VIDEO: Port slowdown may impact Eastern Washington farmers for y - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

VIDEO: Port slowdown may impact Eastern Washington farmers for years

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SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash.- The walkouts and work slowdowns at West Coast ports may be over now that a tentative contract has been negotiated but the impact at farms in Eastern Washington is far from over. Every time workers walked off the job, the backlog of products that still needed to be shipped kept growing.

West Coast ports support 9 million jobs and account for about 12% of the country's GDP, which is $2 trillion. A disruption in that system has a domino effect that first impacts business owners, then their customers, which ultimately impacts the economy overall.

Farms in Eastern Washington have been hit with significant hardships since the port slowdown began. Randy Emtman, of Emtman Brothers Farms says the delayed shipment of his crops have severely impacted his farm. 'There's been a negative impact on the export of our wheat and almost every crop we grow on the farm has had added costs or delays that have prevented sales.'

About 75% of the farms income has yet to come in, and Emtman say's he's not sure if it will this year. 'We work all year to produce one crop in this particular area. That's all we can raise off of our land each year, and that really makes it so we really only have one paycheck per year. We've already put expenses into next years crop. The crops have seed costs, chemical costs, and fertilizer costs already at this point, and so there's been a major amount of expenses already incurred for next year's crop on part of our farm and we have received no income to help pay the bills for that."

Emtman says that customers who depended on receiving feed products for their livestock from him, will be forced to buy from other farms, which impacts his working relationships with clients and his bottom line.

'Our exporters that we work with are going to have to go to the customers now and say, 'okay the labor dispute is over. We still have congestion in the ports. We're going to be a little bit slow in getting the product to you. Are you willing to buy from us?' Quite possibly they could say, 'well we've made commitments elsewhere that we're going to have to use for two or three months worth of inventory, then we can go back to doing business with you.' They've already fed their animals for this length of time and they do not need the original amount of feed that they had promised to purchase from us.'

Emtman says he contacted the offices of Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Maria Cantwell and they really didn't have a solution they could follow through with. Emtman says he was told they 'really don't know how to exert pressure on anybody to get the problem resolved.' 'It just doesn't make sense to me. The one thing that I would like to see is some legislation drafted that gives the U.S. government some power over the industry such as this (the port industry), that force them to continue to work, but yet we'll help you solve the labor issues.'

While Emtman's crops will survive their long-term stay in shipment containers off the coast, he says he knows plenty of other farmers that are experiencing big losses. 'I feel very fortunate that the commodities we raise such as the Timothy Hay, the wheat, and the canola, can be stored for a fairly long period of time. They're definitely not a perishable item like a lot of my fellow farmers who raise apples. That is a situation that I feel really sorry for. Their apples have just been spoiling on the dock because they did not get shipped. There's absolutely no way of recouping that loss.'

Emtman says his farm may continue to feel the effects of the port slowdown for the next two to three years.

The job of restoring the free flow of international trade will take at least two months at the ports that handle roughly one-quarter of U.S. international trade.

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