Monday, June 26, 2017

A toast to our dairies: Last week of June Dairy Month

Kirk Robinson
Deputy Director

Dairy farmers across the U.S. are in the final week of June Dairy Month, a time to publicize the important role the industry brings to our economy and food supply. It’s a time to recognize hard-working dairy farmers and busy cows bringing us a bevy of foods ranging from milk and cheese to butter, ice cream and yogurt.

I was raised in Grays Harbor County and worked alongside family members operating a dairy and crop farm. I now represent WSDA on our state’s Dairy Products Commission. And when I joined WSDA in 2003, I was an inspector with our Dairy Nutrient Management Program. I personally know about the long hours dairy families and their employees endure.

According to a June Dairy Month proclamation issued by Gov. Jay Inslee, 27 of Washington’s 39 counties have operating dairies, providing jobs and supporting other businesses in their communities.

On an average day, 12 million gallons of milk are consumed in the United States. In our state, 300,000 dairy cows produce enough milk for Washingtonians, as well as serving export markets in 21 countries.

WSDA support and regulation

WSDA plays a key role in supporting Washington’s dairy community – the state’s second largest commodity valued at more than $1 billion a year. Washington is always among the top 10 states for milk production. The industry estimates the economic impact of dairying in Washington at more than $3.2 billion. Dairy exports alone represent $317 million in economic impact to our state.

Our Food Safety Program inspectors ensure the sanitation of dairy farms and milk processors, and the Animal Health team strives to protect the health of herds. Our Dairy Nutrient Management Program works with dairy operators on the proper use of farm nutrients and our International Marketing team, in cooperation with the dairy community, promotes dairy exports across the globe. It also was a topic during our recent trade mission to Mexico.

So here’s a toast—with a glass of milk, of course—to more than 400 Washington dairy families and farms who contribute to the success of our agricultural communities and our state’s economy. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mexico mission confirms value of trading partners

Hector Castro

At Guadalajara’s Mercado de Abastos (supply market), the third largest wholesale market in Mexico, countless boxes of Washington apples were stacked neatly in cool, clean stalls.

Many of the boxes containing crisp, plump apples sport labels created by the importers, but also place names familiar to any Washingtonian like Chelan,  Wenatchee, Toppenish, and Yakima.

El Mercado de Abastos, Guadalajara.
“It makes me a little homesick to see all these growing regions I know so well,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said after touring the bustling market during a recent trade mission to Mexico last month.

At a national level, Mexico is the third largest market for U.S. agriculture products. For Washington, it is our 7th largest ag export market. Washington exported $313 million worth of food and ag products there last year. Mexico is also a primary market for our dairy products and apples, just one reason WSDA joined the weeklong trade mission in mid May with Gov. Jay Inslee and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle.

Our participation in the trade mission showed how much our state’s ag industry values the important partnerships we have in Mexico. It also let us see first-hand the successes some of our state’s commodity commissions have had in connecting with local businesses as they meet the appetites of local consumers.

Sister state similarities
Director Sandison meeting with officials of the
Jalisco Department of Rural Development. 
In Guadalajara, our delegation met officials with the Jalisco Department of Rural Development, the counterpart to WSDA. Jalisco is Mexico’s most agriculturally productive state and, like Washington, derives a large percentage of its revenue from farming, ranching and food production.

Jalisco state officials expressed great interest in Washington dairy operations and the advanced technology used on many of our dairies. The groups also discussed potential opportunities to exchange ideas that would further strengthen ties between Washington and Jalisco, which has had a Sister-State relationship since 1996.

Robust ag trade
Director Sandison at Mercado de Abastos,
Guadalajara, Jalisco. 
During the tour of the Mercado de Abastos, delegates met several importers who ship large volumes of Washington produce, including apples, pears and cherries in season, for sale to local restaurants, markets and consumers.

The presence of Washington apples, in particular, has grown tremendously since they were first permitted to be sold in Mexico following the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994.

Washington currently ships more apples to Mexico than any other country.
Scott Kinney, CEO, Dairy Farmers of WA
inspects cheese at a market in Mexico.
The bulk of the trip was spent in Mexico City for tours of local businesses carrying Washington agricultural products and meetings with both U.S. and Mexican government officials. Director Sandison also joined Gov. Inslee in some of his meetings with Mexican government officials.

Insights gained from all these meetings provided useful information regarding market demands in Mexico, and both the challenges and opportunities that could come from exporting there.

Our dairy industry partners also toured a milk processing plant in Mexico City that demonstrated an attention to quality control rivalling facilities here in the U.S.

Questions about NAFTA
It was during the trade mission that the White House announced its intent to initiate discussions on updating the 23-year-old agreement. The news prompted several questions from local media and Mexican officials. On the whole, there was broad agreement that NAFTA could use updating.
Director Sandison, Gov. Jay Inslee and
Commerce Director Brian Bonlender.

“NAFTA has been good to Washington agriculture, but an update could provide additional benefits,” Sandison said. “Particularly if we stay focused on broad principles around trade.”

The trip would not have been as fruitful if not for the participation of the Washington Apple Commission, the Dairy Farmers of Washington, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council for allowing WSDA to use their representatives in Mexico to coordinate meetings and market tours.

 “Washington currently enjoys good relations with America’s neighbor to the south,” Director Sandison said. “This trade mission confirmed for me that our ties are strong and even more opportunities exist to benefit farmers both in Washington and Mexico.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Want to prevent salmonella illness? Don’t snuggle the poultry

Hannah Street
Communications intern

Recent cases of salmonella illnesses in Washington state serve as a reminder of the importance of practicing good hygiene when handling or working around poultry.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Health reported 16 confirmed cases of salmonella originating from live poultry in a dozen counties on both sides of the state. Though no deaths have been reported, five people were hospitalized.

Our local cases are part of a larger, multistate outbreak of human salmonella linked to live poultry. As with the Washington state cases, those who became sick reported obtaining poultry from feed supply stores, hatcheries, relatives or from the web.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can be found on live poultry dropping, feathers, feet and beaks. People become infected when those germs make contact with the mouth area.
Certain factors can speed the spread of salmonella, such as the inclination of young children to handle ducklings and chicks, which are in turn more likely to shed salmonella bacteria in their droppings. Since children are less likely than adults to wash their hands after handling these animals, it is vital that adults supervise children to ensure they practice good hygiene when handling poultry.

Medical attention
Symptoms of salmonella in humans include fever, diarrhea, and stomach pain. These symptoms tend to show up within three days of infection, and while symptoms can go away on their own, severe cases can require medical attention.
Healthy poultry can carry salmonella, so it’s important to maintain proper care of and hygiene around poultry.

Although outbreaks are becoming more common as more people are getting backyard flocks, salmonella isn’t inevitable if you live or work around poultry. Diligent hygienic practices decrease the chances of contracting poultry-related illnesses.
The best defense is washing hands with soap and water after handling. And while poultry, and baby chicks in particular, can invite affectionate handling, never nuzzle or kiss live poultry.
Other prevention methods recommended by the Centers for Disease Control include:
Keeping pens outdoors, as well as any equipment used around poultry.
Thoroughly cooking and handling eggs from hens.
Refraining from eating or drinking around poultry.
Supervision of young children around live poultry.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control webpage, Keeping Backyard Chickens, for more information salmonella and poultry.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Connecting farmers and buyers in the Methow Valley

Katie Lynd 
WSDA Regional Markets 

Recently, more than 30 farmers, chefs, school nutrition workers and others gathered together in the Methow Valley to connect, tour local farms and discuss the challenges they all face in the local agriculture region.

The gathering was the Methow Valley Farm-to-Chef & Shelf Farm Tour and Business Networking Event, held on May 8. The project was a partnership between WSDA’s Food Assistance and Regional Markets program, or FARM, and the Methow Conservancy’s Agricultural Program. The group included small to mid-sized diversified farmers, buyers from restaurants, schools and resorts as well as retailers.

Stina Book explains the grafting process for fruit trees at Booth Canyon Orchard.

The WSDA FARM Team’s Local Buying Mission Project aim is to connect Washington specialty crop farmers with interested buyers, and educate both sides on the components of a successful buying and selling relationship.

Participants visited two farms to learn about their unique marketing outlets within the Methow region and the Seattle area. One was Booth Canyon Orchards, which has more than 55 varieties of organic tree-ripened pears and apples that they sell into the Seattle area market. The other was Willowbrook Organic Farm, a diversified row crop operation specializing in serving the Methow Valley market with produce ranging from micro-greens and root crop vegetables to value-added sauerkraut varieties. These farm stops highlighted the diversity of farming opportunities in the Methow and got buyers out on the farm to see the grit and hard work that goes into daily farming operations.

The afternoon wrapped up with a group discussion on the opportunities and challenges in sourcing and selling in the Methow Valley.

During the discussion, the group explored reasons why farmers in the Methow choose to sell outside of the region, with some farmers explaining that it is harder to make multiple small deliveries in a fairly large region like the Methow Valley than selling in the Seattle area, where they can get a higher price and sell larger volumes.

Buyers expressed interest in sourcing from Methow producers and their commitment to finding innovative ideas to make it work.
Participants sample kraut at Willowbrook Organic Farm’s commercial kitchen.

The farmers attending the event were happily surprised by the support they have in the region and expressed gratitude towards having shared values of local food in their community.

The day concluded with additional time for participants to network, establish new relationships and explore potential sales. You can visit for more information about the diversity of farmers and the products they offer in the Methow Valley.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Farmers market season and food security

Jasmine Sanborn
WSDA Food Assistance & Regional Markets

As the sun stays out longer and the days get warmer, it can only mean one thing – farmers market season is once again upon us.

Washington state is known for growing a wide variety of products – from apples (generating nearly 64 percent of the nation’s supply) to potatoes and hops. Wherever you go in Washington, you can always find a diverse variety of fresh and delicious produce grown right here at home.

Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Food Assistance programs are also supporting efforts for low-income families to receive fresh and nutritious foods at food pantries and farmers markets in collaboration with the state Department of Health’s USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) grant.

Through this program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) shoppers are able to stretch their benefits by using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at various farmers markets throughout the state. Each farmers market offers different benefits, so it is best to check your specific market before visiting. Some markets offer a dollar-for-dollar program where for every $5 spent with EBT, you receive another $5 in “bonus tokens” to be used on fresh produce.

One in six residents in Washington relies on food pantries that are supported by WSDA resources to put food on the table each month. In 2016, a total of 1,223,244 people received an average of 16.9 pounds of food per visit to their local food pantry. This level of use shows the value of the FINI grant in expanding options for low-income residents to obtain fresh produce.

The farmers markets listed below are participating in the FINI program. Be sure to visit for a complete list of markets offering bonus tokens this summer.

Historic Downtown Kennewick Farmers Market
Prosser Farmers Market

Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market

Port Angeles Farmers Market

Camas Farmers Market
Salmon Creek Farmers Market
Vancouver Farmers Market

Pasco Farmers Market

Port Townsend Wednesday Farmers Market
Port Townsend Saturday Farmers Market
Chimacum Farmers Market

Auburn Farmers Market
Ballard Farmers Market
Bellevue Farmers Market
Burien Farmers Market
Capitol Hill Broadway Farmers Market
Carnation Farmers Market
Central Area Farm Stand
Columbia City Farmers Market
Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market
Duvall Farmers Market
Federal Way Farmers Market
Harborview Farm Stand
High Point Farm Stand
Lake City Farmers Market
Lake Forest Park Farmers Market
Madrona Farmers Market
Magnolia Farmers Market
New Holly Farm Stand
Phinney Farmers Market
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market Express- City Hall
Pike Place Market Express - Denny Regrade
Pike Place Market Express – First Hill
Pike Place Market Express - South Lake Union
Queen Anne Farmers Market
Rainier Beach Farm Stand
Renton Farmers Market
Shoreline Farmers Market
University District Farmers Market
Vashon Farmers Market
Wallingford Farmers Market
West Seattle Farmers Market

Bainbridge Island Farmers Market
Bremerton Farmers Market
Port Orchard Farmers Market
Poulsbo Farmers Market
Suquamish Famers Market

Belfair Farmers Market
Shelton Farmers Market

Okanogan Valley Farmers Market
Okanogan Valley Farmers Market - Omak
Tonasket Farmers Market

Broadway Farmers Market
Eastside Farmers Market
Fife Farmers Market
Orting Farmers Market
Proctor Farmers Market
Puyallup Farmers Market
South Tacoma Farmers Market
Steilacoom Farmers Market
Waterfront Farmers Market of Gig Harbor

Anacortes Farmers Market
Bow Farmers Market
Mount Vernon Farmers Market
Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

Emerson-Garfield Farmers Market
Fairwood Farmers Market
Hillyard Farmers Market
Kendall Yards Night Market
Millwood Farmers Market
South Perry Thursday Market
Spokane Farmers Market

Chewelah Farmers Market
N.E.W. (Northeast Washington) Farmers Market

Walla Walla 
Downtown Farmers Market (Walla Walla)

Pullman Farmers Market

Yakima Farmers Market

Monday, May 22, 2017

Exotic moth trapping gets underway

Susan Brush
Pest Program

We are quickly approaching the time of year when insect pests begin to emerge from their cozy winter state to enjoy the beautiful summers here in the Pacific Northwest.

Our exotic moth surveillance team is gearing up to begin installation of traps specifically targeted to detect three moth species of great concern: the Siberian moth, Nun moth and the Rosy moth.

WSDA trapper hanging delta trap
Unlike the European and Asian Gypsy moth, Washington State has never detected any of these three moth species. But established populations in Asia and Russia have devastated large swaths of evergreen forests. Since we have vast evergreen forests here in the Pacific Northwest these pests could devastate our environment should they make an international voyage to Washington’s shores.

The main way these pests arrive is through commercial shipping from infested areas. In order to intercept any moths that may have hitched a ride, the exotics team will be monitoring for the presence of these species at all 11 marine freight ports in our state.

Each species of moth surveyed uses a different type of moth trap coupled with a species-specific female pheromone to lure reproductive males to the moth trap.

Traps start to appear in the port areas at the end of May. The traps will be monitored throughout the summer and will be removed at the end of September.

If you see a trap in your area, please don’t disturb it while it’s performing the important task of protecting the beautiful forests here in Washington State. If you see one on the ground, we would love for you to let us know. Please contact us at or call our hotline at 1–800-443-6684 if your find a trap on the ground or have any questions about the program.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Director Sandison recognizes FFA for fostering next generation

Kathy Davis

WSDA Director Derek Sandison greets
FFA State President Alyssa McGee 
For nearly 90 years, FFA has supported the rich tradition of agriculture. By promoting leadership, personal growth and career success, the organization prepares young people to work in the agriculture sector and related industries. 

That’s why WSDA Director Derek Sandison presented a Director’s Citation Award to the Washington State FFA at the organization’s 87th annual conference at the WSU campus in Pullman.

Sandison said that in determining who to recognize with this award, it seemed like a “no-brainer” to honor an organization that is “providing the skilled leadership training that gives young people the tools to take the reins of Washington state agriculture.” 
The FFA was once known as Future Farmers of America but changed to simply the FFA to better reflect the great diversity of careers in the agriculture industry that include everything from scientists and researchers to communication specialists and educators. 

Washington FFA has more than 10,000 members in chapters throughout the state.

Watch the presentation below!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WSDA fruit tree certification gets state-of-the-art greenhouse

Karla Salp

Director Sandison cuts greenhouse ribbon with project partners
WSDA Director Derek Sandison had the rare opportunity to dedicate a new greenhouse for the agency’s Fruit Tree Certification program on May 11.

For decades, WSDA has been renting space from Washington State University at their Prosser research station. There, WSDA conducted tests on new nursery stock to ensure that the plant materials entering our state’s nurseries were free of disease.

However, the increasing demand for disease-free plant materials for Washington’s booming fruit tree industry and the limitations of the existing greenhouse meant that it was time for WSDA to have a greenhouse of its own.

Building the greenhouse has taken several years and was the result of a remarkable partnership between WSDA, WSU, and the tree fruit industry. About 35 people attended the dedication ceremony – an indication both of the strong partnerships involved in building the greenhouse as well as the importance of the certification program to Washington’s fruit tree industry.

Dedication attendees get a greenhouse tour
Attendees at the dedication were treated to a tour, which included the three separate greenhouse bays. The newly dedicated 5,000 square foot state-of-the-art greenhouse is fully automated, featuring improved temperature and irrigation controls. Each growing bay is computer-controlled to maintain temperature ranges at which different fruit tree pathogens thrive.

The increased space and advances in the greenhouse technology enable WSDA fruit tree certification specialists to test trees at a greater rate than they have been able to in the past.

By screening for these fruit tree diseases, WSDA can ensure that Washington fruit tree nursery stock remains disease-free. This promotes not only the health of Washington orchards but ensures that Washington fruit trees can also be exported anywhere in the world.

Wish you could have been there? If you missed the dedication ceremony, you can still watch it on Facebook!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Farm to Kids

Ele Watts
WSDA Regional Markets

What if you could improve a person’s health for their lifetime through early education and positive experiences with healthy eating? At WSDA, our Regional Markets Team is promoting Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) to make that vision a reality.

Attendees making salad with Washington grown produce.
Farm to ECE has three main components:

  • Education
  • Experiential learning
  • Local food procurement

Farm to ECE enhances life-long health and wellness of children, their families and caregivers by exposing them to positive food experiences and improving access to local, healthy foods.

During the last week in March, WSDA hosted a series of workshops for childcare and early education providers across the state. The workshops provided in-depth, hands-on training on Harvest for Healthy Kids, an innovative free curriculum for young children focused on fruits and vegetables which includes:
Harvest to Healthy Kids trainer conducts interactive workshop.

  • lesson plans
  • activities
  • recipes
  • vocabulary lists
  • family newsletters
  • art projects 

Attendees learned songs about berries; learned to prepare a simple cabbage, apple, and carrot salad and discussed age-appropriate food exploration activities for children from birth to five years old. The workshop also included training on how to purchase and use Washington grown fruits and vegetables from local food outlets (i.e. farmers markets and food hubs) in early learning facilities.

The workshops were a collaboration between WSDA, the Washington State Department of Early Learning, and trainers from the Mount Hood Community College Head Start and Early Head Start Programs and was funded through a Specialty Crop Block Grant. For more information about Farm to ECE, contact Ele Watts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wanted: Bugs

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

wanted poster for lily leaf beetle
Believe it or not, the Department of Agriculture is ready to take live bugs off of your hands…or yard.

Of course, it’s not just any bug that WSDA is looking for. They are in need of live specimens of the Lily Leaf Beetle, will be found for the next few weeks, primarily on lilies.

Gathering these bright red insects is part of a biological control project that WSDA’s pest program hopes to launch this spring. WSDA held public meetings in Bellevue last week to tell community members about the new pest and their plans to respond to the introduction.

The lily leaf beetle consumes both the leaves and blossoms of lilies and fritillaries. It is a threat to both home gardens and commercial lily growers. The bug was first found by an alert gardener in Bellevue and sightings of the beetle have now been confirmed throughout the greater Seattle area.

Unfortunately, eradicating this particular pest is not possible.

The good news, however, is that a biological control has proven effective in other areas where the Lily Leaf Beetle has become established, such as the East Coast. WSDA’s project involves the release of tiny wasps that predate only on the Lily Leaf Beetle; there are no other insects in the Pacific Northwest which the wasp targets.

To improve the likelihood of establishing the wasp in Washington, WSDA needs to ensure there are sufficient Lily Leaf Beetles in areas where the wasps will be released.

WSDA asks gardeners who see the beetle in their yards to report them. WSDA will collect the beetles from gardeners upon request.

You can take pictures of and report Lily Leaf Beetle sightings on WSDA’s website. When reporting your sighting, leave a note in the comments section of the form if you would like WSDA to collect the beetles.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Credit card skimmers on the prowl as you pump your gas

Mike Louisell

Gas prices and a line at the pump aren’t the only concerns for motorists these days. Crooks are at work stealing credit and debit card information as unsuspecting consumers fill their tanks.

Inspectors with WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program, who visit service stations throughout the state regularly, are discovering card skimmers placed inside the gas pumps. These skilled thieves install devices in less than a minute and prefer to target older dispensers located out of the view of store clerks. The thieves return later to steal the credit and debit card information.

“The newer skimmers are capable of sending the stolen information
to a smart phone using Bluetooth technology,” program manager Jerry
Skimmer device (circled) captures credit/debit card data
Buendel said. “In those cases, the thieves can park nearby, download the info and return later for another download.”

One victim of this theft was a Puyallup customer who discovered he
had been ripped off when he tried to make a purchase later with the same card and the card was declined. Funds in his account had already been stolen.

WSDA inspectors also have recently discovered skimming devices at gas stations in Olympia, Yakima and the Tri-Cities. Seattle has seen cases as well.

There are more than 11,000 fuel dispensers in Washington. WSDA inspectors check for skimmers during routine inspections and follow up on tips received from fraud investigators at financial institutions. At times, station owners remove skimmers they find and don’t report the problem.

“Our staff has received training on skimmers and we’re working hard with industry and law enforcement to protect the public,” Buendel said.

Consumers can protect themselves

 WSDA offers these tips for consumers to protect themselves:
  • Consider paying cash or using your card inside the business. 
  • If you pay by credit card, check your card activities regularly.
  • Avoid paying by debit card – they don’t offer the same protection as credit cards.
  • Look for tamper-proof seals on the fuel dispenser and make sure they are not broken.
  • If you see something unusual about the door or the device where you swipe your card, don’t use it. Report it to the station attendant, law enforcement or WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program.
  • Choose a pump near the door to the store or nearest the cashier. Higher visibility may keep the crooks away.
  • If you suspect your credit or debit card has been compromised, report it immediately to your bank or credit card company.
Steps station owners can take

WSDA urges service station owners to install higher security locks, use security seals, check their pumps and locks frequently or install equipment that will disable the pump when the access doors are opened.

Friday, March 24, 2017

King County – home of the Seahawks, Microsoft, and farmers

Hector Castro

Director Sandison joins panelists at
South King County Ag Town Hall.
When people think of King County, their first thoughts may be of Seattle, Microsoft, or Boeing - not necessarily cows and tractors. But King County FFA and 4-H members, small farm operators, and local elected leaders spent part of National Ag Day this year discussing farming in the shadow of Seattle.

Though held in the suburban community of Auburn, the South King County Agriculture Town Hall drew several dozen people. The panel included WSDA Director Derek Sandison, dairy farmer Leann Krainick, King County 4-H club coordinator Nancy Baskett, WSU Research and Extension director John Stark, and Auburn City Councilman Bill Peloza, who also sits on the board of the local farmers market.

“These are the kinds of events needed to raise awareness of the importance of agriculture in the Puget Sound Basin,” Derek said.

One of the challenges of farming is land disappearing to urban sprawl and the subsequent increase in the price of the remaining land. Finding people to farm the land that does remain is another problem which is why more education is needed to interest a new generation of farmers and ranchers to pick up the proverbial ball, or hoe in this case.

This is where programs like FFA and 4-H can help.

“All kids and adults have access to agriculture, even in the cities,” said Nancy Baskett, who in addition to coordinating 4-H clubs in King County also raises rabbits.

High school students Cierra Zak and Tyler Pitre, both juniors at Decatur High in nearby Federal Way, agreed that anyone can learn more about agriculture, even city kids. These two FFA members said most of their classmates have never raised animals or been on a farm, but are eager to work with animals given the chance. The chicks (referring to baby chickens and not their classmates) are particularly popular, they said.

Despite the challenges, many opportunities exist for agriculture, especially for closing the farmer-consumer gap.
Booth at the South King
County Ag Town Hall.

The proximity of these many farms to the Seattle metro area is a key opportunity. Farming remains widespread in King County, with more than 1,800 farms averaging 30 acres each. An acre is roughly the size of a football field, so if you imagine 1,800 farms each the size of 30 Seahawks football fields,that is a substantial amount of land where agriculture continues to thrive in a metropolitan county.

King County farmers, because of their proximity to Seattle’s booming population, have the opportunity to connect with consumers in person to deepen their understanding of agriculture. Whether it’s at a farmers market, an on-farm produce stand, or even farm tours, they have chances for a personal connection with consumers that can be more challenging for farmers on more remote farms in Eastern Washington.

Leann Krainick, dairy farmer and a King County Agriculture Commission member, said it’s up to those in agriculture to help educate those who are not.

“People want to learn,” she said, so she starts each day by asking herself, “What am I going to do to promote farming today?”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

During National Ag Week, the numbers count

Mike Louisell

How many times have you heard that the public will understand and support agriculture more if farmers would just tell their story better? One key part of telling that story is the numbers that help quantify the amazing work that farmers do.

Washington’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to help tell that story by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Held every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census provides a count of U.S. farms, ranches, those who operate them and much more.

“All types and sizes of farms and ranches have a story to be told through the census,” said Chris Mertz, Northwest regional director for NASS’ office in Olympia.

Information gained through the census helps USDA shape programs that help agriculture, by sharing information such as:

  • How many farms there are in each state and the average acres per farm?
  • Land use, ownership, and production practices.
  • Income and expenditures.
  • Operator characteristics and demographics, including the number of farms operated by women and military service veterans.

Census of Ag mailout

As we continue to share current statistics during National Ag Week, the next highly anticipated survey is still a year away.

“We’ll continue to talk about the importance of the census, particularly as we move closer to mailing out census forms in December,” Mertz said.

NASS also hopes to increase the number of farmers who respond online. The online census form allows producers to skip over questions that don’t apply to them, calculates totals automatically and provides drop-down menus for common answers.

“Since our 2012 Census, NASS has put great efforts in improving the online reporting experience,” Mertz said. “I’ve seen demonstrations and it’s impressive.”

Washington response above average

Although NASS statisticians and support staff produce many surveys each year, the Census of Agriculture is the only source of uniform and comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the U.S. Washington had a response rate of 78.4% in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, slightly higher than other states.

“This is the ag community’s opportunity to help shape American agriculture – its policies, services, and assistance programs,” Mertz said.

The results are relied upon heavily by those who serve farmers and rural communities, including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, researchers, and farmers and ranchers themselves.

Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 can sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button.

The NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year, in this case 2017.

Monday, March 6, 2017

This pest loves your flowers

Karla Salp
WSDA Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

What is green, shiny, and a pest that WSDA hopes doesn’t cross the river?

The Japanese Beetle

Japanese beetle is a metallic green and bronze beetle first found in the US in 1916. A beautiful bug to look at, those in the Eastern States and Midwest are familiar with the havoc this particular pest can inflict on the environment.

Smelling the Roses

Roses are one of the favorite plants that Japanese beetles attack. In fact, the scent used to attract the pests to traps has a very pleasant, floral scent. But roses aren’t the only plants the beetles attack. They eat the foliage, flowers, and fruit of over 300 different plant species, including favorites like grapes, hops, and cannabis in addition to roses.

How’s the lawn?

M.G. Klein, USDA Ag Research Service,

One sign that Japanese beetles (or their relative, the European chaffer) are in your area is to take a look at your lawn from late fall to early spring. Japanese beetles overwinter as grubs in the ground with lawns as a favorite location. They feed on the roots of your grass all winter long.

But that’s not the only damage they do. These grubs attract everything from raccoons to ravens. They dig up your lawn looking for a mid-winter tasty snack. The upside is one small natural control for Japanese beetles. The downside is that it destroys the turf and, sadly, even this predator feeding does not keep the beetles in check.

Monitoring for Japanese Beetles
Japanese beetles in trap

Both Washington and Oregon routinely monitor for this invasive bug, and last year Oregon found an infestation in Portland. Almost 400 beetles were found – the most ever in the state. Now the Oregon Department of Agriculture is poised to start a multi-year effort to eradicate the pest.

With the increased finds in Oregon, Washington is on alert for the potential for the bugs to cross the Columbia River into Vancouver. While WSDA normally has a few traps in the Vancouver, in 2017 a full-time trapper will be dedicated to placing about 400 traps in the area.

Don’t give pests a ride

Kevin D. Arvin,
While it’s unlikely that a beetle would actually fly across the river, the reality is that thousands of people cross the river from Portland to Vancouver every day. Whether a Washingtonian just drives back from working in the City of Roses or visits an Oregon nursery to find a favorite plant, the threat is real that humans could transport this pest beyond their natural flight capability.

Report suspected beetles
WSDA monitors for Japanese beetles throughout the state each year. However, if you think you have found Japanese beetle in your yard, take a picture and capture the bug if you can. Then be sure to contact the WSDA pest program at or call 1-800-664-6684.

Your roses will thank you and so will we.

Life cycle of the Japanese beetle
Unless otherwise noted, images in this blog are courtesy of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Support state’s seed industry by preventing volunteer Brassica bloom

Victor Shaul
Manager, Seed Inspection Program
Harvesting seed crop in Skagit County

If you grow any type of Brassica species, remember that any plants left to bloom and produce seeds are regulated within Washington State. Brassica plants that go to seed must be isolated from other Brassica flowering crops to protect against cross-pollination.

Seed production is an important industry for Washington’s economy and for world food supply. For instance, one-quarter of the world’s cabbage seed comes from Western Washington. More than 15 species of Brassica vegetable seed crops are grown in Washington. To safeguard the purity of these products, crops must be isolated by specific distances to prevent cross-pollination.

Common names for plants within the Brassica family – also known as Crucifer family because the 4 petals of the flowers look like a cross or crucifer – include cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard, rutabaga, turnip, pak choi, and others.

When open-pollinated species like Brassica species are allowed to bolt, flower and go to seed, they can spread pollen to neighboring fields and farms, contaminating other Brassica seed crops. This has been happening, especially in northwestern Washington counties.

Why “pin” seed crops?

Growers of Brassica crops intended for fresh market sale may not allow their plants to over-winter and go to seed unless they follow the state’s rules. WSDA regulations require Brassica seed growers to participate in cooperative events that identify (‘pin’) their crop locations. This applies to “seed savers” as well.  If you intend to allow a Brassica crop to overwinter and produce seed, you must identify the location of that field on a public map.

‘Pinning’ the locations of cross-pollinated seed crops, which started in Washington State in the 1940s, brings together seed crop growers to mutually map out where crops will be planted with the goal of preventing unwanted cross-pollination. At a minimum, a half-mile distance is required between Brassica plantings of the same species. The distance is greater for different Brassica species.

In Western Washington, pinning days occur the first weekday of March and June at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research & Extension Center in Mount Vernon. Similarly, pinning of cross-pollinated vegetable seed crops in central Washington takes place at the WSU Grant and Adams Counties Extension office in Moses Lake. This time-honored tradition of agricultural cooperation keeps the reputation of our state’s seed industry as high quality, safe, and productive.

Please do your part to support Washington’s seed industry – be a good neighbor by preventing volunteer Brassica bloom, or take part in the state’s pinning process if you want to produce seed.

If you have questions, contact the WSDA Seed Program or your local WSU Extension office.

In summary: WSDA is reminding farmers of Brassica crops that plants left to bloom and produce seeds are regulated in our state and must be isolated from other Brassica flowering crops to protect against cross-pollination. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Day of fruit inspection reveals importance of service, and safety

Robert Ambriz
WSDA Safety Officer

F&V inspector, Russell Burkett, checking apples
at a produce packing facility.
As our agency’s safety team continues its initiative to shadow WSDA employees to learn about their work safety concerns, it falls on each of the safety officers to spend time in the field. For my job shadow day, I spent time with Russell Burkett, an inspector with the WSDA Fruit and Vegetable (F&V) Inspection Program.

As part of a fairly standard work day, Russell visits a different packing warehouse each month. I was able to see firsthand some of the workplace hazards Russell and all of our F&V inspectors encounter.

Potential packing warehouse risks

For instance, forklift traffic is common in produce packing warehouses. Most operate on propane, which puts carbon monoxide (CO) into the air. I advise F&V staff to be extra cautious when in forklift traffic areas, and to report any type of CO symptoms to a supervisor or me so we can check the air quality.

Also, many warehouses use chemicals, such as ammonia, acid, and chlorine. These can present hazards. For instance, in December 2016, some residents of the town of Zillah were evacuated due to an ammonia leak from a fruit company warehouse. I encourage workers to know where to find Safety Data Sheets. These are important documents that give details about hazardous chemicals and how they affect health and safety in the workplace.

Once every month, I give a presentation to the F&V staff in Yakima about hazards they may encounter and how to deal with them.

Along with my safety focus on these shadowing visits, I’ve learned more about why it’s so important for F&V inspectors to spend most of their day being physically present at the industry facilities they serve.

Inspectors key link for industry

WSDA serves the produce industry by ensuring they meet quality standards, especially for the products they export outside the U.S. Different countries require various levels of inspection. Generally, F&V staff inspects about two percent of every 100 pieces being shipped – that equals 24-40 apples from every box.

Inspectors assess a grade (e.g. #1 Extra Fancy Red Delicious) and condition for defects such as decay, skin breaks, color, blemishes and so forth. They’ll do pressure and sweetness tests. Determining ripeness may involve a chew, thumb or starch iodine test. These are technical processes that require a good deal of training to learn.

According to F&V data, Washington shipped 46 million apples between October 2016 and the start of 2017. Washington is tops in the nation for apple production, on average producing 2.5 million tons of apples per year valued at more than $2 billion. 

“Without the services of F&V inspectors, we could lose about 10 loads a day,” commented the warehouse manager I spoke with. “Having them in our warehouse provides peace of mind.”

The WSDA safety team is committed to making sure our employees are protected from workplace hazards – so they can consistently provide these vital services to Washington State and return home safe and healthy every day.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Don't get stung by fees - register your hives

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

Although the state is still either frozen or soggy depending on your location, it won’t be long before the bees start buzzing and ramping up their honey-making for the year. That means it is time again to register your hives.

All beekeepers – even home hobbyists – are required to register their hives with the state. The fees start at just $5 for up to five hives and range up to $300 if you have over 1,000 hives. The registration fees support apiary research projects. For example, fees have been used to support research into Colony Collapse Disorder and colony health.

If you previously registered hives but won't have any in 2017, WSDA requests that you complete the form and indicate that you don't have any hives so that you will be removed from their list.

Registration is due by April 1st and is subject to late fees if not paid by then (no fooling.) You must register your hives each year.

Go to to download the registration form. You can also contact the WSDA Pest Program at or call them at 360-902-2070 with any questions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

agri.CULTURE - The woman behind the camera

Karla Salp

Sue Tebow with her horse. Photo courtesy of Sue Tebow.
For Sue Tebow, inspiration struck as she scrolled through her Facebook newsfeed.

She came across a post by Humans of New York – a project begun by an amateur photographer in New York featuring a street portrait of New Yorkers accompanied by a few of their own words sharing their stories. The photographs became a social media phenomena and the project’s Facebook page now has more than 18 million followers since its inception in 2010.

To Sue it was clear that the simple interface of a photo and a few words from the subject had resonated with people around the world. She decided to try her hand at a similar project in her community, combining two of her passions – photography and helping people reconnect with farmers. That’s when agri.CULTURE was born.

Her goal: to photograph and post one picture and story of someone in agriculture each day on her Facebook page. Her husband thought that would be too much, but Sue knew that with just her neighbors in the Block 40 area near Moses Lake she had 300 potential farmers to feature.

“No one is going to tell their story better than they are,” Sue said. “Who is going to tell their stories if they don’t tell it themselves?” 

It has not been easy. Sue works hard to capture photos that she can feature on each and every day, and sometimes struggles to find willing subjects.

Still, in a matter of a few months, she has managed to post a new photo each day of the week except Sunday since last April, along with the a few words from the people she’s featured. Her Facebook page has grown to more than 5,000 followers just by word of mouth and sharing. By comparison, WSDA’s Facebook page has about 4,000 followers, though it was created in 2012.

Like many in the agriculture community, Sue believes that those who work in agriculture need to reconnect with the vast majority people who are no longer familiar with life or work on a farm.
To make farm life real, Sue insists on photographing people as they really are. No makeup prep needed for this photoshoot – Sue wants to catch people doing what they really do on a day-to-day basis on the farm.

As quickly as her project has grown, Sue hopes that one day it will be a national effort.
“Washington, the Pacific Northwest, then beyond,” she said.

If you work in agriculture, might be a willing subject for Sue, or are just interested in connecting with her, you can email You can also visit Sue’s Facebook page to see the photos and view the stories of farmers she meets.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Don’t Cross the Line: WSDA Expands Apple Maggot Quarantine

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

Apple damaged by apple maggots
As the old saying goes, don’t let a bad apple spoil the barrel. In an effort to protect Washington’s many barrels of apples, WSDA expanded the apple maggot quarantine area effective Jan. 1.

Recently, WSDA found apple maggot in the southeastern corner of Lincoln County. The expanded quarantine now includes a portion of Lincoln County to prevent further spread of the pest. The quarantine prohibits the movement of homegrown or foraged fruit from the quarantined area into a pest-free area.

WSDA has held public meetings in the process of changing the quarantine boundaries and mailed postcards to residents in or near the new quarantine area to alert them to the change.

Apple Maggot Quarantine
Apple maggot quarantine effective Jan. 1, 2017
The apple maggot larva looks like a tiny white worm that eats its way through an apple, leaving behind a brown mush that is not fit for human consumption.
Apple maggot quickly spread through Western Washington after its introduction, but state and local efforts have so far prevented it from becoming established in the main apple growing regions of the state.

Searchable Map

WSDA has updated its apple maggot webpage with lots of information for commercial growers, home owners, and more. One of the features of the new website is that it now contains a searchable map. The new map allows anyone to enter an address and find out whether the address is inside or outside the quarantine area.

Apple Maggot and Garbage
Adult apple maggot fly

WSDA also clarified a rule that prohibited the transport of municipal and green waste from quarantined areas into pest-free areas. For the homeowner in a quarantine area, this means they cannot take yard waste or garbage to dumps or transfer stations in the pest-free area. Waste from a quarantined area can be taken to any waste facility that is also in the quarantine area.

More than apples - What to do with your fruit

Apple maggot can spread quickly when humans move fruit (including apples, crab apples, hawthorn, cherries, pears, plums, and apricots) into pest-free areas. That is why WSDA prohibits the movement of fruit from inside the quarantine to outside of the quarantined area.

So what can you do with your fruit if you live in a quarantine area? Here are some ideas for managing your fruit and yard waste.

  • Process (cook, can, juice, dry, etc.) homegrown fruit before transporting outside the quarantine area.
  • Compost or destroy yard waste at home.
  • Take yard waste to a green waste disposal area inside the quarantine area.
If you have more questions about Washington’s apple maggot quarantine, visit to learn more. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

A look at WSDA's key accomplishments in 2016

Mike Louisell

Before 2016 fades into memory, today we’re noting examples of how our agency supported Washington’s agriculture and food industries, highlighting the work of our five divisions.

Animal Services Division
Our Animal Services Division hired an assistant state veterinarian and state veterinarian, key positions to protect livestock.

Assistant State Veterinarian Scott Haskell started in August and one of his first tasks was to support efforts to contain equine herpesvirus. Dr. Haskell worked with Washington State University and horse owners to contain the outbreak. Twenty-seven cases of West Nile virus in horses also kept veterinary personnel busy this past year.

Dr. Brian Joseph started in December as the new state veterinarian. He has connected with WSU and met with Oregon officials and livestock market representatives to review ongoing animal disease traceability efforts. Our work emphasized advances in the ability to retrieve livestock records in the event of a disease investigation.

Commodity Inspection Division
Don Potts, with our Spokane Grain Inspection Office, received a Director’s Citation Award for brokering service standards that attracted a contract with a corporation comprised of five grain companies.

In the Fruit & Vegetable Inspection Program, apple inspection standards were rewritten in “plain talk” for easier interpretation. We maintained goals to meet customer expectations for services.

The International Marketing Program participated in export promotions, including a trade mission to Vietnam.

Food Safety & Consumer Services
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) involves a major update to FDA food laws to prevent and detect safety problems. Our Food Safety Division has adopted federal FSMA rules under state code. Our staff members have begun outreach and education efforts on food, feed, and produce safety that are fundamental to the successful implementation of the FSMA.

Our agency also supported efforts to reduce childhood obesity and provide access to healthy foods in schools and to low-income families through the Food Assistance Programs and Farm to School activities, which also generated new markets for farmers.

Pesticide Management Division
Employees managed the disposal of 95,000 pounds of pesticides that owners no longer needed, enforced state and federal pesticide laws and confirmed compliance with laws that cover manure from livestock operations.

Informed the ag industry of new worker protection standards required by the Environmental Protection Agency. It was a major effort. The demand to train pesticide handlers increased and the agency’s Farmworker Education Program conducted numerous workshops. Training included hands-on exercises, demonstrations, illustration and videos.

Plant Protection Division
After conducting its second largest gypsy moth eradication ever this past spring, the Pest Program management announced there would be no spraying for the pest in 2017.

In other pest management, WSDA developed a regulatory approach for transporting municipal green waste to Eastern Washington based on a pest risk analysis for apple maggot.

WSDA’s efforts to sample and certify the largest state hop harvest ever brought us kudos, with reporters covering some of our work.  And the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board partnered with WSDA, committing to purchasing testing equipment and funding staff dedicated to testing pesticide levels in marijuana products.

Stay connected with WSDA
These highlights barely scratch the surface of all the work accomplished by WSDA personnel. To stay up with the latest news, sign up to follow us in 2017 through this blog, on Facebook or Twitter (our Twitter handle is @WSDAgov).