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Ag Monthly | Starr Ranch Growers adds better bag for organics

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New packaging from Starr Ranch Growers highlights organic labelling for retail consumers.

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Starr Ranch Growers adds better bag for organics

WENATCHEE — Starr Ranch Growers introduced a new package for its organic fruit this year, part of an ongoing effort to highlight the certified product in demand by retail customers.

The new bags, a paper and plastic combination, use 25 percent less plastic than the previous bags. The older bags used heavier three-ply plastic to provide form. In the new bags, the middle layer has been replaced with recycled paper.

So in essence it is a laminated paper layer that gives the bag its body, and that took a full quarter of the plastic out of the process,” Starr Growers’ Import/Organic Category Manager Dan Davis said. “We’ve gone out to find more sustainable options are really happy with the end result.”

The bag was put into distribution with this year’s organic apricot crop.

The move is fueled by an increase of organic volume in the most popular apple varieties this year, coming from existing orchards and the addition of Apple King, a Yakima Valley organic grower/packer, to its production. The upshot, Davis said, is that Starr Ranch Growers is packing more than 1.5 million cases of certified apples in 2018.

The growth is “driven by varieties most in demand, and our organic manifest by order of volume is Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Granny Smith,” he said.

The company now has two dedicated organic packing lines.


Crop profit outlook not bad, but tariff impacts remain

SPOKANE — Tariff impacts remain the biggest unknown for Northwest apple and cherry markets this year, but slightly smaller crops mean better prices.

Pears, on the other hand, are seeing a larger crop, which could be good for the bottom line.

Those are some of the highlights in the Northwest Farm Credit Services’ quarterly Market Snapshot report released Oct. 3.

The agricultural lending cooperative’s quarterly report looks at profitability projections for major agricultural commodities in the region, with teams working throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington to monitor conditions and report outlooks for commodities financed by the co-op.

Here are summaries of the 12-month outlook for agricultural commodities most common in the Northwest.

Apples: Apple growers saw a lighter crop than expected, likely coming in below the Aug. 1 estimate of 131 million boxes. Good returns are expected, though, with good quality and shorter supplies. Tariffs are the unknown. Tensions have cooled with the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, but are still a concern for India, the state’s third-largest export market.

Cherries: Depending on harvest timing, cherry growers could see slightly profitable margins, or at least break-even. A smaller crop, good quality and strong consumer demand will help, but it’s complicated by tariffs. As returns to growers are being finalized, many are below expectations.

Pears: Growers are reporting a large crop of pears this year, after four years of smaller crops. That’s putting pressure on prices, but good quality should lead to high packouts and boost returns.

Wine/vineyard: Growing conditions for grapes were favorable this year and large crops are expected. Wine sales growth is positive, though less than in past years. Some regions and varieties could be facing oversupply due to larger crops and lower wine sales.

Wheat: An above-average wheat production, with a global supply projected to decrease is good for wheat prices. The USDA is projecting between $4.70 and $5.50 per bushel for the 2018-19 season-average farm price. Trade uncertainties and the elevated dollar are challenges.

Forest products: Log and lumber prices hit record highs this year, though lumber prices softened recently with inventory buildups due to fewer housing starts in June and July. Timberland owners should expect very profitable returns and sawmill operators should look for profitable margins.

Hay: Alfalfa and timothy producers will likely be profitable, but trade uncertainty looms.

Nursery/greenhouse: A boost in consumer confidence translates into a willingness to pay more for plants. Sales and prices have increased. Labor is the big struggle.

Cattle: Strong domestic and export demand is easing the impacts of growing beef supplies, leading to projections for slight profits.

Dairy: Milk prices improved, but might not be enough to see profits, though easing of trade tensions with China and the USMCA agreement with Canada and Mexico could provide stability in the markets.

Onions: The forecast is a mixed bag for onion growers. Harvest started at least one week earlier than normal, but prices remain subdued for yellow onions due to lower-quality onions from California in the supply chain. Red and white onions remain profitable.

Potatoes: Grower returns are expected to remain slightly profitable for uncontracted potatoes and profitable for contracted potatoes depending on crop quality and packout.

Northwest FCS is an $11 billion financial cooperative providing financing and related services to farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses, commercial fishermen, timber producers, rural homeowners and crop insurance customers in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

The Market Snapshots are posted online at northwestfcs.com under the “Industry Insights” tab.