Snow Delays Planting in Washington

Published online: Mar 14, 2019 Articles Alex Burch
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Source: KEPR-TV

The clock is ticking for potato growers in the Columbia Basin to get their spuds planted in the ground, but the snow is stopping them.

“There's a lot of frustrated farmers right now,” said Kent McMullen, who has farmed near Pasco, Wash., for 30 years.

This time last year, fields were teeming with workers. Now, if you look outside, there's not a soul in sight.

“You don't see a tractor in a field anywhere,” McMullen said.

Tractors and workers can’t get onto some snow-covered fields. Farmers said they really need all this snow to melt before they can start planting, but if it melts too fast, that will create more problems.

“You end up with ponds out in the field,” he said. “And you can't work around those, so you have to wait until those dry up.”

They're hoping the snow melts slowly and the ground dries quickly.

“It’ll probably be another 14 days at least,” McMullen guessed.

Pushing back planting could mean a smaller harvest or crops that aren't as mature.

“When you get hit with hot weather right during bloom, that means reduced yields,” he said.

Whether this will change how much potatoes will cost at the store remains to be seen. For potato farmers, all they can do is wait.

“Farmers have to be adaptable, as does anyone,” McMullen said.

This late winter has also prevented orchard workers to start pruning their trees.