Larsen Votes for Farm Bill That Aids Northwest Farmers, Continues Vital Food Assistance

Jan 29, 2014 Issues: Agriculture, Social Services

WASHINGTON—Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, issued the following statement after voting in favor of a five-year farm bill that governs federal agricultural policy and nutrition assistance programs. The legislation, known as the Farm Bill, is the product of a compromise between House and Senate negotiators and was passed by the House today.

“The Farm Bill makes sure thousands of families in Northwest Washington have access to good nutrition and helps our farmers produce world-class potatoes, berries and flowers,” Larsen said.

“This Farm Bill makes an unparalleled commitment to specialty crops like apples, raspberries, and potatoes that our farmers grow throughout Northwest Washington. The bill’s major investments will help our farmers become competitive as they sell their Washington-grown crops around the world.

“I am disappointed by the cuts to nutrition programs in this bill, but I also know they could have been much worse. Rep. DelBene and others did good work in beating back the deep cuts that Republicans wanted that would have left thousands of families without this vital lifeline. It is wrong for Congress to cut these benefits for people who are struggling while refusing to even look at huge subsidies that go to the wealthiest.

“The extension of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding will send dollars directly to Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties to fund our classrooms, police departments and roads. Local government leaders tell me all the time how critical these payments are, so I am pleased Congress will renew the funding in this bill.”

The Farm Bill includes language to provide certainty to private forest owners about permitting for their operations. The language includes an amendment Larsen proposed to ensure that current forestry practices that lead to runoff remained covered by the Clean Water Act.

A full summary of the Farm Bill is available here.

Highlights: Items of Interest for Northwest Washington

  • Includes Larsen-authored language to protect private forest owners and the environment by maintaining current Clean Water Act standards for forest roads.
  • Provides the biggest investments in specialty crops and organic farming in Farm Bill history, including: $800 million for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, $100 million for organic research, and $375 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants.
  • Yearlong extension for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which provide Northwest Washington counties with funding to keep basic services working.
  • $20 million increase in support for food banks for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
  • Reauthorizes export promotion programs to help sell Northwest Washington fruits and vegetables abroad.
  • Continues funding for Rural Development programs, including wastewater grants, rural broadband development, and distance learning and telemedicine.
  • $200 million pilot program, authored by Rep. Suzan DelBene, WA-01, to provide job training for SNAP recipients.