Central Washington agriculture groups expressed disappointment — and frustration — over Thursday’s failure of the 2013 farm bill in the House of Representatives.
The $940 billion proposal had included continued funding for programs of interest to the region’s tree fruit and other crops, all of which are considered specialty crops. That funding included export promotion funding and money for research that are now in jeopardy beyond 2013.
“It doesn’t help the certainty for scientists working on research to not know if they will have a job or if program funding is not there,” said Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council of Yakima. “These programs are there for a reason. Things are kind of up in the air when you have one of these big votes that is negative.”
Schlect added he is concerned Congress may extend the farm bill one more time given the crush of congressional business between now and the end of the fiscal year and the philosophical differences that resulted in the failure. Republicans want greater cuts to nutrition programs like food stamps while Democrats argue the food stamp cuts in the bill were too deep.
The council represents the Northwest tree-fruit industry on national trade and regulatory issues.
B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission, said export promotion funding is in place for this year, thanks to the 2012 farm bill extension. The question is what happens after this year.
“Agriculture is a huge part of the U.S. economy. To have the rug pulled out from under us is frustrating to say the least,” he said. “Ag producers across the country are paying a lot of taxes and taking care of the country on a lot of fronts. It’s disappointing to see this.”
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, voted for the measure because of the programs for Central Washington agriculture. His office issued a statement in which Hastings blamed Democrats for the 234-195 defeat, saying the minority chose to withdraw support for a bill that saved $40 billion by reducing programs, ending direct payments to farmers and reforming food stamps.
The U.S. Senate already has passed its version of the five-year farm spending plan.