State tallying losses from 2015 drought

Initial agricultural estimates in Washington top $300 million

— Initial estimates show growers in the Yakima Valley and around the state suffered losses estimated at more than $300 million during last year’s drought.

Though growers in the Roza Irrigation District were hardest hit by drought in 2015, the report noted “…all of the valley crops suffered in some way due to the drought and extreme heat.”

That’s according to a preliminary report the state’s Department of Agriculture released last Thursday.

Agency spokesman Hector Castro called it an “interim report” based primarily on surveys, meetings, phone calls and field visits with growers.

He said this initial survey included farms with tree fruit; field crops, including blueberries and red raspberries; animal feed crops, like hay; and dryland crops, like wheat.

“These were crops that had harvest information readily available and the team had contacts they could work with in the short time frame they had available,” Castro said. “Also, wheat was in its second drought year and, tree fruit was included because much of it is in areas where drought damage was anticipated.”

However, the statewide drought losses that are known include $212 million for wheat.

Apple growers sustained another $86 million in losses, according to survey results released last week.

“Early harvest varieties were most affected by low water availability and high temperatures in the Yakima basin,” the report said.

Other estimated losses included $12 million for blueberries and $13.9 million for red raspberries.

There were some crops that weathered the drought well, according to the survey.

Cherries and pears, for example, began harvesting two or three weeks early because of high temperatures.

“The crop itself sustained little damage from the low water and high temperatures in 2015,” the report said of cherries.

Regarding the pear harvest, it noted, “…growers did not report crop yield impacts” from the drought.

Castro said the final report will be released in December, and will include losses for additional crops beyond the ones reported in the initial survey.

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