Larsen votes for Farm Bill to address hunger in Washington State and support local farms

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) issued the following statement after voting for the Farm Bill, which would support Washington’s Second Congressional District:

“The final Farm Bill addresses some of the concerns I raised regarding the House Farm Bill in May. Nearly one in eight Washingtonians suffer from hunger, and this legislation provides important funding to help address hunger in local communities.

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accounts for 80 percent of the 2018 Farm Bill. The final version of the legislation does not include the egregious work requirements which would have placed an undue burden on the more than 34,000 households in Washington’s Second District using food stamps to put dinner on the table each night.

“Instead, the Farm Bill invests in Employment and Training opportunities. In 2016, Washington state’s Basic Food Employment and Training program connected over 2,500 volunteer SNAP recipients with skills, training and job experience to improve their employment prospects and reduce reliance on SNAP.

“Washington state is the most trade-dependent state in the country, thanks in part to agriculture. The Farm Bill is an opportunity for Congress to help Washington state farmers stay competitive in a global market. The Farm Bill includes permanent funding for Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), which help farmers in Skagit Valley invest in value-added infrastructure to generate new products and create and expand marketing opportunities. Access to VAPG funding will help farmers stay competitive as they sell Washington-grown crops around the world.

“Additionally, the bill recognizes the importance of fostering future trade opportunities for local farmers. Agriculture accounts for 12 percent of Washington state’s economy, is the state’s second largest export and supports 160,000 jobs. This legislation will help local groups develop and expand into overseas markets. During my visits to farms and meetings with agriculture groups, I have heard repeatedly about the need to expand funding for trade. This bill maintains funding for market access and development to help companies successfully export Washington state potatoes, apples, seed crops and other specialty crops.”

Impacts to Washington’s Second District

Increases funding to access fresh produce: The bill increases funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) programs. Washington is one of the eight states to receive a large-scale Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grant. Farmers markets use this funding to match EBT dollars to help people purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local producers.

Provides funding for Employment and Training (E&T): The bill invests funding in the SNAP E&T case management, including providing more staff to work with enrollees or building additional systems to identify needs and track progress over time. Washington state is one of ten states across the country piloting SNAP E&T to learn help people gain skills, training and job experience to help them land good-paying jobs.

Funds Value-Added Producer Grants: The bill funds Value-Added Producer Grants which are vital for companies in Skagit Valley. Larsen has toured farms across the Second District including Bow Hill Blueberries and Gothberg Farms in Bow as well as Penn Cove Shellfish on Whidbey Island where he heard about the impact of Value-Added Producer Grants to operations.

Funds organic research programs: The bill increases permanent funding for the Organic Research and Extension Initiative, important to the 677 organic farms across Washington state. Washington State University’s (WSU) Mount Vernon Research & Extension Center is the hub for organic research in Northwest Washington.

Specialty Crops: The bill protects funding for specialty crops. Skagit County is a significant contributor of specialty crops. Washington state produces 75 percent of the U.S. supply of spinach and cabbage seed and nearly 95 percent of U.S. beet seed. Last year, Larsen visited Viva Farms in Burlington where he heard about the importance of Specialty Crop Block Grants to the company’s operations.

 

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