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April 8, 2016
Bee time in Washington orchards
By DAN WHEAT
Washington changes policy
on H-2A housing inspections
By DON JENKINS
Wash. — Honeybees are so
intent on their work in Bruce
Nash’s apricot orchard that
they just buzz on around you if
you get too close.
Bees collect pollen from
blossoms to feed their young.
As they do, they inadvertent-
ly spread pollen from tree to
tree. Growers take advantage
of that by planting pollenizers
— a scattering of a different
variety of the same tree fruit
— throughout their orchards
so the bees cross pollinate, in-
creasing fruit size and yield.
Warm weather should give
Nash good pollination and a
large crop. Cool weather, rain
and wind keep bees in their
hives and diminish pollination.
“I love this time of year. The
color of the blossoms and the
bees humming around. They
never bother you. They’re too
busy, but then I don’t mow
real close to the bee box ei-
ther,” says Nash, 69, a retired
police officer who believes
he owns the only commercial
apricot orchard within East
Wenatchee’s city limits.
It’s only 46 trees on part of
an acre, but Nash averages 350
boxes of apricots per season
that he sells through the near-
by Northern Fruit Co. Inc. It’s
a hobby, supplemental income
and “what keeps me young,”
The bees will only work
in Nash’s cots a week or two,
from bloom to petal fall. Two
hive boxes are all he needs.
They come from Dereck Kra-
mar, Wenatchee, one of many
beekeepers in the region.
Hiatt Honey Co., Ephra-
ta, is one of Washington’s
largest beekeepers. The com-
pany owns 15,000 to 18,000
hives and winters their bees
in Maderas, Calif., before
renting them out for pollinat-
Photos by Dan Wheat/Capital Press
Bruce Nash enjoys blossoms in his apricot orchard. He believes it’s the only commercial apricot
orchard within the East Wenatchee, Wash., city limits.
A honeybee hovers over apricot blossoms in Bruce Nash’s East
Wenatchee, Wash., orchard on March 29. Bees collect pollen to
feed their young but also help pollinate blossoms..
ing almonds and then moving
them north to Washington’s
tree fruit and east to Bowman,
N.D., to work summer flowers
Despite reports of high-
er mortality this past winter
nationally, there should be
enough bees for Central Wash-
ington’s tree fruit and row
crops and Western Washing-
ton’s berries, said Tim Hiatt,
co-owner of Hiatt Honey Co.
“I’ve heard no rumors of
shortages,” he said.
The national average win-
ter bee loss is about 33 per-
cent from Varroa mite, other
pests and diseases, Hiatt said.
It used to be far lower but Col-
ony Collapse Disorder and
probably pesticides have also
taken a toll.
As of the last day of March,
bees were busy pollinating apri-
cots and cherries in Pasco, the
lower Yakima Valley and Mat-
tawa. They were just starting in
the Wenatchee area. Pollination
of cherries, pears and apples
Honeybees fly in and out of
two hive boxes in Bruce Nash’s
East Wenatchee, Wash.,
apricot orchard, March 29. They
help pollinate the crop.
will continue through April.
Silver Bow Honey Compa-
ny in Moses Lake and Olson
Honey Farms in Yakima truck
their bees to Western Wash-
ington to pollinate berries in
May after finishing tree fruit
in Central Washington, Hiatt
said. Silver Bow and Olson
also have summer contracts
in Central Washington for on-
ions, canola, carrots, radish
seed and other row crops.
“We have too many bees
to compete in that so we go to
North Dakota,” he said.
A Washington farm labor
association is warning grow-
ers who have applied for H-2A
workers to check whether they
need to take additional steps
for the state Employment Se-
curity Department to certify
the workers will have suitable
Dan Fazio, director of WA-
FLA, formerly known as the
Washington Farm Labor Asso-
ciation, credits state agencies
with aggressively working to
clear up a backlog of housing
He also, however, faults the
agencies for failing to publi-
cize a change in state policy
that he says left some growers
unaware of a new procedure
that in some cases could delay
applications for workers.
“There was a total lack of
communication,” Fazio said.
“They never told people there
was a change of policy.”
The H-2A program requires
growers to provide worker
housing that meets state and
federal health and safety stan-
dards. The state inspects and
approves the housing on behalf
of the U.S. Department of La-
In previous years, growers
have been allowed to attest in
writing they had repaired prob-
lems found by state Department
of Health inspections.
The health department and
ESD agreed Feb. 4 to require
re-inspections after repairs
Fazio said he learned about
the new policy roughly six
weeks later while checking
with the Labor Department on
the status of H-2A applications.
He said he immediately be-
gan notifying growers affected
by the new policy and every
one was unaware of the change.
The new policy led to more
than a dozen growers mistaken-
ly thinking their housing was
approved, Fazio said.
The policy wasn’t widely
publicized until a March 21
notice to growers, ESD spokes-
man Bill Tarrow said.
“I think looking in retro-
spect we probably could have
done a better job with that,” he
Tarrow said the new rule
conforms with Labor Depart-
ment regulations. The state
checked with federal officials
at the request of the Northwest
Justice Project, a publicly fund-
ed legal aid program.
Northwest Justice attorney
Michele Besso said she became
concerned about the procedure
for approving housing because
of conditions at a Yakima apart-
ment building occupied by
She said she was surprised
to learn the state had not been
verifying that repairs had been
made before workers arrived.
“I had assumed they were
already doing it,” Besso said.
ESD’s agricultural pro-
grams director, Craig Carroll,
said Tuesday inspectors have
found deficiencies in 14 hous-
ing inspections so far. He said
10 cases have been cleared,
and he expects the other four to
be certified in the next several
An increasing number of
Washington farms have been
applying to import foreign
workers on temporary visas.
Carroll said the state has
received about 90 applications
for H-2A workers so far and
anticipates receiving about 150
this year, topping last year’s
“We’re receiving applica-
tions daily,” he said.
Most housing units are pass-
ing the initial inspection by the
health department, Carroll said.
Ecology sending more letters to property owners
have not taken
action, official says
3 Years @ 0%
5 Years @ 0.9%
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The Washington State
Department of Ecology will
send more letters to south-
eastern Washington farmers
and ranchers about environ-
mental problems on their
operations, a department of-
Most of the letters previ-
ously sent to landowners were
ignored, special assistant to
the director Kelly Susewind
said during a March 30 meet-
ing of the department’s Ag-
riculture and Water Quality
He expects the new letters
to go out within a month.
Rather than evaluate new
properties, the department
reassessed land owned by 50
producers — 30 contacted
in 2013 and 20 contacted in
2015. All farms got at least
two letters, Susewind said.
Of the 50 sites, five land-
owners fixed the problems,
Susewind said. A few more
told Ecology officials they
are working with technical
service providers to resolve
the problem, he said.
“And then we’ve got the
bulk of them we have not
heard from and the problems
are still there,” he said.
In 2013 the department
was criticized by produc-
ers because the letters about
problems were vague. That
prompted the creation of the
advisory committee. Susew-
ind said the next letters will
clearly identify the problem.
Problems include live-
stock getting into streams or
other water quality issues.
The department will also
attempt to directly contact
ranchers and farmers.
Ecology will send letters
thanking those property own-
ers who have fixed the prob-
lem and to property owners
who are working with pro-
viders or producer groups to
get an update on efforts.
“For those we haven’t
heard from and we’re still
seeing problems, we need
to ratchet it up,” he said.
“We’ve been warning folks
for years now and if they’re
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Matthew Weaver/Capital Press
Kelly Susewind, left, special assistant to the director of the Wash-
ington Department of Ecology, talks with Aaron Golladay, co-chair
of Ecology’s Agriculture and Water Quality Advisory Committee
and first vice president of the Washington Farm Bureau, March 30
following a committee meeting in Spokane.
still just ignoring us, and they
still continue have those op-
erations that are causing a
problem. ... What we can’t
have anymore is radio si-
Some landowners may
have been contacted five to
seven times, Susewind said.
Susewind said no penalty
is involved — yet.
“This is the precursor
‘We don’t want to get to that,
please work with us’ letter,”
he said. “If you get a letter,
it’s not time to panic, it’s time
to contact us.”
Aaron Golladay, co-chair
of the advisory committee
and first vice president for
the Washington Farm Bu-
reau, praised the department
for changing its process for
dealing with landowners.
“I think that’s fair —
(landowners) have had an op-
portunity,” he said. “You can
disagree with them, but you
still need to sit with them, say
you disagree and why.”
Jack Field, executive vice
president of the Washington
State Cattlemen’s Associa-
tion, said Ecology has a plan
to notify landowners and oth-
er groups that might help.
Field urged letter recipi-
ents to contact their conser-
vation district, the Natural
Service or Washington State
University or solve the prob-
lem on their own, but also
acknowledge receiving the
letter and follow up with
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