Dan Wheat

Washington Reporter
Wheat, Dan

Ag employers seek relief from large H-2A wage increases

- The proposed hourly wages would increase 6.3 percent nationwide and 15-23 percent in three regions of the Mountain West.

Fire damages Washington apple packer

- Pine Canyon Growers, a two-year-old company in Orondo, Wash., lost its office and packed apple storage rooms in a fire late Nov. 25. The company plans to be operational again soon.

Western Innovator: From one sweet job to another

- A research geneticist has switched from Florida sugarcane to Washington sweet cherries. His challenge is to develop better early and late season cherry varieties.

H-2A minimum wage likely to jump

- USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has released data for the basis of increasing the minimum wage for H-2A workers by 6.4 percent in Washington and Oregon next year.

Irrigation transfer bill passes U.S. House committee

- The House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill, Nov. 15, to move federal irrigation assets to the Kennewick Irrigation District. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., hopes to get it through Congress before the end of the year.

Judge blocks Cosmic Crisp information release

- A freelance journalist seeking financial and marketing information about Washington’s new Cosmic Crisp apple has been temporarily blocked by a judge at the request of a company promoting the apple.

Foreign guestworker advertising rule may change

- A proposed rule change could save farmers nationwide, using H-2A foreign guestworkers, millions of dollars in advertising for domestic workers.

Apple prices increasing, marketers say

- Washington wholesale apple prices have been low but are moving up, marketers say, as the crop estimate remains small.

Yakima hotel transforms into farmworker housing

- A large Yakima hotel has been mostly converted into farmworker housing and owners foresee it meeting more need as use of foreign guestworkers continues to grow.

Advocate assesses election’s impact on labor reform

- A leader for agricultural labor reform says friends were lost but new opportunities were born as Democrats won the U.S. House. H-2A-visa changes could come in a Homeland Security appropriations bill and regulations.

Northwest pushing large pear crop

- Sales are lagging but prices are good as the Pacific Northwest pear industry is three months into packing and shipping a near record large fresh crop.

Use of H-2A guestworkers sets record

- Numbers of agricultural foreign guestworkers certified by the federal government grew 21 percent nationally and 34 percent in Washington state in 2018. Industry sources say its indicative of the shortage of domestic residen...

Washington pear packer starts using H-2B

- A Wenatchee Valley pear cooperative is the first tree fruit packer in Washington to use H-2B-visa foreign guestworkers. Needed, the co-op says, during September through December peak packing.

European apple moth strikes in B.C., and is probably here

- A European apple pest, introduced in imported rootstock 18 years ago, is killing apple trees in British Columbia and spreading into Washington.

Little Cherry Disease at epidemic levels

- A Washington State University plant virologist says Little Cherry Disease is “well into epidemic levels” in Central Washington and will eventually impact the crop. The president of the industry’s promot...

Cherry growers seek federal aid to help offset Chinese tariff losses

- The 2018 Northwest cherry crop final tally is 25.3 million, 20-pound boxes making it second largest crop. More federal export promotion dollars are being sought to partially recompense tariff losses.

Yakima reservoirs lower than normal

- Mountain water reservoirs serving the Yakima Basin are near their annual low and at 88.6 percent of normal caused by 46 percent of normal precipitation for the first 24 days of October. It maybe cause for concern for next y...

Harvest-assist machines join forces for faster apple picking

- A hybrid between Washington and Michigan apple harvest assist machines maybe on the market next year. It could be the final step before a robotic picker.

Yakima hotel transforms into farmworker housing

- A large Yakima hotel has been mostly converted into farmworker housing and owners foresee it meeting more need as use of foreign guestworkers continues to grow.

‘Non-failure emergency’ lifted at Priest Rapids Dam

- A local public utility district, working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has lifted a non-failure emergency condition at mid-Columbia hydroelectric dam. Drilling has relieved pressure and monitoring has been ...

Larson Orchard settles lawsuit with H-2A workers

- A Washington tree fruit company has agreed, in an out-of-court settlement, to pay lost wages and rehire 18 seasonal foreign guestworkers in 2019 whom went on strike in 2017.

USDA solicits apple bids as part of tariff mitigation plan

- As part of USDA’s retaliatory tariff mitigation, the department is accepting bids from U.S. apple growers on certain varieties of the 2018 crop.

Companies promote new apples at PMA Fresh Summit

- Chelan Fresh Marketing and Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers are among Washington companies promoting limited-volume, proprietary apple varieties at Produce Marketing Association’s annual Fresh Summit in Florida.

Cosmic Crisp to get $10 million marketing push

- Specifics aren’t being revealed, but Washington State University and the firm it hired to help manage commercialization of its new’s Cosmic Crisp apple say they will spend $10 million in early promotions.

DACA applications cost legal immigrants $316.5 million, feds say

- DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) for 1.2 million people from 2015 through 2017 cost other immigrants $316.5 million during that time, says an immigration think tank, citing federal statistics.

Apples still top crop in Washington

- For more than a decade apples have been Washington’s top value agricultural commodity and that continued in 2017 at $2.43 billion of the state’s total $10.6 billion in farmgate value.

Part of Methow Valley under apple maggot quarantine

- The northern part of Okanogan County’s Methow Valley is being added to the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s apple maggot quarantine to try to slow spread of the pest that’s already in some c...

Apple crop estimate takes big drop

- Washington’s apple crop looks like it’s 10.8 percent smaller than estimated two months ago. Fruit set was lighter than first thought due to cool weather during bloom and pollination. The smaller crop should gi...

Washington ranchers struggle with fire recovery

- Twenty ranchers in northcentral Washington are worried about recovery from the state’s largest wildfire they say didn’t receive much public attention because it happened so fast.

Hay exporters worried about China

- While quality and prices have been good this season, West Coast hay exporters are concerned how long Chinese tariffs will damage sales.

WSU, Australia partner on ag robotics

- Washington State University and Australia’s University of Technology Sydney have formed a new Joint Center for Agricultural Robotics.

Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry likes USMCA

- The new USMCA is good for Pacific Northwest tree fruit in that it maintains duty free access and clarifies valid use of sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions, an industy leader says.