By Addy Hatch, WSU News

The 2018 Farm Bill could bring millions of more dollars to Washington State University for a wide range of programs benefiting the Northwest agriculture industry and underserved communities.

The bill was approved by both houses of Congress and signed Dec. 20 by President Donald Trump.

Generally referred to as “massive,” the $867 billion Farm Bill includes money for agriculture research and trade, food and nutrition programs, conservation, support for America’s farmers and rural economies, and animal disease prevention.

Although no money has been earmarked yet for specific programs or universities, WSU successfully competes for funding; the university is the No. 1 recipient of research and development expenditures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Farm Bill is a priority for the university.

“This Farm Bill represents a tremendous success both for WSU and for the State of Washington,” said Colleen Kerr, vice president for external affairs and government relations. “Our work on the bill has been an 18‑month process in close partnership with the Washington State Department of Agriculture and a coalition of agricultural producers, growers and processors in the state that are the backbone of our state’s important agricultural industry.”

Some of the potential benefits to WSU include:

  • An increase in funding by more than $600 million for research, extension and education projects
  • $40 million to establish a grant program for students getting degrees in food and agricultural sciences
  • A new scholarship fund for Native American students attending land‑grant universities and colleges
  • Legalization of industrial hemp farming
  • New animal disease prevention programs
  • Funding for the national animal health laboratory network; WSU is one of just 15 such USDA Level 1 facilities nationwide
  • Helping rural communities address the opioid crisis by building and upgrading medical facilities, increasing telehealth services, and increasing funding for distance learning and telemedicine
  • Grants to extend broadband infrastructure to rural areas
  • Funding to increase the marketability of low‑value, small‑diameter logs
  • Research and development in the construction of tall wood buildings in the United States

“The Farm Bill offers crucial support for American farmers, scientists, and communities nationwide who depend on land‑grant university research, innovation, and Extension programs,” said André‑Denis Wright, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

“Thanks to passage of the bill this year, crop insurance and other agricultural programs that our farm partners depend on will continue to operate,” Wright said. “Additionally, this bill’s increase in land‑grant research and Extension funding helps WSU researchers build on more than a century of partnerships with Northwest growers and families, delivering science for success.”