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An orchardist sprays white kaolin clay on pear trees March 25 near Cashmere, a sure sign that spring has arrived.

Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan form tri-county pest board

NCW — Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties have formed a tri-county pest and disease board.

Okanogan County's pest control agent, Dan McCarthy, retired at the end of 2020 after serving the county for 23 years, according to a news release from the new tri-county pest board. The counties decided to combine, with Chelan and Douglas counties' pest control agent, Will Carpenter, taking the helm.

The tri-county pest board will serve the tree fruit industry in all three counties with the mission of eradicating pests and disease in commercial tree fruit, according to the release.

The change comes at a critical time for Okanogan County as the state looks at expanding the apple maggot quarantine zone. The zone attempts to contain the spread of apple maggots in commercial fruit by not allowing fruit or debris from the quarantined area past a certain point.

On March 3, staff with the state Department of Agriculture held a public meeting to talk about finding apple maggots and flies outside the quarantine zone in Okanogan County in 2020.

Newhouse's Farm Workforce Modernization Act passes the House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill that would provide a path to legal status for more than a million farmworkers in the U.S. passed the U.S. House of Representatives for a second time March 18.

The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Newhouse, was introduced in October 2019 after nearly a year of bipartisan negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, farmworker advocates and agriculture industry officials. It was reintroduced in the current Congress in March as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021.

The bill allows agricultural workers to earn legal status and, later, gives them the opportunity to apply for permanent residency by showing prior employment and committing to continued work in the industry. It also streamlines the H-2A guest worker program employer process, allows year-round industries such as dairy to participate in the H-2A program, and establishes an E-Verify system for the agricultural sector once other changes are in place.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Beetle hunters needed

OLYMPIA — The state Department of Agriculture is asking residents and farmers to keep an eye out for Japanese beetles, the latest invasive pest posing a threat to local crops.

Sightings, including those from last year, can be reported online at agr.wa.gov/beetles, by emailing PestProgram@agr.wa.gov, or calling 1-800-443-6684.