Dan Wheat

Central Washington Reporter
Wheat, Dan

New water reservoir to help irrigators

- The Roza Irrigation District, serving the northern edge of the Yakima Valley, has only junior water rights, meaning it can be cut off in droughts. It's building a $26 million reservoir to help conserve water.

Apple commission not eager to promote clubs

- An idea of promoting club apple varieties wasn't embraced by the Washington Apple Commission at a recent meeting.

Grafting company stays busy

- Jose Lujano and his sons are busy this time of year with their seasonal, Yakima-based business, grafting fruit trees in orchards througout Central Washington. It's a way of switching tree varieties.

Expected drought shows need for water projects

- An irrigation district serving the Kittitas Valley may not have water to last the season because of drought and that only emphasizes the need for planned reservoir enhancements, an irrigation district board member says.

Apple commission discusses GM position

- With U.S. and Canadian approval of genetically-modified apples, the Washington Apple Commission is discussing it future position on the issue.

Northwest hop acreage continues to grow

- The March 1 inventory of hops is slightly down but acreage is expected to keep growing this year as the craft brewing industry drives demand.

Canadian government approves GM apples

- Two Canadian agencies have approved genetically modified apples that were developed in British Columbia. They have also been approved in the U.S.

Canal-clearing job requires mind over matter

- It's a job where you want to stay alert. Wenatchee Reclamation District employees scoop rock and mud from a canal hundreds of feet above the valley floor.

Early spring pushes ahead spraying in Washington

- Fruit trees in Central Washington are waking up early causing growers to step up spray scheduled. Irrigation districts mostly remain on normal start schedules.

Serving replant disease a meal of mustard

- A research scientist says feeding orchard soil white and yellow mustard seed meal may be better than fumigation in fighting replant disease.

At 80 years and counting, still too many Reds

- The Washington apple industry icon, the Red Delicious, has been tops for 80 years and is still revered overseas. But oversupply and low prices this season may spell its demise.

Wanapum Dam repairs nearing completion

- Repairs on a cracked Columbia River dam in the center of Washington state are wrapping up and the dam's reservoir is being refilled. Irrigators will have water.

Port traffic improves, but backlog of problems remains

- Congestion at ports is improving but no one seems to know how much. Shipping lines are boosting container rates and issues remain in Oakland and Portland.

New apples join Pink Lady logo

- Several new apple varieties similar to Cripps Pink will be sold under the Pink Lady logo to provide that type of apple earlier in the season.

Tough season points to need for stronger apple promotions, expert says

- With prices of Red Delicious apples still falling and the Washington apple industry facing a potential carryover of supply, stronger promotions could help, an industry observer says.

County may sue to stop grizzly restoration

- Okanogan County commissioners say they may sue to stop grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades. Chelan County commissioners also oppose the idea put forth by federal and state agencies.

Mathisons continue quest for more cherry ground

- The Mathison family, owners of Stemilt Growers Inc., the largest sweet cherry packer in the nation, is continuing to pursue state land for orchard even if it takes a few years.

Washington snowpack lowest in 10 years

- Washington state's mountain snowpack is 29 percent of normal, but rains should keep streams in good shape until mid-summer.

Pesticide worker removals down by one

- Washington state has been monitoring blood enzymes of agricultural pesticide applicators for 10 years. Problem levels have remained low.

Early spring pushes crops, raises frost worries

- Tree fruit, hay and aspargus all feel the pull of early warmth in Central Washington. It makes for a longer frost protection season.

Apple company builds new facilities for future

- Washington Fruit & Produce Co. remains aggressive in building new multi-million-dollar packing facilities and expanding orchards on eve of turning 100 years old.

U.S. firm buys Canadian GM apple company

- The Canadian company that developed a genetically modified apple is being purchased by a U.S. firm. The transaction is to be completed in the first half of this year.

Pear growers get early contract from canners

- In an early agreement, Pacific Northwest pear canners have agreed to pay growers subtantially more in the next three years to get the volume they need. The PNW produces 85 percent of the nation's pears, California the rest.

Minimum wage hikes hurt more than help, study says

- A Washington Research Council report says raises in minimum wages hinder more than help state economies and workers.

Exporters: Questions remain after port contract agreement

- Agricultural exporters hope resolution of the West Coast port labor crisis sticks. They face months before shipments are back to normal and probably longerto restore overseas markets.

Fruit companies join packing

- Fruit companies join packing operations to remain competitive. Valley Fruit and Larson Fruit form Legacy Fruit Packers.

Farm labor association extends reach into other states

- Four years after separating from the Washington Farm Bureau, the Washington Farm Labor Association is changing its name and expanding to serve farmers in other West Coast states.

Effort to change law governing port labor fails to gain steam

- Trade groups talk privately about changing law to prevent future port slow downs but don't appear to be getting any effort started.

Ag losses mount from port slowdown

- Agricultural export losses due to the West Coast port slowdown reached $1.75 billion in January, according to the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.

Obama immigration action creates pitfalls for employers

- Employers shouldn't help employees apply for President Obama's deferred deportation or they are setting themselves up for liability, a labor attorney says.

Piece rate case likely to change employment practices, lawyers say

- A lawsuit over whether piece rate includes compensation for resk breaks could forever change its use and could cost growers $100 million or more for back wages if they lose, labor attorneys say.

North Cascade grizzly bear restoration considered

- The National Park Service is accepting public comment through March 26 on whether federal agencies should actively engage in grizzly bear recovery in Washington's North Cascade mountains.

WSU wine science center takes shape

- Washington State University expects to have a grand opening for its new Wine Science Center in Richland in June. It's billed as one of the top wine research and educational facilities in the world.

USDA approves GM apples developed in Canada

- The USDA has deregulated two genetically modified apples, saying they are unlikely to pose any risk, but the Canadian company developing them may have a hard time finding growers.

$100 million or more at stake in Washington piece-rate case

- A lawsuit over whether piece-rate pay includes compensation for rest breaks will be heard by the Washington Supreme Court. If growers lose, it could cost them $100 million or more in back pay to employees.

Winery waste water regs raise concerns

- The Washington Department of Ecology is working on plans to regulate winery waste water discharge to protect surface and ground water. Wineries say costs and scope could be too much.

Apple imports could be another challenge for U.S. growers

- Washington apple shippers are reducing the size of their huge crop by culling more fruit but may face greater Southern Hemisphere import competition this spring.

Washington wine grape crop sets record

- Washington wine grape and wine production keeps growing and is second only to California. The industry sees growth continuing.

Washington apple industry works to build Chinese market

- Washington Apple Commission leaders promoted Washington apples in China immediately upon the heels of an announcement of new trade of all varieties of apples both ways between the U.S. and China.

Immigration debate heats up again in Congress

- Congress is beginning to take up immigration reform again and agricultural groups want it to include agricultural guestworker and legalization of domestic workers provisions.

Mexico extends deadline in apple dumping inquiry

- Apple shippers, mostly in Washington, are answering Mexican questionnaires about dumping allegations.

Port slowdown has damaged Western ag’s export markets

- From potatoes and vegetables to apples and hay, growers in many parts of the West Coast are being impacted by the longshoremen work slow down at ports. Product isn't getting shipped and growers face decisions on how much to...

Lack of snow suggests dry summer in Washington

- Collection of winter snowpack continues at an anemic pace in Washington which means farm irrigators susceptible to drought, like parts of the Yakima Valley, may struggle for water this season.