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April 2009, Volume 15, Number 2


Washington. There were plenty of farm workers in Washington and other states in 2008-09. The orchard manager at Broetje Orchards in the southeastern Washington, which hires a peak 1,500 workers, said: "With the economy the way it is, we're seeing a lot more people looking for work than we have in the past two years. We're getting a lot of guys coming back that were working construction."

The Washington Growers League obtained $2.8 million in loans and grants to build 21 cabins to house single farm workers near Malaga. Growers can lease space for their employees or workers can rent beds for $9 a night.

The Yakima Nation has a 1.2 million-acre reservation in central Washington, where private land is interspersed with tribal land in checkerboard fashion. In October 2008, a tribal member announced Schaptakay Labor Works to license workers employed on tribal lands, including foreign workers employed to pick crops on land leased to farmers, charging a $0.50 an hour tax on the 12,600 nontribal workers employed on Yakima-owned land; if implemented, the tax would generate an estimated $12.6 million a year. Local employers and communities resisted, and it appears that the labor tax idea will not be implemented in 2009.

Washington farmers had HB 1896 introduced in January 2009 to get Congress to allow the state's Employment Security Department to create an "essential worker" pilot program to import seasonal guest workers for agriculture, construction and services. About 3,000 H-2A workers were admitted in 2008. Unions countered with HB 1814, which would grant additional rights to guest workers in Washington.

Wolves. Gray wolves, killed by farmers for attacking sheep and cattle, have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1994. In March 2009, the federal government delisted the gray wolf, noting that there were at least 1,650 in the northern Rockies and allowing all states except Wyoming to manage their gray wolves. The governors of Idaho and Montana immediately indicated that they would issue hunting licenses to reduce the number of wolves in their states.

Michelle Dupler, "Farmers back bill easing labor crunch," Tacoma News Tribune, February 12, 2009. Lornet Turnbull, "Bills would let state step in to recruit foreign guest workers," Seattle Times, February 8, 2009.

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