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Guest Editorial

Our country's policies need to reflect needs of local farmers

BY DOC HASTINGS

Farmers and farm communities are the foundation of Central Washington's economy. The hundreds of crops grown in our region routinely appear on dinner tables across the nation and around the globe.

It's important that our national policies reflect the needs of our farmers and agriculture producers. That starts with supporting research. Stable federal research dollars enable American farmers to reap the benefits of the science and technology they need to remain competitive in the ever changing international market place. With several Agriculture Research Service (ARS) centers and university based research projects, nowhere is this more evident than in Central Washington.

Each year I work to ensure the research needs of local farmers are met-and this year is no different. The House of Representatives just approved its agriculture spending bill for next year. Our bill restores funding for agriculture research that the Administration proposed to reduce in its budget proposal released in February.

We restored $63 million for the ARS next year that was proposed to be reduced. Funding for the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, which includes Hatch Act, McIntire-Stennis and Animal Health Disease programs has been restored to $1.3 billion.

The House approved bill specifically provides a funding increase for the Hatch Act program. Proposals to replace the Hatch Act program with a competitive grant program were soundly rejected. Continuity of facilities and scientists is needed so that advances in research critical to Central Washington farmers can be accomplished.

Funding I sought for Washington asparagus growers for the development of mechanical harvesting technology is included in the bill, as well as funds to expand the wine foundation block in Prosser. The wine foundation block is critical to providing virus-free rootstock for the ever expanding Washington wine country.

In addition to supporting research, our policies should help open and expand new agriculture markets abroad. The Market Access Program (MAP) is one of our nation's best tools for creating new export opportunities for American farmers. Funding initiatives like consumer promotions, market research and technical assistance, MAP is particularly important to those who produce the hundreds of specialty crops grown in Central Washington-including apples, cherries, potatoes and wine grapes. As a leading proponent of MAP in Congress, I'm pleased that our agriculture spending bill includes $200 million for MAP next year-the full amount allowed under the law.

While the Senate has yet to consider its agriculture spending bill for next year, we're off to a good start.

. 4th District Congressman Doc Hastings represents Central Washington.

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