Washington Cherry Growers Grapple With Drought, Labor Issues

Jun 24, 2015
Stemilt Growers, a cherry packing facility in Wenatchee, Washington.
Flickr Photo/Jay Inslee (CC BY ND 2.0)

Kim Malcolm speaks with Northwest News Network's Anna King about Washington's cherry industry. Water restrictions and labor shortages have thrown up some hurdles for local producers, but this year's crop is still expected to produce about 15 million boxes of cherries.

Northwest sweet cherry experts are reporting that some orchards are having a hard time getting their fruit picked this year.

Workers sort through strawberry roots on a planter pulled behind a tractor at Sakuma Brothers Farm in Burlington, Wash.,
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

BURLINGTON, Wash. – On a recent morning at Sakuma Brothers Farm, eight Latino workers sat on a bench seat behind a tractor, planting strawberry roots that will bear fruit in a few years. Dust masks and goggles covered their faces.

There’s a good chance these field workers have joined, or work side by side, with a group calling for a union contract here.

Selling seeds and pesticides used to be a sleepy, slow-moving business. That was, until about 20 years ago, when the chemical company Monsanto introduced genetically modified crops and started buying up seed companies. Ever since, companies in this industry have been maneuvering like hungry fish in a pond, occasionally dining on pieces of each other, hoping to survive through size and speed.

Anna King/Northwest News Network

Immigration officials have busted an Eastern Washington farm for major violations. Now, the farm is set to pay the largest fine ever in the state for illegally hiring workers.

The Roza Irrigation District in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley is shutting off the water for two weeks because of drought. About a billion dollars in crops are on the line.

Jim Willard, Juan Manel and Leobardo Magana worked to adjust irrigation systems for the short water year on a farm outside of Prosser, Wash.

Bill Radke talks with reporter Anna King of the Northwest News Network about how farmers in Central Washington are struggling to save water during an extended drought.

File photo of a commerical chicken farm
Flickr Photo/Chesapeake Bay Program (CC-BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde speaks with Oregonian reporter Lynne Terry about her recent story about salmonella outbreaks involving Foster Farms called "A Game of Chicken. "

A drive across the Northwest quickly reveals things look really dry everywhere.

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

A member of the Teanaway wolf pack in western Washington state. The wolf was in recovery from tranquilizing drug when this photo was taken.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Washington state’s wolf population grew by 30 percent last year – a big success for the state's wolf recovery plan.

But rancher Len McIrvin of Diamond M Ranch doesn't see why state conservationists are patting themselves on the back. And he finds it baffling that people are so fond of wolves. To him, they’re bloodthirsty predators.

You know the beautiful, mass-produced tomatoes you can buy at the grocery store? You can drop one and it'll bounce back unharmed, but doesn't taste like much.

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Here are five things you should know:

1. What the report said: Roundup could cause cancer in humans.

The region's recent stretch of warm weather means Northwest sweet cherries will likely be going early to market this year.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared drought today in three regions of the Evergreen state: the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region.