McMorris Rodgers, Washington Lawmakers Call for a Sweet Cherry Harvest Federal Disaster Declaration

Feb 02, 2024
Agriculture
Press

Washington, D.C. ­– Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today joined a group of Washington lawmakers in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, urging him to expedite and issue a Secretarial Disaster Designation for the 2023 fresh sweet cherry harvest. 

Sweet cherry growers in Central and Eastern Washington faced devastating challenges throughout the 2023 season. Unusual weather patterns, including unseasonably high temperatures in Washington state, combined with heavy rains and cold weather in California, led to a shorter season for Washington growers and an oversupply of sweet cherries. Many growers in the state were forced to leave crops unharvested and experienced significant economic losses. 

The lawmakers wrote in the letter, “Pacific Northwest growers suffered significant economic losses and were forced to leave as much as 35 percent of the crop unharvested due to this weather-driven disaster. We understand data provided to USDA indicates growers experienced losses of more than 50 percent.” 

The letter was also signed by U.S Senators Maria Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), along with Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Adam Smith (WA-09), and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10).

NOTE: Fresh sweet cherries are a top agricultural commodity with a typical value of over $1 billion. A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretarial Disaster Designation will allow sweet cherry growers to access low-interest emergency loans to help bridge operations into the 2024 season. Governor Inslee requested a Secretarial Disaster Designation and currently, the decision to issue the designation is with USDA Farm Service Agency officials and awaiting the Secretary of Agriculture’s approval. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

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