State Grange

to administer

farm labor dispute resolution system

The state of Washington has entered into an agreement that calls for the Washington State Grange to administer a statewide alternative dispute resolution system. Specifically, the program centers on employment disputes between farmers and farm workers.

The Grange will serve as the lead organization in what some are calling an "historic collaborative effort," which also includes the Washington Growers League, a Yakima-based ag organization, the United Farmworkers of America and two statewide legal aid programs. The aim is to create an alternative to costly litigation for resolving farm labor employment disputes.

"The Grange has a long history of bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas to problems facing farmers and those involved in the agricultural industry," said Terry Hunt, president of the Washington State Grange.

"Legal problems regularly arise in the labor-intensive fruit industry," said Hunt. "We have a responsibility to find ways to identify disputes early on and get them resolved in a fair and efficient manner."

Echoing Hunt's comments, Washington Growers League Executive Director Mike Gempler noted that the cost of litigation of farm labor disputes can quickly reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.

"Our members need an alternative to litigation that can deliver fair outcomes, ensure compliance with applicable laws and minimize the risk of the extraordinary expense of protracted litigation," Gempler said. "We believe that a collaborative alternative dispute resolution system will help achieve these ends."

Patrick McIntyre, executive director of the Northwest Justice Project, which is the state's largest legal aid provider, views the alternative system with optimism. He said his agency's clients seek a prompt and fair resolution of disputes that arise in the course of their employment.

"Living hand-to-mouth as they migrate from location to location, they have no interest in prolonging or escalating the adversarial level of legal disputes," said McIntyre. "We are working and will continue to work hard to find common ground with everyone involved in this undertaking."

Funding for the alternative dispute resolution system, totaling $100,000 this year, was appropriated by the Washington state legislature this past session.

USDA creates register to reach minority farmers

Minority farmers and ranchers may now join a new voluntary register to receive information from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The register was established at the end of August.

"The new minority farm register is an outreach tool to under-served farmers and ranchers who are not currently enrolled in USDA loan, farm or conservation programs," said USDA Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "The register will create a shared outreach list that will help USDA, community-based organizations and minority-serving educational institutions to communicate with minority farmers and ranchers."

Veneman explained that by joining the register, minority producers will receive outreach materials, newsletters and program announcements from USDA agencies and from other outreach partners.

Those wishing to join the register must sign and date an application that provides their name and address. Applications are available at USDA service centers.

Air search nets 620 pot plants

Approximately 620 pot plants were seized last Friday in Yakima County during a marijuana eradication operation that was conducted high above the ground.

According to Doug Hintze of the Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) task force, helicopters provided by the Washington National Guard and aircraft from the Washington State Patrol were used in the successful operation. Hintze said seven different growing sites were spotted from the air.

The Friday, Sept. 3, eradication mission culminated a marijuana spotter training session sponsored by the WSP. Officers from throughout the state who attended the class, along with detectives from the city/county narcotics unit and LEAD task force, as well as personnel from the National Guard and uniformed officers from the Yakama Nation Tribal Police Department, participated in the operation.

Hintze said additional marijuana growing sites are expected to be located at later dates.


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