Washington State Orchard Workers Are New COVID-19 Hotspots; Consolidation of Fruit Production Paved the Way

June 1, 2020 (EIRNS) — In recent decades, 68 percent of all U.S. apple production for fresh consumption came to be concentrated in Washington state, as the national food system was consolidated in ways to serve Wall Street profiteering off both the farmers and consumers. Yakima County produces more apples than any other county in the nation, with 55,000 acres of apple orchards, out of 175,000 total acres in the state, which additionally produces many stone fruits, berries, and hops — the leading U.S. state. Now orchard workers in Yakima County are stricken in mass numbers with Covid-19. They have the highest rate of incidence of any county on the West Coast. Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed an emergency on May 28, issuing directives to deal with the spread.

In Yakima County, the incidence of cases is running at a rate of 501 per 100,000 in contrast to other counties, for which a rate of under 25 per 100,000 over two weeks, allows them to start re-opening.

The crisis in Washington state runs exactly parallel to what is happening among meat packing workers. Typical work and living conditions in both situations exploit cheap labor, with a high percentage undocumented. There are over 2.7 million migrant workers in fields and orchard work. In March, thousands were dislocated in the southern U.S. latitudes, e.g., producing tomatoes and strawberries in Florida. Now, thousands in the more northerly latitudes are being hit at their workplace by the virus. Counties with high seasonal numbers of farm workers are turning into Covid-19 zones in many states. There are continuing threats of disruption to supplies of fruits and vegetables.

Lyndon LaRouche commissioned reports on the dangers of monoculture in agriculture in 2004, pointing out the wrongness of concentrations of production, because it creates vulnerability of plant, human, and animal diseases. He pointed to the U.S. apple concentration as a classic case. In 1970, Washington state accounted for 22 percent of U.S. apple output; as of 2004, Washington alone for 58 percent of all apples. Besides, he said, when you concentrate on only a few types of apples, the regional preferences and varieties that make life interesting aren’t there any more. He spoke of his favorites from New England. [MGM] https://larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2005/eirv32n31-20050805/eirv32n31-20050805_031-food_cartel_imports_shrink_anoth.pdf

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