farm labor

ANNA KING / NW News Network

We roll up a long, gravel road about 20 miles outside Mattawa, a small farming town in central Washington state.

We’re on the King Fuji Ranch where there's four suspected cases of the mumps and over a 100 exposed workers quarantined.

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Health officials in Grant County, Washington are responding to four probable cases of mumps.

One case has been lab confirmed so far, while the others are still being evaluated. Now county health officials are rallying together a vaccine clinic to treat hundreds of exposed people. 

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Most farmers in rural eastern Washington state say they only hire legal workers. But there’s a polite fiction of living and working there. Federal immigration officers raid farms and ranches here. And people get deported.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

A breakdown in a U.S. State Department computer system that processes foreign worker visas has sowed major worries at some Northwest orchards.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Northwest farmers hired significantly more foreign guest workers this season under a special immigration program.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

PASCO, Wash. – Northwest farmers are beginning to harvest the first asparagus of the year this week in southeast Washington. That’s a tad earlier than usual. And after last year's farm-labor shortage, growers across the region are keeping an eye on how many asparagus workers show up for the harvest.

At the Middleton farm stand near Pasco, Washington asparagus – both purple and green – is selling by the pound to passersby. Bins of fresh asparagus are brought here right off the fields. Workers come and go. At the helm is Laura Middleton.

Washington Apple Commission

RICHLAND, Wash. – A group of Northwest farmers plans to bring in thousands of legal Mexican guest workers to their fields and orchards this year. Last season many farmers were scrambling to pick their crops because of a worker shortage.

The federal H-2A guest worker program is so cumbersome and expensive, that most farmers haven’t wanted to use it. Employers have to pay for transportation, approved housing and usually more money than the going wage for workers already in the U.S.