Washington’s $29 billion food and agriculture industry contributes 13 percent to the state’s economy, and employs more than 170,000 people in every corner of the state, making it Washington’s No. 1 employer. More than 250 commodities are produced commercially in the state, making Washington’s agricultural economy the second most diverse in the nation. Despite its expansive and highly diverse agricultural sector, Washington is 28th in the nation in state appropriations for agricultural research and extension. In addition, despite aggressive reallocation of existing resources, critical gaps remain in research and education activities.
To better serve the needs of this critical industry within Washington State, over the past year, WSU along with the agricultural industry of the state, developed a state legislative request entitled the “Industry-Based Unified Agriculture Initiative.”
This initiative is a $10.8 million proposal to add critical scientific capacity to WSU’s efforts to increase the economic viability and sustainability of Washington’s food and agriculture industries. The request targets three critical areas of need:
- Operating support for WSU research and extension centers located throughout the state, including annual operating funds for a state-of-the-art research orchard the university recently purchased near Wenatchee and is developing with the tree fruit industry.
- Two internal competitive grant pools to enable greater responsiveness to emerging research and outreach needs.
- Faculty and staff positions to address critical and emerging issues facing Washington’s food and agriculture industry, specifically in value added agricultural products and economically and environmentally sustainable food production systems.
Over 40 food and agriculture organizations have joined with Washington State University – specifically the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences; the College of Veterinary Medicine; and WSU Extension – to support this initiative.
The Initiative has received significant visibility during the ongoing legislative session, including a one-and-a-half-hour session with the Senate’s Agriculture and Economic Development Committee. The governor included the first two of the three areas outlined above in her budget, so our current goal is to retain these commitments and work through the legislative process to add as many of the 24 faculty positions as possible to the final budget passed by the legislature.