Washington State Dumps $100 Million of Apples After Labor Dispute

Labor disputes forced apple sellers to leave thousands pounds of apples to rot in central Washington

Fickr/ Waldo Jaquith

A labor dispute among ports along the West Coast created slowdowns leading to apple dumps.

Nearly $100 million worth of displaced apples have been left to rot under the sun of central Washington, the nation’s most productive apple region.

Various factors contributed to this dump, none more so than a labor dispute among ports along the West Coast. The slowdown at the ports hindered the distribution of the apples to the point that large portions of crops couldn’t be sold and were dumped.

"If we wouldn't have had the port slowdown, we wouldn't have needed this," Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, told the Associated Press.

An agreement between the docks and the workers was reached earlier this month, but it didn’t come soon enough to save the apples. As perishable foods, those waiting to be shipped reached a point where they couldn’t be used for anything, even processing for juice or applesauce, and had to be discarded.

A record-breaking crop of apples played a role in the dumping, as more trees are being planted and exceptional growing weather gave farmers an abundance of apples that they were unable to sell.

Farmers aren’t offered any compensation for the apples that can’t be sold, and are forced to absorb the financial losses.

“It literally comes right out of the growers’ pockets when that happens,” Steve Lutz, vice president of marketing at Columbia Marketing International, which represents various apple growers, told us. “It’s just highly unfortunate.”

The rotting apples now litter central Washington, to the annoyance of those living in the area. 

“It smells like rancid fruit,” said Carol Pearson, owner of a Pateros Famer Market booth, to King5.

Luckily, dumping the apples won’t have any long-term effect on the environment.  

“"These are apples," Fryhover said. "We're not throwing our TVs out. They don't harm the environment."

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