The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a formal disaster declaration for sweet cherry growers in 11 Washington counties, including Yakima.

The declaration allows farmers and cherry producers to access emergency loans from the USDA. It comes after excessive heat in 2023 resulted in economic losses.

Members of Washington’s congressional declaration sent a letter to the USDA in February calling for the disaster declaration.

The letter said unseasonably warm weather resulted in cherries maturing faster and earlier than expected in Washington.

Washington cherry growers left as much as 35% of their crop unharvested because of the early maturation, the officials said. They also had to compete with cherries from California, where there was a later harvesting season.

In a news release Tuesday, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell said the conditions created an oversupply of cherries and led to significant economic losses.

The disaster declaration applies to growers in Yakima, Kittitas, Klickitat, Walla Walla, Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin, Grant and Okanogan counties.

The USDA will evaluate loan applications based on the losses growers experienced, security available and the ability of growers to repay.

Growers in neighboring counties in Oregon and Washington also are eligible.



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