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Loading up at Pomeroy Grain Growers in Central Ferry on the Snake River last fall.
Photo by Resa Cox

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FARMER'S TOOLBOX

Ag tour is in session

Legislators, staff spend day learning about challenges industry faces

July 2018
By Trista Crossley


State legislators got a little taste of agriculture in June during the all ag legislative tour in Prosser, Wash., where pesticides, labor needs and environmental stewardship were all on the menu.

“This was a great opportunity to bring legislators out to the farm to see first hand the challenges and opportunities faced by growers,” said Marci Green, president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG). WAWG was one of the sponsors of the tour, along with other commodities such as potatoes, wine, tree fruit, dairy and asparagus. “No matter what we are growing or where we are growing it, we all face similar issues, whether those are regulatory, environmental or workforce related. Legislators were able to ask questions directly to farmers and see the problems or solutions rather than just hearing about them.”

In this year’s legislative session, a pesticide notification bill was introduced that would require four days’ advance notice for any pesticide application. Members of the agriculture community testified against the bill and worked together to educate legislators on the onerous burden this requirement would place on growers. By the end of session, the bill was amended and the notification requirements removed. Instead, a workgroup was appointed to study the issue and report back to the legislature in November 2018.

WAWG took the opportunity during the tour to demonstrate to legislators how growers are incorporating precision technologies to safely apply pesticides and prevent pesticide drift. Legislators were taken to the Horse Heaven Hills above Prosser to the farm of Garrett and Devin Moon. The Moon brothers had their 90+ foot sprayer on hand loaded with water so they could demonstrate nozzle technology. They also talked about why pesticides are used and demonstrated the amount of chemical typically applied per acre. Legislators were able to explore the sprayer and a nearby combine.

“We want to thank Devin and Garrett for hosting the group and demonstrating how carefully growers approach applying chemicals to their fields,” said Michelle Hennings, WAWG’s executive director. “Seeing how different nozzles have different spray patterns and the amount of chemical that is actually applied on wheat fields made a huge impression on the group.”

Other topics discussed during the tour included:

• Application of pesticides on hops and blueberries. This stop was at Olsen Brothers Ranches. Representatives of Washington State University (WSU) Extension and the Washington State Department of Agriculture talked about requirements for safe use of pesticides; research and training that improves worker safety; and new and current equipment innovations that are helping to prevent drift.

• H-2A and the labor needs of agriculture. At the Zirkle Fruit Company, legislators snacked on fresh cherries while hearing about the ups and downs of the H-2A guest worker program. One of the housing units constructed by the company for their guest workers was open so legislators could see what the company has done to attract workers.

• Managing water resources. During lunch, Scott Revell, manager of the Roza Irrigation District, talked about how irrigation infrastructure is built and maintained. Legislators were also introduced to André-Denis Girard Wright, the new dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.

• Environmental stewardship and farm economics. Nutrient management is a huge issue for farmers, especially dairies. During a stop at J&K Dairy, legislators learned how water is recycled multiple times and cow waste is converted to fertilizer.

• Trade and how Washington agriculture is very dependent on the rail and river systems to move commodities to the ports. • Challenges facing specialty crop producers.