The Importance of Agriculture in Washington & Why Labeling GE Foods Matters

Three of the most important exports for Washington are wheat, apples, and salmon.

Reason #1 for Labeling: 64 countries already require labels on GE foods, including many of Washington’s key trade partners

  • According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Japan is the state’s largest wheat customer. Last year, Japan imported 25 percent of Washington’s wheat, worth $678.4 million. Like many other countries, Japan requires labeling on GE foods.
  • Many of our state’s major trading partners require labels on GE foods. Nine of the ten largest importers of salmon products from the U.S. Customs District in Seattle between January and March 2013 require labeling on GE foods, including the U.K., Australia, China, Japan, France and Russia.
  • Seven of the ten countries importing the most Washington apples require labeling on GE foods, including India, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Reason #2 for Labeling: Washington jobs depend on a thriving agricultural sector

  • Washington’s apple sector accounted for an estimated 59,650 jobs and a total annual employee compensation of $1.95 billion in 2010-2011.
  • Nearly all the wheat farms in Washington are owned and operated by families.
  • There are roughly 5,000 active wheat growers in Washington and more than 25,000 Washington jobs are tied to the wheat farming industry.
  • In 2011, the seafood industry in Washington supported 67,007 jobs.
  • Commercial fisheries in Washington provided $148.3 million in personal income and 3,520 jobs in 2006. At least 3,000 Washington jobs depend on the salmon industry in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

Reason #3 for Labeling: Washington agriculture contributes billions to the state’s economy

  • Washington is the 4th largest wheat producing state in the nation, with more than 2.2 million acres of wheat in production. Wheat farmers in Washington produced 146.3 million bushels of wheat last year.
  • The production value of Washington wheat was $1.14 billion, according to 2011 data.
  • Washington apples, sold as fresh or processed, are estimated to be a $2.5 billion a year industry.
  • In the 2010-2011 season, the total economic output generated by all the levels of production, packing, processing, marketing and research of apples amounted to more than $7 billion in total value of output.
  • Commercial harvest and wholesale fishing in Washington generates economic activity of $1.4 billion annually.
  • Seafood processing also contributes significantly to Washington’s economy by generating products with a wholesale value of $101 million in 2006.

Reason #4 for Labeling: Washington’s economy depends on the export of agricultural goods

  • While half the nation’s wheat crop is exported, 85 to 90 percent of wheat grown in Washington State is sold overseas.
  • More than 41 percent of all U.S. white wheat comes from Washington. In 2011, Asia imported 70 percent of the U.S.’s white wheat, followed by Egypt at 11 percent.
  • In 2011, canned and prepared seafood products represented the 6th largest processed agricultural export industry in Washington
  • According to NOAA, annual landings for Washington’s commercial fishing industry totaled 95,383 metric tons worth more than $329 million.
  • In 2006, apple exports were worth $389 million and an estimated 30 percent of Washington apples are exported overseas, with major markets in Asia, Canada, Mexico and South America.
  • According to Bloomberg News, wheat for July delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade dropped 1.1 percent to $6.9475 a bushel and wheat futures have slumped 11 percent this year after unapproved GE wheat was found contaminating an Oregon wheat field.