Geoduck tariffs prompt refunds

OLYMPIA — In an unusual example of how a budding “trade war” can affect local economies, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources said it will offer financial relief to geoduck harvesters who successfully bid to harvest the state’s wild geoduck.

“Our state’s aquatic lands, and the working men and women who depend on them, are unnecessary casualties in an unnecessary trade war,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “These tariffs threaten our geoduck industry — and the divers, processors, and packers whose jobs depend on it. So we are doing are part to mitigate impacts to our communities and keep these businesses whole.”

The People’s Republic of China announced last month a 25 percent tariff on American seafood products, including geoduck, in response to tariffs instituted by The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. China’s announcement that the tariffs would take effect July 6 came shortly after a May 30 auction by DNR, which awarded eight companies the rights to harvest wild geoduck from tracts in Puget Sound between July 3 and Sept. 28.

Geoducks, a species of large clam, are harvested and marketed by Taylor Shellfish Farms. Taylor is a large employer in Pacific County, but geoducks aren’t found on the Southwest Washington coast.

Clatsop bank gets top grade

SEASIDE — In a study of over 11,000 of the country’s healthiest FDIC-insured banks, Clatsop Community Bank received an A+ Health Grade for the first quarter of 2018. Only 11 percent of the banks and credit unions evaluated receive a grade of A+ from

The comprehensive health score is assessed each quarter, and considers several factors including capitalization, deposit growth and loan-to-reserve ratios.

“We’ve always conducted our business in accordance with sound banking principles, and are pleased to be recognized among the top percentage of banks in the country that abide by this long-range approach to banking,” said President and CEO Joe Schulte.

Clatsop residents ‘financially healthy’

ASTORIA — The financial services firm SmartAsset recently analyzed data to find the most financially healthy places in the country, and rated Clatsop County ninth best of Oregon’s 36 counties.

The ranking is based on factors including debt as a percentage of income, bankruptcies per 1,000, the poverty rate and unemployment rate. Based on these criteria, Clatsop scored a 68.24 on the firm’s financial health index.

Hood River County ranked first in the state with an index score of 80.46. On the north side of the Columbia, Pacific County was in the middle of the pack for Washington state, with a score of 63.36.

Jobs picture looking good

LONG BEACH — Pacific County’s jobless rate fell to 6.8 percent in May on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the lowest it has been in May since 1990 and about 1 percent better than it was in April. The number of employed people in the county — 7,688 — is down about 28 from May 2017. The still is a long way to go to the pre-recession jobs total of around 8,500.

Washington state’s May jobless rate was 4.4 percent, about the same as in April and in May 2017.

In Oregon, which adjusts county jobs numbers to account for predictable seasonal swings, the May unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, in the same range as it has been for the past year.

Oregon’s rate was 4.1 percent, and the national rate was 3.8 percent.

CMH gets better bond rating

ASTORIA — Columbia Memorial Hospital recently earned an improvement in its credit rating, something it characterized as “a big stride … to secure affordable healthcare for the future.”

Fitch Ratings, one of the “Big Three” credit rating agencies for U.S. businesses, upgraded its rating of CMH’s revenue bonds and Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to an A-, up from a BBB-. The IDR affects more than $45 million in long-term debt. Based on its rating of A-, Fitch says the financial outlook for CMH is stable.

According to Fitch, CMH earned an A- for its strong net leverage position and robust operating profitability levels, which Fitch expects to continue. “Improving our bond rating to an A- is great news and something we’ve spent a lot of time working on. Our bond rating is like your personal credit score, it’s based on our financial history and projections for the future,” said CMH CEO Erik Thorsen.

Fitch upgraded CMH’s bond rating based on the hospital’s operating margins, growing physician base, effective cost controls, enhanced Medicare reimbursement, and its affiliation with Oregon Health & Science University.

SALEM — For many Oregon farmers, July 4 signifies the busiest time of year. Harvest of major crops like grass seed, berries, clover, and wheat is in full swing, and it’s not unusual for a farmer to spend 15-hour days working in the field. Summer harvest also means that sometimes farmers must drive their equipment, such as tractors, swathers, combines, and trucks, out on public roads to move between fields.

Driving a slow-moving tractor on a highway is legal and often a necessary part of harvest — but it can pose a safety risk without caution, courtesy, and patience.

To help keep both motorists and farmers safe, the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) Health & Safety Committee offers a new one-minute video and a free brochure with important tips on how to share the road safely with farm equipment. Request free copies of the OFB Rural Road Safety Brochure by contacting or 503-399-1701.

Most farm equipment is designed to travel at speeds of no more than 25 mph, and must display a reflective, triangular, orange-and-red, slow-moving-vehicle sign if going out on public roads.

In 2015, there were 54 traffic accidents involving farm equipment, resulting in 30 serious injuries and one death, according to the Oregon Dept. of Transportation. In 2014, there were 40 accidents with 34 injuries and three deaths.

If you decide to pass farm equipment on the road, do so with caution.

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