Bearing Fruit

Northern neighbors set an example

Something sweet for Washington farmers emerged from the Washington State Senate Thursday.

The state's Senate Bill 6471 passed unanimously, 46-0.

An SB 6471 would be a good idea for Oregon -- and something like it may very well be in the works.

Under SB 6471, stores and other businesses in Washington that offer fresh fruit and vegetables for retail sale must display a placard informing consumers if it was grown either in Washington or in the United States.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, the bill's prime sponsor, said the agricultural labeling measure helps both Washington farmers and consumers.

"First of all, this bill will promote Washington products," said Honeyford, R-Sunnyside. "I think consumers will buy these products if they know they were grown in Washington. That in turn will help our farmers, who have faced tough economic times in recent years." (The bill now goes to the Washington House.)

Rep. Patti Smith, the Corbett Republican who serves Hood River County, is hard at work on "Buy Oregon" legislation that encourages schools, prisons, and other state-supported food purchasers to use Oregon and domestic products first.

Meanwhile, Washington's SB6471 is seen as a huge step in the right direction by Camille Hukari of Hood River's Tractor Coalition.

"It's absolutely fantastic, exactly what we want to have happen," said Hukari, who with other Oregon and Washington farmers have striven for the past year to encourage government-backed efforts, such as SB6471, to educate consumers about the availability of domestic produce.

Hukari called it "a step in the righ direction and wonderful because the Washington Senate has heard us, and recognizes there is a problem."

Consider it a nice birthday present for the coalition, which held its first parade, from Pine Grove to Hood River, in February 2001.

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