Farm Bill Supports SW WA’s Trade, Agricultural Economy
Bill continues programs connecting Southwest Washington farmers and businesses with customers in new markets
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hailed Congressional passage of the Farm Bill. The Cantwell-championed legislation was approved in the Senate by a vote of 68-32 and the House by 251-166. It now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
In the Senate, Cantwell has led the push for passage of the Farm Bill that supports agriculture jobs in Washington state and across the nation. In 2012, she and Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) led a bipartisan letter with 44 senators urging action on a Farm Bill. Ahead of today’s vote, Cantwell gave a speech on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to quickly pass the bill.
View a video of her remarks here.
Cantwell called for passage of the Farm Bill in tours across the state in 2013, including at a stop in Vancouver. Last August, Cantwell joined agriculture leaders and detailed the impact of the Farm Bill on Southwest Washington farmers.
In Washington state, the agriculture industry employs 160,000 people and represents 12 percent of the state’s economy while generating $40 billion. In Clark County, there are 2,101 farms that generate $53 million annually. The Columbia-Snake River is the nation’s largest wheat export gateway. More than $15 billion in food and agricultural products are exported through Washington ports, the third largest total in the United States.
The Farm Bill includes programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP) that support Southwest Washington’s trade economy. MAP helped Honey Ridge Farms in Brush Prairie close $19,000 in first-time export sales to China. U.S. Wheat Associates has used MAP and FMDP to double annual wheat exports to Nigeria to nearly 3 million metric tons.
“The Farm Bill is a jobs bill for our nation and for Washington state,” Cantwell said in a floor speech today. “It maintains our investment in research and exports so that American farmers can thrive and win in the expanding global marketplace. And it helps get more goods to market – whether that’s a farmers market around the corner or a new market in South Korea.”
Wheat growers have also used the programs to increase wheat sales to Southeast Asia by 40 percent to an average of 3.8 million metric tons in 2010 through 2012. In 2012, the Port of Vancouver handled 4.6 million metric tons of cargo, more than 57 percent of which was grain exports.
“The strength of agriculture and industry in America is a large reason for our success as a country over the last 80 years,” said Janet Kenefsky, Deputy Director, Western United States Agricultural Trade Association, headquartered in Vancouver. “Continuing the Farm Bill gives a security to the future of farming and it’s sustainability here in the U.S. Full funding of the Farm Bill will allow for continued economic development as Southwest Washington farmers and industries involved are able to establish long term export planning and a comfortable environment for job creation and market development.
Kenefsky continued: “Agriculture is a fundamental part of the U.S. economy, a fully funded Farm Bill provides food and ag exporters in Southwest Washington the reassurance that they can plan for the future just as they have since 1933.”
The Farm Bill continues grants from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Special Crop Block Grant programs supporting agricultural research that increase yields for cherries, pears and berries. For example, the Farm Bill supported research grants at Washington State University to examine emerging planting and growing methods for fruit trees that allows for easier and more efficient harvesting and a much higher yield per acre. Washington State University’s Agriculture Research Center has conducted more than $83 million worth of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) research over the past 5 years.
“The Farm Bill is important to Washington State’s fresh pear growers in many ways,” said Kevin Moffitt, President and CEO, Pear Bureau Northwest. “For example, specialty crop research programs made possible through the Farm Bill helped open the Chinese market for Washington pears for the first time in history just last year. In addition, the Market Access Program in the Farm Bill helps expand Washington pear exports around the world, which supports thousands of jobs in the State’s pear industry.”
Key provisions in the Farm Bill for the state of Washington include:
- Specialty Crop Research: The bill will for the first time make a long term investment in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The Specialty Crop Research Initiative will be funded at $80 million a year and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will be funded at $72.5 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014-17 and $85 million for FY 2018. That represents a more than 50 percent increase in investments for both programs from levels in the 2008 Farm Bill. WSU has received Specialty Crop Block Grant investments to develop new planting and harvesting methods for tree fruit to help increase crop yields and protect workers. The Economic Research Service estimates that for every $1 invested in publicly funded research, $10 of economic activity is generated.
- Market Access Program: The Senate Farm Bill will invest $200 million a year in MAP, which the Washington Apple Commission has used to reach consumers and businesses in India. These efforts increased the number of Washington apples being sold there from a few thousand cartons to a record 3.3 million cartons worth over $61 million last season.
Washington’s wine industry has also used MAP to boost overseas sales. The Washington State Wine Commission secured MAP investments that helped the commission bring around 65 international wine buyers to Washington state for tours, seminars and tasting. Before the MAP grant, buyers from around 15 countries came for this tour according to the Washington State Wine Commission. Participating wineries have developed export opportunities in Scandinavia, Canada and China.
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