As Washington's director of agriculture, Bud Hover says he wants to increase exports, attract more young people to agriculture, establish a team to work on water quality issues with dairies and livestock owners, improve relations with other departments and improve the department’s internal structure.
Hover was on the governor’s trade mission to China and Japan in November. Matt Harris, director of trade at the Washington Potato Commission, was also on the trip and credited Hover for gaining a discussion with the Chinese that may result in China importing Northwest fresh and chipping potatoes next fall.
There’s great potential for increased exports to China with its vast population and growing middle class, Hover says.
“They look at us as the highest quality grown under best conditions. That sells. They get one kid (per couple) over there and they want to do best by them, so they are willing to pay 80 percent more for quality,” he said.
While some in agriculture and other businesses oppose Gov. Inslee’s call for an increase in the state’s minimum wage as counterproductive, Hover defends it, saying many farmworkers already make more than minimum wage. He said he couldn’t get workers at his hay ranch in Winthrop if he only paid minimum wage.
The governor, he said, asked him to get someone in the department who understands labor from the farmworker and Hispanic perspective. To that end, he said he hired Ignacio Marquez, formerly director of the Yakima WorkSource Office at the Department of Employment Security, to work on labor and Hispanic outreach. Marquez, he said, tried to help resolve disputes between farmworkers and Sakuma Bros. Farms in Burlington.