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Fruit Bites Fruit grower report 2019

Bob Larson Blueberry Wage Decision Pt 1
by Bob Larson, click here for bio

Program: Fruit Grower Report
Date: September 12, 2019

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With today’s Fruit Grower Report, I’m Bob Larson. A reprieve for Washington blueberry growers, at least for now. A federal judge has blocked the government from imposing a piece-rate wage increase of 50% for pickers, from .50 cents per pound to .75 cents.

The ruling comes after Zirkle Fruit sued just days after being notified of the pay increase in the middle of harvest season.

Washington Blueberry Commission Executive Director Alan Schreiber says this pay increase would impact the fresh market the most …

SCHREIBER … “About 30% of Washington blueberries are picked for the fresh market, most of that is by hand. This ruling impacts only blueberries picked by H-2A workers, but that represents half of the fresh blueberries in the state.”

And, Schreiber says if you give H-2A pickers a raise?

SCHREIBER … “People who have H-2A workers also have domestic workers and if they raise the rate by 50%, that will cause an upward pressure on labor for non-H-2A workers because they compete for the same workforce.”

Schreiber says the current rate of .50 cents per pound is pretty good money …

SCHREIBER … “It’s $20 to $25 per hour at .50 cents a pound. They’re making a lot of money.”

Schreiber says that’s because most of the pickers are good at their jobs …

SCHREIBER … “I don’t want to say that it’s “easy street.” To do that, at .50 cents a pound, you’ve got to pick 40-pounds in an hour. If you can get 50-pounds in an hour, you’re making $25 dollars an hour.”

Listen tomorrow for more on this wage hike decision.

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BL: Welcome back to another “Fruit Bites” brought to you by Valent U.S.A. With us again is Valent’s Allison Walston. And this week Allison, tell me what happens to insects over the winter?

AW: As fall temperatures approach, insects begin preparations for overwintering. Aphids overwinter as a tough coated egg. Insects, like codling moth overwinter as a diapausing larva, while cherry fruit fly, overwinter as a pupa in the soil.

BL: I guess they don’t all die?

AW: Some might die, but most reach the necessary stage to deal with plummeting temperatures. For example, codling moth overwinter as a diapausing larva, similar to hibernating bear stage they delay development and spin a cocoon in a nice sheltered crevice in the bark to survive.

BL: Do all insects have an overwintering stage?

AW: No, some insects like monarchs, skip winter and move to warmer locations then fly up here. Entomologists are still trying to determine if some insects, like spotted wing Drosophila, can overwinter in the PNW.

BL: Well, thanks Allison. Join us again next time for Fruit Bites, brought to you by Valent. Until then, I’m Bob Larson.

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