Labor Shortage And Fall Weather Stack Up To Leave Apples Rotting In Orchards
Fujis and Pink Ladies are some of the most valuable and last to ripen apple varieties in the Northwest.
And this winter there are huge swaths of them left unpicked in orchards east of the Cascades.
The trees’ leaves have dropped, and now with a blanket of snow the tracts of unpicked acres glow red even from miles away. The left-behind fruit has many speculating: Trump’s tariffs? Unripe? Bugs? Foul weather?
The answer is a combination of two factors. There was a shortage of picking crews — the whole nation’s labor market is tight. Plus, an October freeze hammered Washington orchard managers, biting into thousands of still unharvested acres.
Experts say the Trump administration’s tariffs are not to blame for this one.
Morgan Rowe farms in the Yakima Valley, and lost about 600 bins — weighing about 900 pounds each — of his valuable Fujis to the cold.
He said he tried to save those apples. But many didn’t warm up enough to save after the first freezing night last fall.
“It’s just out of my hands,” Rowe said. “The weather is just not something that I can control. This, you know, chalk it up as a casino. It’s farming.”
Rowe says he and other farmers have knocked down some of the frozen fruit so it doesn’t damage the trees. But he says the loss is disheartening — especially after growing the fruit all year successfully, to lose it right at harvest time.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency reports that although thousands of acres were lost to the weather in Washington, it didn’t rise above a 30% total loss for the industry. That means farmers aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. Though some may have lost as much as millions of dollars, according to Dwaine Schettler, with the USDA in Spokane.
These startling-red orchards, and farmers’ financial bleeding, are highlighted this week against this eastern Washington’s muted winter pallet.
Benefiting from this bonanza of abandoned fruit are coyotes and blackbilled magpies.
Freshly picked red delicious apples gather in a bin. Northwest red delicious and galas are again shipping to India after tariffs were lifted. (Courtesy: Washington Apple Commission) Read Many Northwest… Continue Reading ‘Vintage year’ for apple crop, experts say the weather was just right
Cosmic Crisp apples on the Mother Tree near Wenatchee Washington. (Credit: Bob Hubner / Washington State University) Listen (Runtime 1:06) Read Known for its crunch and sweet taste, the Cosmic… Continue Reading Cosmic Crisp boasts big sales for Washington, with new apple varieties on the way
For decades boatloads of Northwest apples have shipped to India – especially the variety Red Delicious. But since Trump-era tariffs on steel and aluminum went into place, retaliatory tariffs have put a crunch on that valuable fruit market. Now, Washington state’s full congressional delegation is asking the federal government for help. Continue Reading Delicious Death: India’s apple tariffs crush business for Northwest Red Delicious apple farmers