This past fall, many orchard owners in eastern Washington nearly lost their apple crops due to a shortage of fruit pickers.  A Yakima lawmaker has introduced legislation he hopes would help to avert the same crisis this year.  House Bill 2408 would authorize the State Board of Education to grant school districts waivers so they can adjust their schedules and provide working-age students the opportunity to be employed during harvest seasons. It also clears the way for community and technical colleges, and four-year institutions to adopt calendars that would accommodate students’ participation in harvest activities. Prime sponsor representative Norm Johnson says school districts still must keep to a 180-day schedule, but this would provide flexibility in their calendars so that students who choose to be employed could help during the harvest. The measure also directs employment security to include refugees and asylum seekers for screening and referral to farm-related jobs. The bill is under consideration by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.