Farm Bill Helps WA Farmers Compete, Invests in Specialty Crops, Fights Hunger

Jul 27, 2007

July 27, 2007

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) joined a majority of his colleagues in the House of Representatives today to support a fiscally responsible farm bill that makes a historic investment in Washington state’s specialty crops, invests in conservation and broad-based renewable energy and strengthens nutrition programs that help feed hungry families. The farm bill (HR 2419) passed the House by a vote of 231-191.

“For the first time, our federal farm policy makes a serious investment in helping Washington’s specialty crop producers thrive,” said Larsen. “This farm bill will help Washington growers compete with farms down the road and around the world.”

Northwest Washington farms would benefit from the $1.6 billion in mandatory funding provided for specialty crops. Past farm bills have neglected specialty crops, which account for almost fifty percent of total cash receipts in Washington state and nationally. Washington is the third-largest producer of specialty crops -- including potatoes, raspberries and nursery products -- in the country. As a major producer of specialty crops, Washington state will benefit from the bill’s increased funding for specialty crop block grants, which provide state agriculture departments with resources to support research, improve food safety and inspection, and enhance the ability of American producers to compete internationally.

The farm bill also expands nutrition programs that help feed 35 million low-income American families. It nearly doubles funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program so that food banks, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding sites have needed resources. It also expands the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable pilot program -- which has successfully provided children in Whatcom and Skagit County, Washington and elsewhere with nutritious snacks -- to all 50 states. The farm bill is supported by America’s Second Harvest, the nation's largest charitable hunger-relief organization.

“It is unacceptable that so many children are hungry here in the United States, the wealthiest and most agriculture-rich nation in the world,” Larsen continued. “This bill expands essential nutrition programs and brings the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable pilot program to every state in the country, delivering nutritious food to Americans in need while supporting local farms.”

The farm bill strengthens conservation programs that take environmentally-sensitive land out of farming and encourage environmentally-friendly practices on working farmland. The bill provides an additional $4.3 billion to preserve farm and ranchland, improve water quality and quantity, and enhance soil conservation, air quality, and wildlife habitat on working lands.

It also makes a historic investment in broad-based renewable energy programs. The bill provides $2 billion in loan guarantees for the development of refineries that process renewable fuels and $1.5 billion for production incentives for ethanol and biodiesel made from agricultural, forest, and waste plant materials – some of which can be converted to fuel more efficiently than corn-based ethanol.

To encourage more locally-produced food to be sold at farmers markets, roadside stands and community-supported agriculture operations, the farm bill includes $35 million for competitive grants through the Farmer’s Market Promotion Program.

Washington state farm organizations including the Washington State Red Raspberry Commission, Washington State Potato Commission, Washington Farm Bureau, Washington State Dairy Federation and Northwest Horticulture Council have endorsed the bill.