RICHLAND, Wash. – Many Northwest growers are left out of the partial extension of the U.S. Farm Bill included in this week’s fiscal cliff legislation. The new law largely covers conventional agriculture and not the organics, specialty crops and conservation programs that our region’s farmers are known for.
It’s not just the so-called "fiscal cliff" that Congress is trying to resolve Monday. A tentative agreement on what’s been dubbed the "dairy cliff" is aimed at avoiding a government-induced spike in the price of milk.
Northwest dairy farmers are paying close attention to those negotiations. Without an extension of the farm bill, a 1949 law will kick in, forcing the government to buy dairy products at hugely inflated prices by today's standards. That would create an artificial dairy shortage.
Northwest wheat growers are hoping for a swift resolution to a labor dispute that could keep their grain from reaching the world market. Grain terminals remain open in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle, even though the terminals' owners have implemented a contract offer unionized longshoremen rejected.
Most of the wheat that grows on the rolling hills of eastern Washington is bound for the international market. But to get there, the wheat passes through one of a handful of grain terminals in the Northwest.
Northwest agriculture advocates are more optimistic Congress will take up the issue of immigration after a forum this week in Washington, D.C. The effort is getting support from a surprising mix of organizations.