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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: agriculture

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October 2, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Love craft beer? Thank a farmworker, and pay them better

While sitting at many bars, I often picked up a pint of craft beer and proclaimed that beer is made with hops, most of which come from the same place I did: Eastern Washington.

Jose Chavez hauls in Tomahawk-variety hop vines during the final days of the 2014 hops harvest at Loftus on  Sept. 24, 2014 in Yakima.

Craft beers depend on hops. Jose Chavez hauls in Tomahawk-variety hop vines during the final days of the 2014 hops harvest at Loftus on Sept. 24 in Yakima. BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

“Washington is the largest producer of hops in the world,” I told friends or random strangers dozens of times during the 15 years I lived out of state. “We don’t just grow apples, you know.”

Many people were surprised to learn that Washington is the globe’s top source for hops, and this should be a source of pride especially as the craft beer movement is exploding nationwide.

But like many other crops that make up this state’s $49 billion agricultural industry, the workers who pick the crops often reap the least rewards — they deserve better wages.

As The Seattle Times reported Monday, the booming hops business is now suffering from worker shortages that have hit other major Washington crops, like apples and asparagus, in recent years.

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Comments | Topics: agriculture, beer, farmworkers

August 11, 2014 at 6:13 AM

Why Gov. Jay Inslee goes against the grain industry

Wheat harvest along the Washington-Idaho border, 2013 (photo by Jeff Horner/ Walla Walla Union-Bulletin)

Wheat harvest along the Washington-Idaho border, 2013. (photo by Jeff Horner/ Walla Walla Union-Bulletin)

A letter from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee explains a curious decision that has bollixed up the wheat harvest throughout the western United States this year. Good bet it will infuriate more people than it will soothe.

In it the Democratic governor appears to say the issue is purely a labor dispute involving 44 union positions at the Port of Vancouver. The only acknowledgement of the enormous disruption he has caused for thousands of farmers and for the rural economy from the Washington coast to the Midwest is a throwaway line: “I remain committed to a healthy, thriving agricultural industry.”

The letter is the fullest explanation Inslee has offered – read it below. But first it might be useful to check in with agriculture, which has been doing all it can to reopen the United Grain Corp. terminal, a facility responsible for nearly 20 percent of the exports from the West Coast.

On July 6, in the 17th month of a lockout involving the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Inslee withdrew State Patrol protection for Washington grain inspectors who had been crossing what they called a dangerous picket line.

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Comments | Topics: agriculture, economy, Jay Inslee