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'They're All Perishable': Idaho Farm Products Languish At Ports

Michael Adams
Cranes at the Port of Seattle

Farmers in Idaho say hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of beef, potatoes, apples, cheese and other products are languishing in storage because of problems at West Coast ports.

The state’s agriculture officials are trying to pressure dock workers and their bosses to resolve a labor dispute and resume normal operations. Idaho potato farmers say the port delays have prompted some overseas customers to cancel their orders altogether.

Jim Mertz of the Symms Fruit Company in Caldwell said only about 20 percent of their shipments this fall made it out of port on schedule.

“We’re in the commodity business and they’re all perishable products,” he said. “They don’t last. It’s not like shipping nails and that kind of stuff. They’re fresh commodities.”

Mertz said the company has had to pay for cold storage at Seattle and other ports to keep loads of apples and pears from rotting while they wait.

Longshoremen and shipping companies say they’re in negotiations. The previous labor contract expired in July.