Fruit-packing workers strike, and Washington State strengthens Covid-19 protections

After several weeks of strikes by workers at six fruit-packing facilities in Yakima, Washington, and a number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in food production and processing plants, the state will require stronger protections for agricultural workers. The new protections, which Gov. Jay Inslee announced on May 28 and which take effect June 3, require agricultural employers to provide all workers with personal protective equipment at no cost, ensure physical distancing or barriers between workers when distancing is not possible, place hand-washing stations at regular intervals among workers, and implement sanitation and distancing on employer-provided transportation.(No paywall)

Fearing the spread of Covid-19, workers strike at three fruit facilities in Washington State

Workers at three fruit packing facilities in Washington State have gone on strike to protest what they say are inadequate protections against the spread of Covid-19. The strikes come as outbreaks of the virus continue to spread throughout facilities where the nation’s food is processed, from meatpacking plants to produce packing houses.(No paywall)

Covid-19 drives emergency steps for school food in two states

The USDA approved requests from California and Washington State to provide free meals to low-income students when schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The waivers, good through June 30, were the first by USDA to help schools deal with the disease in part by allowing them to stop serving meals in group settings, such as a cafeteria.

Oregon joins Pacific Coast bloc for cage-free eggs

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a law last Friday that will require eggs sold in the state, whether they come from commercial flocks in Oregon or are produced elsewhere, to come from cage-free hens beginning in 2024. California and Washington State already have similar laws.

Japan buys U.S. wheat, puts new GMO testing system in place

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture purchased $18 million worth of U.S. wheat last week, days after announcing it would not interrupt imports because of the discovery of GMO wheat in a fallow field in Washington State. The Japan Agricultural Times reported the ministry said on July 17 that it had adopted a new inspection method so there was no need to suspend purchases.

USDA identifies two Monsanto strains in rogue GMO wheat in Washington State

The GMO wheat discovered growing wild in a Washington State field this spring actually sprouted from two different strains developed by Monsanto, the USDA announced over the weekend. Genetically engineered wheat is not approved for cultivation anywhere in the world, yet "volunteer" herbicide-resistant plants have been confirmed four times in the U.S. Northwest more than a decade after field trials ended.

Rogue GE wheat found in U.S. Northwest for fourth time since 2013

The USDA has never approved cultivation of genetically engineered wheat, yet for the fourth time since April 2013 a wheat strain resistant to the weedkiller glyphosate was found growing wild in the northwestern United States. The discovery could disrupt wheat exports and it raises questions about USDA's ability to police agricultural biotechnology.

The $32-million question in Washington State: Carbon emissions fee

Two years after the thundering defeat of a carbon tax in a statewide referendum, voters in Washington State will decide whether to establish a carbon fee on polluters, starting at $15 a ton for large-scale emitters of greenhouse gases. Billionaire Bill Gates donated $1 million in support of …

Big Soda pours $20 million into fight against local soda taxes

In June 2017, the Seattle City Council approved a tax of 1.75 cents per ounce on sugary beverages. Now the soda industry has donated almost every dollar of the $20.2 million raised to support a statewide referendum on Nov. 6 that would prevent other cities and counties in Washington State from following Seattle’s lead.

Escaped salmon found 40 miles upstream from Puget Sound

In August, 305,000 farm-raised Atlantic salmon weighing 8 to 10 pounds apiece escaped into Puget Sound when a net collapsed at a floating fish farm near Cyprus Island.