Washington state’s 39,000 farms, spread throughout our 39 counties, are a key economic driver for our state. We are the top fruit producers in the country for apples, sweet cherries, concord grapes, and red raspberries, and Washington State University noted that in 2011 the agriculture community contributed $1.5 billion in wages to the state’s economy, $219 million in tax revenue, $16 billion in economic impact and 82,000 jobs.
As an apple farmer, I am justifiably proud of the fact that our state is “The Apple Capital of the World.” Our apples are sold in all 50 states and in more than 50 countries. While innovation and technology have brought about many changes in farming, they still have not replaced the workers required to hand prune and hand pick the largest apple crop in the country. It takes approximately 70,000 harvest workers each year to get the crop off the trees. For a perishable crop like apples, the delay of even a few days of harvest workers can make the difference between apples that achieve top price and those that are destined for the processing market.