Gluesenkamp Perez, Washington Delegation Call for a Sweet Cherry Harvest Federal Disaster Declaration

Feb 05, 2024

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez holds a listening session with farmers and producers in Centralia in March.

Last Week, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) and the full, bipartisan Washington Delegation sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging him to expedite and issue a Secretarial Disaster Designation for the 2023 fresh sweet cherry harvest.

Sweet cherry growers in Washington faced devastating challenges throughout the 2023 season. Unusual weather patterns, including unseasonably high temperatures in the State of Washington, combined with heavy rains and cold weather in California, led to a shorter season for Washington growers and an oversupply of sweet cherries. Many growers in Washington state were forced to leave crops unharvested and experienced significant economic losses.

“Pacific Northwest growers suffered significant economic losses and were forced to leave as much as 35 percent of the crop unharvested due to this weather-driven disaster,” wrote the lawmakers. “We understand data provided to USDA indicates growers experienced losses of more than 50 percent.”

Fresh sweet cherries are a top agricultural commodity with a typical value of over $1 billion. A USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation will allow sweet cherry growers to access low interest emergency loans to help bridge operations into the 2024 season. Governor Inslee requested a Secretarial Disaster Designation and currently, the decision to issue the designation is with USDA Farm Service Agency officials and awaiting the Secretary of Agriculture’s approval.

Last week, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez introduced the Partnerships for Agricultural Climate Action (PACA) Act to support Southwest Washington producers with the tools they need to help protect their operations from extreme weather events.

Full text of the letter can be found here.

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