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As Spring Nears, Some Northwest Farmers Fall Behind

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Fresh fruit-tree limbs litter the snow north of Pasco as workers struggle to get started on spring farmwork. Ice storms, rain and snow have damaged some crops and made field work difficult.

Northwest farmers are getting a bit antsy to start spring prep. But they are tallying up damage from a harsh winter -- and they’re worried it’s not over yet.

In Walla Walla, Washington, some grape growers said they are seeing significant bud damage on some of their wine grape varietals. It’s mostly on more tender types like the Syrah and the Malbec, but also some on the Merlot.

The buds were damaged by December and January’s low temperatures -- mostly in lower dips and valleys where cold air settles. But growers think they can makeup the loss by leaving more buds on the vines as they prune.

In the vineyards, orchards and fields, many farmers are getting worried because they can’t work the frozen ground or prune trees with ladders in the deep snow. Some said they are three weeks behind schedule.

The delay matters because there are only so many pruning workers to go around -- so it’s hard to cram the work into a shorter time band.

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.