms will be eligible to take part.
Cantwell also successfully included language refining the Tree Assistance Program (TAP)  TAP provides disaster relief to orchardists by allowing them to replace bushes, vines, and trees destroyed or damaged by natural disasters.  Cantwell sponsored an amendment to rework the language without increasing the overall cost of the program, so that it would allow more orchardists to apply for the program and be of more use to Washington and other states.  In 2006 alone, more than $450,000 in federal aid was directed to Washington under TAP. Cantwell’s amendment had six co-sponsors, including Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 
In addition, Cantwell helped secure over $1 billion over 10 years for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. This program will provide fresh and nutritious foods to school children to expand greatly from 14 states to the whole country. This program offers the dual purposes of giving children nutritious food while providing a market for our country's specialty crops.  
Especially important for Washington, the bill provides for biomass and bioenergy research programs, with an emphasis on cellulosic feedstocks in the amount of $118 million doubling current funding.  The package includes a new, temporary production tax credit for up to $1.01 per gallon, available through December 31, 2012 for Cellulosic biofuels.
“This Farm Bill not only makes important strides in helping our state's farmers, and increasing nutrition programs for our nation's children, it also has the potential to reduce our soaring energy costs with biomass and bioenergy research programs," said Cantwell.  "By providing for biomass and bioenergy research programs, with an emphasis on cellulosic feedstocks, scientists will now have more tools to conduct critical research in to how we can curb our addiction to oil and increase sources for alternative fuels."
Finally, the Conference Report will provide $170 million in disaster relief to commercial and recreational fisherman affected by the salmon fishery failure along the West Coast.  On May 1, 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service declared the West Coast ocean salmon fishery a disaster.  This marks the second year in the past three that a federal fishery failure has been declared for West Coast salmon.
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