A strong and thriving agricultural sector is essential to Washington state's economic success. Senator Maria Cantwell continues to work on behalf of farmers and families with innovative strategies that both strengthen our local communities and find new ways to take full advantage of a growing marketplace. She has championed agriculture research, worked to open new markets to Washington goods, and is making sure we have an efficient system to get products to our ports and out to markets around the world.
Opening Foreign Markets to Washington Goods
Maria has pushed for new trade opportunities for Washington farmers and producers by opening foreign markets to their goods. In 2002 and 2003, she visited Cuba and met with a wide range of government officials. The meetings resulted in the first Washington state exports of apples, peas, and lentils to Cuba in over 50 years. Maria also visited Mexico to advocate that the Mexican government remove its existing trade barriers on potato imports, which had prevented Washington farmers from accessing the potentially lucrative Mexican market. Five months after her visit, for the first time Mexico allowed imports of Washington state potatoes. In October 2002, Maria negotiated with the British Columbia government to permit the sale of wine from eight new Washington state wineries, expanding Washington winery access by 40 percent.
Helping Launch a Washington State Biofuels Industry
Last October, Maria convened the Biofuels Business Collaborative--a group of Washington businesses, farmers, investors, and fuel consumers--to help create a strong Washington biofuels industry. Producing biofuels alternatives with Washington grown crops or woody material can help reduce fuel transportation costs and provide real competition at the gas pump. Maria also helped broker several agreements that will help jumpstart the Washington state biofuels market including a commitment by the Port of Seattle and its tenants to purchase one million gallons of biodiesel annually, working with officials from the Port of Grays Harbor and representatives from Seattle Biodiesel to develop one of the nation's largest biodiesel plants at the Port of Grays Harbor, and securing funding to help Puget Sound ferries to use biodiesel.
Keeping Our Beef Industry Strong
After the 2003 discovery of a calf infected with BSE--or Mad Cow disease--in Washington state, Maria worked to restore confidence in American beef. Even though the infected calf was of Canadian origin, Washington cattle producers lost $190 million a year in the years following the discovery. Since then, Maria has worked to improve tracking of Canadian cattle, close feed loopholes that can lead to BSE infections, and reopen lucrative markets like Japan to U.S. beef. Maria has introduced legislation to keep high risk materials out of cattle feed, and has pushed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to act quickly in closing known feed loopholes.
Backing Agriculture Research
To keep Washington's agriculture industry strong, Maria has worked to secure critical federal support for research at schools like Washington State University, a recognized global leader in agricultural research with nine research agriculture facilities across our state. WSU's plant breeding program has helped develop several varieties of raspberries, grapes, wheat, and potatoes. WSU's sweet cherry breeding program has led to the development of the world famous White Rainier Cherry, now a major export to Asia.
Supporting Washington Crops and Products
Washington boasts some of the world's finest agricultural products. To keep our agriculture industry strong, Maria has worked to secure loan and disaster assistance for apple farmers, wheat growers, and seed, pea and lentil producers. She has worked to allow the pear industry to operate a single producer-based federal marketing organization, and has backed protections for organic farmers by ending a loophole allowing livestock producers to qualify as organic after using non-organic feed. She also fought to guarantee fair competition by making sure imported cherries and pears conform to the same size, quality and grade standards as domestic products.