OLYMPIA - Since 2001, the state Department of Agriculture has administered a temporary program that helps small family farms in the direct marketing of their products. Earlier this month the Senate Agriculture & Rural Economic DevelopmentCommittee took steps to make that program permanent.

"I think the Small Farm & Direct Marketing Program has been great for the economy of southwest Washington," said Vice Chair of the Agriculture & Rural Economic Development Committee Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, who is a main sponsor of Senate Bill 5056.

The program assists in the direct marketing of agricultural products from small farms, which are defined as having less than $250,000 gross annual sales, and with labor and management provided by the farmer or farm family who owns or leases the farm. Assistance has included grants awarded to local direct marketing projects, including farmers markets.

"Growing a crop is just the first part of farming," he said. "This program recognizes that for some farmers, finding a market for those crops can be a challenging. That's why I'm in favor of extending the program beyond its July 1 expiration."

Constituents may contact Hatfield through his Senate office at 360-786-7636 or Brian.Hatfield@leg.wa.gov, and can visit his Senate Web page at http://www.sdc.wa.gov/hatfield.htm to keep track of specific issues or areas of interest.

Hatfield was sworn into office in Olympia earlier this month following his appointment to fill out the unexpired term of Sen. Mark Doumit of Cathlamet, who resigned to take a job with a timber industry group. Hatfield previously served in the State House and as an assistant to Sen. Sid Snyder.

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