Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rep. Schrier introduces Bipartisan Bill to support Washington farmers, advance crop research

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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S Representative Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) has introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently fix the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) and provide crucial support for Washington farmers.

The SCRI finances research projects that directly benefit Washington farmers. SCRI has funded projects to combat fungicide resistance in wine grapes, prevent pestilence in onions, and improve precision irrigation for fruit growers. Before 2019, the Secretary of Agriculture was able to waive SCRI’s matching funds requirement when it was prohibitively expensive for research institutions, but the 2018 Farm Bill eliminated this authority.

Congresswoman Schrier’s bill permanently fixes this issue by once again allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to waive the matching requirement. Previous legislation introduced by Rep. Schrier in 2019 attempted to find a long-term solution. Rep. Schrier has also co-led a bipartisan funding letter with Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rick Larsen to fix this issue on a temporary basis in annual appropriations legislation.

“Washington farmers work tirelessly to provide our state and the entire world with high-quality produce. At a time when changes in the climate and economy have taken their toll on the agriculture industry, it is vital that we stand by our farmers and support them in any way we can,” said Rep. Schrier. “This bill will allow Washington State University and other vital agriculture research institutions, who would have otherwise been unable to afford the matching requirement, to receive federal support for conducting groundbreaking research. I will work to get this legislation added as part of this year’s Farm Bill.”

Representatives Rick Larsen (WA-02), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) joined Congresswoman Schrier in introducing this bill. The bill is endorsed by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), Northwest Horticultural Council, and US Apple Association.

“The Specialty Crop Research Initiative is critical in enabling Central Washington farmers to supply the world with cherries, apples, wine, hops and many other specialty crops,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Universities and commodity groups representing Washington agriculture are eager to pursue world-class specialty crop research that provides our farmers with a competitive edge, but provisions left out of the 2018 Farm Bill left SCRI recipients at a disadvantage. I am proud to work as a Member of the Appropriations Committee to include this language to give certainty to these institutions as they compete for federal grant funding and continue their groundbreaking research at facilities throughout Washington and the United States.”

“Research into specialty crops like berries, spinach and cabbage seed is vital to Northwest Washington’s economy,” said Rep. Larsen. “Investing in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative helps enable specialty crop farmers in my district to foster innovation and drive the regional economy.”

In addition to fellow members of Congress, many stakeholders from the community have voiced their support for Rep. Schrier’s bill.

“Ensuring that this simple yet impactful solution is included in the next reauthorization of the Farm Bill will help Washington State University continue to provide world class research in support of the $9 billion Washington agriculture economy,” said Wendy Powers, Dean of the College of Agricultural Human and Natural Resource Sciences. “WSU is grateful to Congresswoman Schrier for her ongoing work supporting Washington agriculture.”

Mark Powers, President of the Northwest Horticultural Council, noted “in part, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative is successful because of the engagement with the agricultural community that occurs during the consideration of research proposals, so that only projects that are relevant to growers are funded. The ability of the USDA secretary to waive the 100 percent match requirement is critical to making sure that the projects that are actually the highest priority to growers continue to be awarded taxpayer dollars. The Northwest Horticultural Council thanks Representative Schrier for her leadership in advocating to ensure that the Specialty Crop Research Initiative continues to fund the projects that provide the biggest benefit to growers.”

“Mother nature is not always kind, and apple orchards are under constant attack from insects and diseases. Growers need up-to-date research to keep up. SCRI projects are critical tools in developing targeted responses,” said US Apple Association President and CEO Jim Bair. “We thank Representatives Schrier and Newhouse for taking the lead in this bipartisan effort to ensure SCRI operates at maximum efficiency.”

The following members have signed on as original cosponsors: Rep. Bergman (MI-1), Rep. Bonamici (OR-1), Rep. Brownley (CA-26), Rep. Carbajal (CA-24), Rep. Costa (CA-21), Rep. DelBene (WA-1), Rep. Harder (CA-9), Rep. Huizenga (MI-4), Rep. Khanna (CA-17), Rep. Kilmer (WA-6), Rep. Larsen (WA-2), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-12), Rep. McMorris Rodgers (WA-5), Rep. Moolenaar (MI-2), Rep. Newhouse (WA-4), Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-3), Rep. Ryan (NY-18), Rep. Slotkin (MI-7), Rep. Stefanik (NY-21), Rep. Takano (CA-39), and Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-4).

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