PRESS RECAP: Cantwell Highlights Farm Bill Benefits to Washington in 3-Day State Tour

Cantwell-sponsored pulse crop provisions geared to improve school nutrition and support WA pea-and-lentil farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) last week concluded a three-day tour to highlight how the Farm Bill – the Agricultural Act of 2014 – will benefit Washington state’s economy. Cantwell visited growers, a grapevine nursery, an agricultural research center, and a high school cafeteria during stops in stops in Spokane, Yakima, Benton City, and Pullman. Cantwell kicked off the tour by sampling healthy snacks with school children in Seattle to demonstrate the benefits of a new provision she sponsored in the legislation that will improve school nutrition and support Washington pea and lentil farmers. 

The Farm Bill was signed into law on February 7. Cantwell has been a leader in the push for passage of the Farm Bill that supports agriculture jobs in Washington 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.


Headlines around the state included:

-          YAKIMA:  “Cantwell cheers farm bill on Yakima Valley stop”

-          TRI-CITIES: “Farm bill money rescues Prosser's clean plant center

-          PULLMAN: “Cantwell: Farm bill a boon to eastern Washington

-          SPOKANE: “Farm bill program putting healthy food on school menus


Click here for photos from the events on Sen. Cantwell’s Flickr page.



On Feb. 19 in Seattle, Cantwell (D-WA) joined Seattle-area award-winning chefs Maria Hines and Amber Kelley and the Seattle Public Schools Nutrition Director to test out new kid-friendly recipes using peas and lentils. Cantwell sat down with 25 children at the Wallingford Boys and Girls Club to taste red-pepper hummus and turkey lentil tacos made by the chefs to demonstrate new healthy recipes that could be on more Washington state school menus under the Pulse School Pilot program – a provision Cantwell authored in the Farm Bill legislation.


The program will provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) $10 million through 2017 to purchase pulse crops to use in school breakfasts and lunches. This could include raw beans and lentils as well as foods made from pulse crops, such as hummus.



‘Senator Maria Cantwell got to play food critic with dishes created by two area chefs today. Under a provision Cantwell sponsored in a new Farm Bill, a new program was created which helps districts serve healthier meals. Today, in Seattle, James Beard winner Maria Hines and 11-year-old chef, Amber Kelley, cooked up pea and lentil recipes that could be served under the new program. Cantwell’s pulse school pilot program enables schools across the country to test out recipes and buy more Washington -grown peas, lentils, and chickpeas.’


“Sen. Maria Cantwell is on a tour of the state, showing off parts of the 2014 Farm Bill — the $100 billion-a-year law that took several years of fighting, mostly over food stamps, to get through Congress — and she stopped in at the Boys and Girls Club to focus attention on a part of the bill that she sponsored. The Pulse School pilot program is a $10 million program that helps schools across the country test out new recipes and purchase more Washington-grown peas, lentils and chickpeas. (Those make up ‘pulse crops.’)”


Q13 Seattle:

Senator Cantwell:  ‘We recently visited Dearborn Park Elementary School and had more than 80 percent of their kids participating in a lunch program with low cost peas and lentils and chickpeas and the kids went crazy over it. They said how much they really enjoyed it.’



On February 20, Cantwell toured Domex Superfresh Growers in Yakima, a family-owned business that grows and ships tree fruit such as apples, pears and cherries. Domex has utilized Market Access Program funding to help sell its crops in dozens of markets in countries like Vietnam and India. The Farm Bill continues support for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development program, which help increase agricultural exports. Yakima County is one of Washington state’s largest and most diverse agriculture economies.  

This Farm Bill makes the first-ever long-term commitment to two key specialty crop research programs and increases investment by more than 50 percent. 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. The Farm Bill also continues support for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development program, which help increase agricultural exports.


HEADLINE: “Cantwell cheers farm bill on Yakima Valley stop”

Yakima Herald Republic

“The U.S. farm bill, passed this month after years of negotiating, will help ensure the Yakima Valley fruit industry remains free of disease, competitive in the global economy and on the cutting edge of science. That’s what Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Thursday as she traveled the state touting the newly signed legislation that helps fund everything from food stamps to milk price insurance. ‘We’re very excited now that all of that hard work is going to mean good opportunities for us right here in Washington state,’ she told reporters gathered at the Domex Superfresh Growers cold storage facility in Gleed, full of apple bins headed to Canada, India and Vietnam.”


Senator Cantwell Visits Region's Growers and Packers


“Cantwell shared the benefits local growers and their employees should see in the coming months, since the U.S. Farm Bill was passed a few weeks ago. The legislation helps fund everything from food stamps, to agricultural research into specialty crops such as apples, cherries, and pears. Most of which are grown in our area.”



Also on February 20 in Benton City, Cantwell toured the Inland Desert Nursery in Benton City, a grapevine nursery that uses the Clean Plant Network to get healthy, clean rootstock. The Farm Bill reauthorized the National Clean Plant Network, including the Clean Plant Center Northwest in Prosser. The Clean Plant Network provides disease-free plant material for specialty crop growers to better protect their produce from viruses and blight. Cantwell issued a report detailing how the new Farm Bill will boost Central Washington crops by continuing critical export programs, reauthorizing the Clean Plant Network in Prosser, and providing a 50% increase for research into apples, cherries, potatoes and other Washington-grown “specialty crops.


HEADLINE: “Farm bill money rescues Prosser's clean plant center

Tri-City Herald

“Dick Boushey, a Grandview wine and juice grape grower, said having access to clean plants like those provided by Inland Nursery and its partnership with the Clean Plant Center Northwest is the basis and foundation of the state's wine industry. That industry has grown to 790 wineries, with wine grapes grown on about 50,000 acres of vineyards. It's costly to plant new vineyards, which is part of the reason that growers like Boushey need access to clean plants. ‘All the wines come from these plants,’ he said.”


VIDEO: Senator Maria Cantwell visits Benton City


"Let's not forget agriculture is still the number one employer in our state, and getting important policy and partnerships to continue our innovation is going to continue to help grow jobs for the future," said Cantwell.



On February 21 in Pullman, Cantwell toured an agricultural lab on Washington State University’s campus that focuses research on legumes and wheat. Cantwell was joined by researchers, farmers, and university officials to talk about how research supported by the Farm Bill helps Eastern Washington’s agriculture industry. Whitman County has a $250 million agriculture economy that supports 1,200 farms in the area. WSU is a national leader in agriculture research that uses the Farm Bill’s investments in specialty crop research, and would be well-positioned for grants under the Pulse Health Initiative, which Cantwell championed in the recent legislation.

The legislation will support $25 million per year over five years to research the nutritious benefits of pulse crops. Washington state is the top chickpea producer in the nation – producing nearly half of the nation’s total. Washington is 3rd in the nation for pea and lentil production. The state’s pulse crop industry employs an estimated 5,000 people.


HEADLINE: Cantwell in Pullman: State will reap benefits from farm bill

Lewiston Morning Tribune

“The senator emphasized Friday that the farm bill would boost the economy and create more jobs with pulse crops alone, especially on the Palouse. She said there are about 5,000 jobs in Washington's pulse crop industry, and she anticipates with the new initiative that number will double in the next five years.”

HEADLINE: Cantwell: Farm bill a boon to eastern Washington

Moscow Pullman Daily News

“Two initiatives in the new farm bill could mean good things for Palouse growers, universities and children's health, said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell on Friday in a tour of an agricultural research facility at Washington State University.”

Pulse crops get research dollars in eastern Washington to help agriculture thrive


“Pulse crops are fairly inexpensive foods that are high in protein, fiber and other nutrients. Cantwell said her "Pulse School Pilot” provision and ‘Pulse Health Initiative’ will increase the demand for these crops, and help agriculture in eastern Washington thrive.

‘Some of the products like peas, and lentils and chickpeas, and wheat will now get the research dollars to help us continue to be competitive,’ said Cantwell”.



On February 21 in Spokane, Cantwell concluded the tour with a visit to Mead High School, where she heard from school officials and nutrition experts about Mead School’s District’s effort to integrate lentils, garbanzo beans and hummus into school meals. Cantwell met with students and staff, and sampled foods such as hummus, roasted lentils and veggie hummus wraps that are now part students’ lunch menu.


HEADLINE: Farm bill program putting healthy food on school menus

The Spokesman-Review

Cantwell hopes Washington schools are among the first to apply for these funds. “What I’m finding is where young kids are involved, these healthy eating programs are more successful. These (Mead) kids are all over it,” Cantwell said. “Healthy school lunches of high fiber and high protein are a great way to go in the future,” Cantwell said, “and it also helps us produce jobs in Washington state.”

Senator Cantwell Tests Hummus At Mead High School


Washington is the nation’s largest chickpea state, producing almost half of the US total, which is why Cantwell is excited about two new projects. One sets aside 25-million dollars a year for five years for research on the nutrition benefits of pulse crops. Nutrition director Kim Elkins at Mead High School says pulse crops like chickpeas are nutrient rich and high in protein. Elkins: ‘Students today, they want options that are healthy, vegetarian, and locally produced. Pulse crops meet all those criteria.’”