A new rule that went into effect this year removes penalties for cherry processors in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Utah, who previously faced lost market access to or through California for an entire season when fruit from just a few individual growers tested positive for fruit fly larva. Under the new rule, fruit at a processing facility will be identified and segregated by individual orchard blocks. If cherry fruit fly is found in any sample, the orchard block will be suspended from shipping but the processor may continue to ship fruit from other growers.
The change came about after months of collaboration and negotiation between California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Washington state Department of Agriculture and industry representatives, who came together to modify the rules to “better reflect the increasingly consolidated nature of the cherry industry while still preventing the spread of a pest of concern”.
WSDA Director Derek Sandison said that protecting market access is a high priority for the agency, especially at a time when the cherry industry is experiencing uncertainty in export markets, such as China.
“Through no fault of their own, our growers have faced increased barriers to foreign markets and suffered financial losses as a result,” Sandison said. “They have been forced to seek new and expanded opportunities for a highly perishable product. We are pleased that WSDA has been able to help by working with our partners in California and ease restrictions faced by our cherry producers.”
Washington State Tree Fruit Association President Jon DeVaney said the new rules are good news for processors and producers.
“Cherry growers will benefit greatly from the updated permit, which will focus on evaluating conditions in individual orchards to prevent the spread of pests,” DeVaney said. “Growers will no longer lose access to customers in California simply because their packer discovered a problem in another grower’s fruit. We appreciate the work of WSDA and the CDFA in meeting with our producers and updating the permit prior to the 2020 cherry season.”
Fred Scarlett of the Northwest Horticulture Council said the changes will help the industry.
“These changes are straightforward in addressing current industry operations, preserve quarantine integrity, and recognize fairness or opportunity for late season growers to ship cherries to the California market,” Scarlett said.
Cherries are Washington’s eighth largest crop with annual production estimated at $480 million.
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