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PNS Daily Newscast - November 19, 2018. 


More than 1,200 missing in the California wildfires. Also on the Monday rundown: A pair of reports on gun violence in the nation; and concerns that proposed changes to 'Green Card' rules favor the wealthy.

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With Busy Summer Ahead, WA Farmworkers Find Safe Housing

This multi-family housing unit in Cashmere, Wash., was developed by the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing to serve farmworkers' families. (Marty Miller/ORFH)
This multi-family housing unit in Cashmere, Wash., was developed by the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing to serve farmworkers' families. (Marty Miller/ORFH)
May 31, 2016

YAKIMA, Wash. – As grocery stores and farmers markets stock the fresh cherry crop for which Washington is famous, one organization is focused on the people who pick those cherries – and their need for safe living conditions.

The Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing (ORFH) in Yakima has developed more than 1,400 housing units, serving nearly 7,000 farmworkers and their families.

Marty Miller, ORFH’s executive director, says most of these workers aren't migrants.

"Roughly 70 to 75 percent of the farmworker population are year-round residents of their communities,” he points out. “They live there and work there, and their kids go to school there."

Miller says his organization builds community-based housing so that workers have nearby access to services.

The ORFH focuses some of its development in the Central Washington town of Mattawa, which has sprouted up as a community for local farmworkers.

The organization gathers both public and private money to fund the housing projects.

Miller says Washington has one of the largest populations of agricultural workers in the country, and some still face dilapidated housing conditions.

However, he says the state has done a lot in the past two decades to protect these workers, who often make wages well below the poverty line.

"In the state of Washington now, the Department of Health has to annually license any seasonal farmworker housing to make sure it meets a minimum standard," he states.

Emotions run high this election cycle over the issue of immigration. Miller says his group's housing projects occasionally get pushback from local communities that fear too many seasonal workers are coming into their neighborhoods.

"So, it's our job to try to address those fears and say, 'Well no, you know actually, these are families who already live here and they're just in poor conditions,'” he says. “And so, we're trying to do this work to improve the communities and give people a shot at a better, healthier living environment."

Miller adds farm labor plays a vital role in the state's agricultural economy, which was valued at more than $10 billion in 2013, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture.


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA