September 19, 2013
Contact: Lisa Parks
Executive Director of the Port of Douglas County
Port of Douglas Calls For Improved Freight Mobility in State
Investment needed to keep state’s fruit industry competitive in global marketplace
EAST WENATCHEE — With the state’s apple crop expected to increase by 20 percent in 2015 — and large tree-fruit crops anticipated in subsequent years — the state needs a comprehensive transportation package that includes investments in freight-mobility projects, say Port of Douglas County officials.
A Port of Douglas study, released in June, found transportation improvements statewide are key if the tree-fruit industry, and agriculture in general, is to move its products fast and efficiently to international markets. While the study determined demand for a cross-dock facility for shippers in the Wenatchee area is not strong at this time, it recommended the port district — located in the heart of apple country in Eastern Washington — push for better transportation infrastructure related to the movement of freight around the state, support changes in regulations, and facilitate new initiatives that may be central to the agricultural industry.
During the 2013 state legislative sessions, several projects considered vital to freight mobility went unfunded.
“The competition for our tree fruit industry and all our products is national and global in nature. It’s New York or Michigan or Chile or wherever they are growing apples,” said Lisa Parks, the port’s executive director. “So what does the Port of Douglas County do to collaborate with others in the state to help us make sure we’re more competitive? How do we ensure that exports happen and get to where they need to be?”
The study was led by Qvigstad & Associates in coordination with SCJ Alliance and the port. Then-state Rep. Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, was successful in getting funding for the study included in the 2011 transportation budget.
According to the study, the tree-fruit industry generates approximately $3.5 billion in annual sales, with 97 percent of consumption occurring outside Washington State. The apple industry alone provides about 50 percent of all apples grown in the United States.
Currently, the dominant mode of transportation for fruit is truck — with 200,000 truckloads leaving the Wenatchee Valley region each year. Approximately 30 percent of the apple crop is exported, with one-half of that trucked north to Canada or south to Mexico. Another 10 percent moves through Puget Sound ports.
Because of a short shipment window, cherry shippers mostly use West Coast airports to move that fruit. Only 5 percent of fruit is shipped by rail.
Parks said the Port of Douglas will continue to take steps to position itself as an advocate for better freight mobility due to the importance of the issue to the agriculture industry. She said the port will seek to take a greater role in state transportation plans and policy decisions, and will reach out and support its partner ports, including deep water ports and those located in another big fruit growing region, Yakima.
“Now is the time to implement and expand on a statewide strategy to stabilize our industries, including agriculture and all types of manufacturing,” Parks said of a strategy to boost freight mobility. “It’s a big issue and getting bigger. Because international trade is tied so closely to our economy, we must take the steps necessary to improve our global competitiveness.”