Sunday, March 26, 2023

Newhouse hears from Central WA constituents about priorities for Farm Bill

Staff Writer | March 16, 2023 3:41 PM

BENTON CITY – Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Yakima, held three roundtable discussions in Central Washington this week to discuss priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill from farmers and other industry professionals.

“We want to get it right,” said Newhouse. “We want to make sure the Farm Bill actually helps; all the places it can be improved and the programs that we have that could work better – areas that may need to be beefed up a little.”

According to the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the Farm Bill is legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy every five years.

Newhouse’s stops included Yakima on Monday, Goldendale on Tuesday and Benton City on Wednesday. His stop on Wednesday saw about a dozen individuals who wanted to discuss topics such as wine, wheat, pesticides, the Columbia Basin Project and the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program.

Newhouse said he feels like it will be a tough year on the Farm Bill because there is a lot of discussion about how to reduce the amount of federal spending and he thinks the Farm Bill will not be excluded from scrutiny.

“As you know 80%, 82% maybe of the Farm Bill goes to the nutrition program, so there is going to be a lot of conversation about how we can be more efficient there,” Newhouse said. “We gotta have sharp pencils and make sure that those things that are important to Central Washington that we are able to verbalize strongly and stand up for.”

Leslie Druffel, Outreach Director for the McGregor Company, said crop insurance and research are top priorities from an ag retailer point of view to make sure their customers are protected and have assurances.

“Also making sure they have choices that are gained through research whether it’s on the chemical side or variety side, tree fruit or wheat or all of the above,” Druffel said.

Crop insurance is purchased by agricultural producers, including farmers, ranchers and others to protect against either the loss of their crops due to natural disasters, or the loss of revenue due to declines in the prices of agricultural commodities, the Insurance Information Institute website states.

Newhouse agreed and said margins right now are very thin so crop insurance is vital. He also said crop insurance is important to local farmers because it has come up in every one of the roundtable conversations he’s had.

Sydney Anderson of the Adams County Farm Bureau said they are working on the Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program, along with other entities, and are working toward the PL-566 Program (Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act) and want to make sure that it stays funded by the Farm Bill.

“That’s going to be the ticket isn’t it?” Newhouse asked.

“Yeah, it’s a big one,” Anderson replied.

The OGWRP is a regional effort to build the necessary infrastructure for farmers to exchange valid state-issued Odessa groundwater rights for Columbia Basin Project water to reduce the use of water from the Odessa aquifer.

Michele Kiesz, a member of the Columbia Basin Development League and Washington Association of Wheat Growers, also brought up the importance of funding the PL-566 program.

“You guys need to understand we are at the tipping point here right now,” Kiesz said. “We have communities, 22 of them, that are going dry out there.”

Rebecca Pettingill may be reached at


Rebecca Pettingill

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Yakima, serves as a Congressman for Washington State and is on the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration and the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

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