Agriculture + Viticulture

To offset the challenges presented with the sale of wheat, some farmers have begun a crop rotation with canola, which produces a vibrant yellow flower as it grows. (Photo by Karen Sowers)

Agriculture powerhouse: Crop value high amid trade threats

Persistent issues with international trade have been threatening Washington’s most successful crops. Ongoing trade issues with Asian markets and North American neighbors are “making farmers nervous,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. “We have to have trading partners,” she said. With $6.7 billion in food and agricultural products sent…

The Washington wine industry has blossomed from its beginnings to become a major player in U.S. wine production, and the number of wineries has increased from 300 in the mid-1990s to about 1,000 wineries across the state today.  (Photo by Andy Perdue)

Fine vines: Wine industry has come into its own

By Andy Perdue When a young grapevine begins growing in the sandy soils of Washington’s Columbia Valley, it takes a few years to establish itself and build a foundation of strong roots before producing fruit. After a period known as the juvenile years, the vines mature, and with the right care and coaxing, they will…

(Courtesy Washington Grain Commission)

Turbulent trade: State’s exports remain steady

Washington’s agricultural exports held steady in 2018, demonstrating both strength and missed opportunity, as some industries suffered under new trade policies while others made gains during the year. Exports of Washington-produced agricultural goods totaled $6.7 billion in 2018, the same amount exported in 2017. The flat growth followed a roughly 10 percent increase in exports…

The Washington cherry crop is consistently among the top 10 agricultural commodities in the state with predictions of this year’s crop reaching 25 million boxes of fruit. (Courtesy Northwest Cherry Growers)

Fruitful summer: Cherry crops a sweet success

The 2019 Washington cherry crop is expected to reach nearly 25 million boxes. These initial estimates come from about 2,100 cherry growers who are part of the Northwest Cherry Growers/Washington State Fruit Commission, a five-state group covering orchards in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. Before cherries are picked, “there are still plenty of opportunities…

Ripe Apples in Orchard ready for harvesting

Apple action: New variety coming as tariff threats loom

As the state’s apple growers strategize to overcome international tariffs, they’re also looking ahead to introduce to the world a highly-anticipated variety — the Cosmic Crisp. The end of the 20 percent tariffs on apples shipped to Mexico in mid-May was welcome news to the state’s apple industry, which saw overall exports down 32.7 percent…

Farmers’ participation in the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program has increased 1,000 percent in 10 years, while federal funding has remained flat. A legislative advisory committee will review the budget over the next two years. (Courtesy Andréa Johnson Photography/Washington State Wine Commission)

Looking for laborers: Guest worker program seeks funds

With a growing number of Washington farm owners turning to the H-2A guest worker program to meet their labor needs, the cost of administering and providing oversight of the program now exceeds the federal funding provided for it. It’s a scenario that pushed the state Employment Security Department to turn to the Legislature this year…

The demand for frozen potato products such as french fries and tater tots has increased so much that the Washington Potato Commission says that overseas exports have been rationed. The state’s potato farmers grew 10.5 billion pounds in 2018. (Courtesy Washington State Potato Commission)

Popular potatoes: Spuds stay big business for state

The sweetest words a potato farmer in Eastern Washington can hear aren’t about crop yields or perfect weather or the opening of new processing plants. Nah. What really rings golden is: Taco Bell is bringing back Nacho Fries. Or: McDonald’s now has all-day breakfast. And then there’s “loaded” fries, those deep-fried potato strips slathered in…

The Yakima Valley — the world’s largest producer of hops — had only a slight increase of 1 percent in hops acreage last year compared to explosive growth in previous years. (Courtesy Hop Growers of America)

Hop crops: Market slows after rapid growth

The most recent hops data paints a picture that could be interpreted as an end to the recent boom for Washington hop farmers. But that does not point toward a fall back to earth, said Ann George, a Moxee farmer and executive director of the Washington Hop Commission, which serves double duty as the Hop…

Washington is the nation’s largest producer of Concords — used primarily as a juice grape. More than half of the nation’s supply is grown in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Juicy fruit: State dominates U.S. for Concords

By Andy Perdue While the Washington wine grape market booms, even approaching the state apple industry in size and economic importance, there’s another grape industry that tops the nation in size: juice grapes. Last year, Concord grape growers brought in nearly 200,000 tons of fruit — 3 percent over the prior year, valued at $41.8…

Sarah Hedges Goedhart, head winemaker for Hedges Cellars on Red Mountain, walks through their organically farmed estate vineyard. (Photo by Andy Perdue)

Organic grapes: A natural tourist attraction

The growing number of organic grape-growing regions in the Northwest provide new opportunities for wine marketing around the popular buzzword “terroir,” according to a new study by a Washington State University Tri-Cities researcher. Derived from the French word “terre,” meaning “land,” “terroir” is used to denote the special characteristics of a place, said Byron Marlowe,…

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