Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, August 12, 2022, Image 1

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    NURSERY SPECIAL SECTION | INSIDE
Capital Press
EMPOWERING PRODUCERS OF FOOD & FIBER
Friday, August 12, 2022
Volume 95, Number 32
CapitalPress.com
$2.50
TOO MUCH, TOO HIGH, TOO SLOW
Farmers in western Washington reap what a wet and cold
spring, combined with higher input prices, sowed
By DON JENKINS
Capital Press
Capital Press File
Snohomish
County, Wash.,
farmer Andrew
Albert
L
ast spring, Western Wash-
ington farmers were forced
to work around unseason-
ably cold and wet weather,
along with spiraling costs
and an unreliable supply
chain. With harvest approaching, the
consequences are still unfolding.
The weather delayed planting and
interfered with pollination. Snohom-
ish County farmer Andrew Albert said
he likes to fi nish harvesting silage corn
the fi rst week of October. No way that
will happen this year, he said.
“We’re going to let it go as long as
we can. If we get a rainy fall, it’s going
to be ugly,” he said. “It looks like it’s
going to be a dismal year for corn.”
Weather records kept by the
National Centers for Environmental
Information go back to 1895. This year,
Washington state had its third-wettest
and sixth-coldest weather for April to
June on record.
It was a stark about-face from 2021.
Last year was the fi fth-warmest and
third-driest April to June on record.
‘Unique year’
“It’s defi nitely a unique year to
farm,” said Tristan Klesick, who grows
vegetables in Snohomish County. “For
sure, we’re looking forward to putting
this year in the rear-view mirror and
starting fresh next year.
“We considered the spring a bust,”
See Weather, Page 11
Don Jenkins/Capital Press
Grass mixes with
barley harvested in
southwest Washing-
ton. Grass grew well
during the unusually
wet spring.
Don Jenkins/Capital Press
Lewis County, Wash., farmer Dave Fenn mows a fi eld. In the cold and wet, grass outpaced barley.
Jury rejects H-2A discrimination lawsuit against farm
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Capital Press
A federal jury has shot down
claims that an Oregon vegetable pro-
ducer unlawfully discriminated against
a farmworker by favoring foreign
guestworkers.
In 2020, Teofi lo Ibanez de Dios fi led
a lawsuit accusing Siri and Son Farms
of St. Paul, Ore., of fi ring him for com-
plaining about preferential treatment
for foreign employees hired through
the H-2A program.
An eight-member jury has unani-
mously rejected the plaintiff ’s allega-
tions that Siri and Son Farms violated
the Migrant and Seasonal Workers Pro-
tection Act or state laws against dis-
crimination and retaliation.
The jury reached its conclusion on
Aug. 3 after a three-day trial held at the
federal courthouse in Eugene, Ore.
Rather than settle the lawsuit, Siri
and Son Farms wanted to prove in court
that it hadn’t done anything wrong, said
Tim Bernasek, the company’s attorney.
“They felt it was important to take it
all the way,” Bernasek said.
He said it’s encouraging the farm
has prevailed in the jury trial, particu-
larly since labor advocates increasingly
seem motivated to challenge the H-2A
program in court.
“As cases like the Siri and Son case
result in defense verdicts, I’d hope
that would dampen the zeal of plain-
tiff s’ lawyers in bringing these types of
cases,” Bernasek said.
An attorney for Ibanez de Dios said
the plaintiff and his legal team are dis-
appointed in the jury’s verdict and are
discussing their legal options.
According to the plaintiff , the farm
initially told him there was no work
available even though it was bringing
in H-2A workers to harvest and box
crops.
The plaintiff claimed he was hired
only upon returning with a state notice
about H-2A job openings, but later dis-
covered he earned about $2.30 less
than the foreign workers.
After the plaintiff complained about
the wage discrepancy, his supervi-
sor agreed to a pay increase but then
berated and fi red him later the same
day, according to the allegations in the
complaint.
The lawsuit claimed the farm vio-
lated federal and state labor laws by
Don Jenkins/Capital Press File
providing false and misleading infor-
mation, failing to fully pay the plain- Farmworkers pick cucumbers. An Oregon producer of
tiff when due and retaliating against cucumbers, radishes, leeks and other vegetable row
crops has prevailed in lawsuit that claimed the farm un-
See H-2A, Page 11 lawfully favored foreign guestworkers.
Season of change comes for OFB’s Dave Dillon
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Capital Press
Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press
Dave Dillon, the new executive director
of Food Northwest, a regional food pro-
cessing organization, spent 20 years at
the helm of Oregon Farm Bureau.
If
changes
in
leader-
ship are comparable to shift-
ing seasons, Dave Dillon reck-
ons he’s had a “very long, full
season” at the Oregon Farm
Bureau.
After 20 years at the state ag
group’s helm, Dillon has taken a
job at Food Northwest, a regional
organization representing food
processors.
“The hardest time to leave can
also be the best time to leave,” he
said.
Dillon fi gures the organization is
in solid shape for whoever replaces
him as executive vice president
— fi nancially strong, with a “fan-
tastic” roster of staff members and
elected leaders, he said.
As Food Northwest’s executive
director, he expects to deal with
“ag-adjacent” issues, such as labor
shortages and environmental regu-
lations, that are substantially simi-
lar but one step downstream in the
food supply chain.
“There’s a real opportunity to
take something good and build it
up to something better,” Dillon said
of his new job.
An overlapping challenge fac-
ing both organizations is the cur-
rent political environment, which
he’s watched become increasingly
belligerent and divisive over the
past couple decades.
“Politics in Oregon were a lot
more centrist in those early years,”
Dillon said. “There was a lot more
See Dillon, Page 11
See Jed Myers and Nial Bradshaw in Ontario for
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