Fruit growers in Yakima, Wash., are dealing with unprecedented heat, with temperatures predicted to peak at 115 degrees this week, which dampens production but also may affect quality.
Cherry picking, a labor-intensive job, has been complicated by the Pacific Northwest heat wave. Farmers are planning on predawn harvests or harvests that begin at sunrise and end early in the day, according to the Seattle Times.
United Farm Workers released a statement Tuesday urging Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to issue emergency heat standards for all farm workers in the state to ensure they are protected from heat stroke.
Beyond irregular working conditions, farmers are concerned ripe cherries exposed to extreme heat could shrivel, or unripe cherries will not grow to full size.
Although Washington farmers are accustomed to intense heat at the end of the summer, temperatures have not risen this high so early in the summer for more than four decades. The highs are supposed to remain above 100 degrees until next week.
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Sean Gilbert, president of Gilbert Orchards in the Yakima Valley, told the Seattle Times, “The closer to market, the more acute the damage.”
Thus, while the week’s record-breaking heat complicates Washington’s cherry harvest, apple and potato growers in the state are also concerned that their harvests later in the summer will also be affected. High temperatures can leave marks on apples and lower the yields of potato crops.
“It is safe to say there will be some impact. Right now, I’m just very concerned but not alarmed,” Dale Lathim, the executive director of the Potato Growers of Washington, said to the Seattle Times.
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