WA cherry growers eligible for loans after 2023 weather woes

A close up of cherries on a branch

Ripe cherries in the Valicoff Fruit Co. orchards in Wapato in a June 2019 photo. (Jen Dev/Cascade PBS)

Washington sweet-cherry growers are now eligible for up to $500,000 in federal emergency loans from the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a formal disaster declaration for the 2023 cherry harvest.  

Washington’s Congressional delegation wrote to Vilsack in February urging him to issue the declaration after weather caused major losses for growers, who needed help continuing operations in 2024. 

Last year, a cold spring that transitioned abruptly to unseasonably high temperatures led to a shortened cherry season, when numerous cherries ripened at once. 

Meanwhile, California’s cherry season was delayed due to cold and rainy conditions. As a result, cherries from both states were harvested simultaneously, leading to an oversupply — about 70% of the Western U.S. crop matured between June 20 and July 20. Normally, the season lasts for 120 days, starting in California and ending in upper-elevation areas of Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. 

When prices consequently dropped, Washington growers opted not to pick millions of boxes of cherries, roughly 35% of the state’s crop.

Growers have until Nov. 14 to apply for emergency loans, which can be used for various recovery needs, including replacing equipment or other essential items, reorganizing a farming operation or refinancing debt. 

Washington cherry growers have dealt with adverse weather conditions in consecutive seasons. In 2021, sustained triple-digit temperatures in late June damaged ripening fruit. In 2022, a cold and wet spring stunted their development, leading to what ended up being the smallest crop of Northwest sweet cherries in nearly a decade. 

Seahawks greats Chancellor, Sherman open Bellevue restaurant

Former Seattle Seahawks players Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman stand in front of the restaurant Legion they are opening in Bellevue with business partner Leilani Wong.

Former Seattle Seahawks Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman stand in front of the restaurant, Legion, they are opening in Bellevue with business partner Leilani Wong. (Rachel Belle/Crosscut)

Former Seattle Seahawks players Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman are opening a new soul-food restaurant and sports bar in Bellevue’s Lincoln Square this week.  

“I love food,” said Chancellor, a longtime safety for the Seahawks. “But the reason I wanted to start a restaurant was years ago I did a barbecue back home in Norfolk, Virginia. I served thousands of people free food and brought the community together and I wanted to stop as much violence as I could. But it was always over food. I love soul food, it’s always been in my heart.” 

The new restaurant is called Legion, a nod to the Legion of Boom (the team’s legendary defensive backfield, which included both Sherman and Chancellor) and serves “upscale soul food.” Chancellor hand-picked Legion’s chef, Reginald Jacob Howell, after eating his cooking at the popular restaurant En Rama in Tacoma.

On the menu are classics like fried chicken and country-fried catfish, and more inventive dishes like a gumbo burger, which includes a shrimp patty, a chicken andouille patty, Holy Trinity rice, herb crab meat, charred pickled okra and roux ketchup.  

This isn’t Sherman’s first taste of the restaurant world; he owned two Wing Stop franchises in Seattle. 

Legion soft-opens tonight, Oct. 3, at 5 p.m. with a limited menu. The full dinner menu will be unveiled on Friday, Oct. 13.  

Legion, located at 700 Bellevue Way N.E., took over the Pearl Seafood and Oyster Bar space, which closed in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.  

Despite low unemployment and solid job growth in May throughout the state and most counties, new figures from the Washington Employment Security Department point to slowing economic activity. 

The state posted a 3.3% unemployment rate in May, compared to 3.8% in May 2022, according to the figures released Tuesday

Among the state’s metropolitan areas, Walla Walla, which includes the southeast counties of Walla Walla and Columbia, reported the lowest unemployment rate at 2.9%, a drop from 4.2% in May 2022. In contrast, Yakima County, in south-central Washington, reported the highest unemployment rate among metropolitan areas at 4.2%, a drop from 5.6% in May 2022. 

The Seattle metropolitan area — which includes King and Snohomish counties — showed a 3.2% unemployment rate, an increase from 2.6% in May 2022. The job losses may reflect the thousands of layoffs at tech companies headquartered here. 

Asotin County reported the lowest employment rate among the state’s 39 counties, at 2.4%. The rural county, in Washington’s southeast corner, is part of the Lewiston, Idaho, metropolitan area. 

Ferry County, in northwest Washington, reported the highest unemployment rate, at 6%, though that was a decrease from 8.3% in May 2022. 

Employment Security reported seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, which account for occurrences such as holiday hiring, for the state and the Seattle area last week. Rates for the state and Seattle area, seasonally adjusted, were 4.1% and 3.0% in May, respectively. 

While unemployment dropped from April’s figures, it increased compared to May 2022, when the unemployment rate was 3.9% for the state and 2.9% for the Seattle area.

While the drops in unemployment in most counties are a positive indicator for the economy, Washington’s year-over-year job growth appears to be gradually slowing, according to the state.

In May, Washington reported 104,700 more jobs year over year, a 2.97% increase. However, that is a less robust year-over-year increase than April’s, when the state saw a 3.18% job growth rate, or 111,300. 

Job growth statewide has been slowing in recent months, especially compared to several months in 2022, which may serve as a lagging indicator of an impending recession or an economic slowdown

Among the most robust job growth in the state’s metropolitan counties was in Olympia, in Thurston County, which reported 5,200 more jobs year-over-year, a 4.1% increase. In contrast, the Wenatchee metropolitan area, which consists of the north-central counties of Chelan and Douglas, reported 200 fewer jobs year-over-year, a 0.42% decrease.