PULLMAN, Wash. – The nearly $300 billion Farm Bill, enacted by a second House and Senate override of President George W. Bush’s veto this past week, will provide critical funding for agricultural research in Washington state, said Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean and director of the Washington State University Agricultural Research Center.
The bill includes more than $1.51 billion nationally in new competitive research funding, according to Cavaleri, including funding for research on specialty crops, organic agriculture, bioenergy, agricultural and rural transportation and for the National Clean Plant Network.
“Historically, the amount of federal funding available for agricultural research as a percent of all research funding by the government has been very small,” Cavalieri said. “This is a very substantial and important increase.
“It is important to us and the state of Washington because so many of our crops are specialty crops. Federal funding enables us to address longer term issues of basic genetics, genomics, sustainable cropping systems, high-risk research developing value-added products, mechanization and automation that cannot be funded by commodity commissions.
“We appreciate the support of members of Washington’s Congressional delegation, particularly Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Rick Larsen, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings for their work on the Farm Bill.”
Ken Casavant of WSU’s Transportation Research Group, who will compete for transportation funding, said, “We are working with North Dakota State and Texas A&M to build a consortium of institutions with mutual concerns about the needs of agriculture and rural transportation.”
“We have expertise in data and policy,” said Casavant, who is a professor of economic sciences. “Texas A&M works a lot with river and rail movement, which will help us when we look at our barge and rail movement in our state, and North Dakota deals with many of the same products we do and is trying to access the same international markets.
“By working with these other states, we will be able to put together a stronger research package to address such areas as access to ports, state and federal policies that affect freight capacity and mobility and new technologies that might aid transportation.”
Funding for the National Clean Plant Network will create a national system under the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service with fruit tree leadership and grape vine participation for virus testing of horticultural crops at the WSU Prosser Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center.
“Viruses and virus-like agents cause a variety of diseases in perennial fruit crops, including fruit trees, nut trees and grape vines,” said Cavalieri. “Once the plant material is in the field, viral disease cannot be chemically controlled or eliminated from plants. The best defense is to ensure that viruses have been eliminated from plant stock before it is planted.”
The National Clean Plant Network, in which the Prosser facility will play a role, will provide pathogen-tested plant material for fruit trees and grape vines. The network will test plant material, eliminate viruses and ensure that plant material meets state and federal regulatory guidelines.
The second override vote in the House and Senate was necessary because of a clerical error. This time the Senate voted 80-14 to bill after the House voted 317-109 vote to enact the legislation.