Blueberry Wage Hike Pt 3

Blueberry Wage Hike Pt 3

Bob Larson
Bob Larson
With today's Fruit Grower Report, I'm Bob Larson. A decision is expected soon on whether or not a state Department of Employment Services' 50% pay increase for H-2A piece workers will stand.

Washington Blueberry Commission Executive Director Alan Schreiber says he's not sure who they surveyed to come up with their numbers ...

SCHREIBER ... "And, I think they got this wrong. I don't know whether they were surveying people that were doing U-Pick or I don't know what, but nobody pays .75 cents a pound."

Schreiber says there are four different segments among his growers ...

SCHREIBER ... "Conventional processed is the biggest sector, followed by organic fresh, followed by conventional fresh, followed by organic processed."

He says the FRESH market will feel the increase most, conventional more than organic ...

SCHREIBER ... "There's some margin there. There's not much margin in the conventional fresh. And, it's ironic that it's organic fresh is where this is happening because, it just so happens, that the H-2A workers are in organic fresh, but some of the biggest impact will be on conventional fresh because the prices are lower, the margins are tighter. And, so that is where the pain will be the sharpest."

Schreiber says that's particularly bad news for growers on the west side ...

SCHREIBER ... "There's more hand labor in Eastern Washington than in Western Washington, so if that becomes like the new standard, that pressure will extend over to Western Washington and that's all conventional over there and they just can't afford it."

A hearing scheduled for today could place a temporary injunction on the wage hike until a formal hearing is held.


BL: Welcome back to another "Fruit Bites" brought to you by Valent U.S.A. With us again is Valent's Allison Walston. And this week Allison, tell me how you know when to harvest apples and pears.

AW: they must reach maturity based on several types of tests, like firmness, starch in apples and sugar content. Fruit size and color are also considered. Some orchards might need multiple harvests because of staggered maturity.

BL: how is fruit firmness measured?

AW: there's a handy little pressure gage that measures the force to stab thru the flesh of a peeled part of the fruit. As ethylene increases & the fruit matures, the firmness decreases. Growers want firm enough fruit to handle storage but soft enough to ripen and eat.

BL: sounds like a narrow window (or any dad joke about that)

AW: about 7 to 10 days to harvest optimal fruit before the fruit quality begins to decline. That's why growers can use PGRs to shut down the ethylene production and extend the harvest window.

BL: Well, thanks Allison. Join us again next time for Fruit Bites, brought to you by Valent. Until then, I'm Bob Larson.

Previous ReportBlueberry Wage Hike Pt 2
Next ReportPear Marketing Funding Pt 1