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Northwest Farmers, Agribusiness Behind Measures To Ensure International Shipping

Anna King / NW News Network
Northwest News Network
File photo. Many Northwest apple growers couldn't get thier fruit to international markets last winter during the prime Christmas fruit shipping season because of Western port slowdowns.

Northwest farmers are watching several bills closely in Congress that would try to keep trade moving through ports in the event of a labor dispute.

Last winter, dozens of ports in the western U.S. were in a dispute with longshoremen for months. Northwest crops languished in crates and warehouses while work slowed down.

Northwest agriculture experts said the cost of the slowdown was high. The apple and pear industries lost $100 million and costs hit $50 million for Washington potatoes. Other commodities hit hard by the port slowdown were Northwest alfalfa and timothy hay, wheat and Christmas trees.

Those industries said it’s still costing them now. Overseas customers are afraid of not being able to get products on time again. For example, Japanese customers are not buying as much frozen fries from the U.S. They’re spreading the risk. And the more they buy from other countries, the less they buy here.

Eastern Washington U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse introduced a bill this week that would trigger an intervention if trade losses were too great.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.