Friday, June 21, 2019

At WSU, the future of bread lies in the past

Karla Salp

Walking into the Washington State University Bread Lab evokes feelings of both the comfortable familiar and wonder of the strange and unusual.

Baking bread, of course

PhD Student, Robin Morgan from Italy,
sets out loaves to cool. 
As one might expect when walking into a bread lab, you are greeted by the intoxicating smell of fresh-baked bread – whether being whipped up in the professional kitchen by PhD students or in the on-site King Arthur Flour Baking School.

On a visit to the lab while Washington Grown was shooting a piece for their television show, the crew experienced three types of bread. First, the baking school was packed with attendees from the public learning how to make a traditional French baguette. In the bread lab’s kitchen, PhD student Laura Valli from Estonia shared a fresh-baked rye spice bread. And trials of an “approachable loaf” came hot out of the oven.

Creating an “approachable loaf” is one of the current Bread Lab projects. The goal: to create an affordable, nutrient-dense whole-wheat loaf of bread with simple ingredients that Americans will enjoy. The object is to offer an alternative to the standard white loaves sold in most grocery stores which, while popular and well-known, are nutritionally inferior.

"Approachable loaf" trial

Keeping the past alive, literally

"Miracle" wheat variety
But baking the best bread starts with breeding the best grain. As you enter the Bread Lab, one of the things you notice even at the entrance are the displays of various types of wheat – many of which most people have never seen.

Take for example the “Miracle” variety of wheat, which has been around for centuries, but is scarcely known now. Rather than the single-branched head of wheat on a stalk, this variety is multi-branched. Gracing the hallway are mounted wheat varieties developed by WSU. And in a back room of the lab, over 1,000 varieties of wheat and hundreds of other varieties of grain are stored and maintained for breeding purposes.

This “wall of wheat” provides the genetic material used in traditional breeding programs to evaluate existing grain varieties and breed new ones that will benefit farmers, processors, and consumers. Varieties are grown and evaluated for qualities such as flavor, color, baking quality, disease resistance, and nutrition.

Reinvigorating a local grain culture

Wheat variety trial fields. Photo credit: WSU Bread Lab
With an emphasis on developing publicly available grain varieties that thrive in Washington’s climate, the WSU Bread Lab is helping to reestablish a unique culture around local grains. From small grain growers to mills to baking or even brewing, the program is restoring a grain-centered culture that faded from American memory once milling became a larger industry and white flour became the norm.

The WSU Bread Lab is creating not only healthier bread but reviving a craft-grain culture that has nearly been lost in the United States. We'll drink - and eat - to that. 

After touring the WSU Bread Lab, fresh-baked bread,
local strawberries, and cheese seem like the perfect dinner.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Wanted: Livestock Identification Advisory Committee nominations

Jodi Jones
Animal Services

Brand Program Manager Robbie Parke talks with Danny
DeFranco, Washington State Cattlemen's Association
Executive Vice President. 
WSDA is seeking nominations for its Livestock Identification Advisory Committee.

Earlier this month, we took an opportunity to provide information about legislative updates to our Livestock Inspection Program and get the call out for nominations to the newly expanded advisory committee when we met with industry representatives at a meeting in Ellensburg.

In April, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5959, a new law intended to modernize the program and restore it to financial solvency.

It also expanded the advisory board from six to 12 members. The law requires WSDA’s director to appoint two Livestock Identification Advisory Committee members from each of six industry groups including beef producers, public livestock market owners, horse producers, dairy producers, cattle feeders, and slaughter facility owners. No more than two committee members may reside in the same county.

Most of the bill’s new provisions go into effect on July 28, but there is still some confusion in the livestock community about the details.

"I’m just glad that you are doing this,” said Sen. Judy Warnick, prime sponsor of SB 5959. “I’ve been hearing so many misstatements and misinformation out there, and we put so much work into [the bill], so we have to do whatever it takes to make it happen and dispel some of the misinformation that has been bandied about.”

Warnick said the top two rumors she’s been hearing are:

  • It’s going to cost $20 per head to register your cows. 
  • Dairy farmers are going to have to brand all their cows. 

Both are false.

However, it is true that cattle identification fees are changing.

  • Inspection fees for identified cattle will be $1.21 per head.
  • Inspection fees for unidentified cattle will be $4 per head.
  • Inspection fees for horses are $3.85 per head.
  • Audit fees for certified feedlots is 28 cents per head. 
  • A $20 call-out fee replaces the time and mileage fee and will be collected for all inspections.

And, dairy farmers do not have to brand their cows. They can identify them with electronic official individual identification for $1.21 a head or leave them unbranded/unidentified at the $4 per-cow rate.

A recent WSDA Ag Briefs article outlines all of the new rates.

Animal Services Acting Assistant Director Jodi Jones reviewed the timeline for implementing the proposed rules. She explained that most of the new fees go into effect July 28.  The use of the Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting (ECTR) program and subsequent licensing fees and the certified veterinarian and field livestock inspector certification fees will require rule changes that will take several months to complete.

The ECTR system will accept credit cards and electronic checks when it becomes available as early as October. However, payment of fees with credit cards in the field will not be possible until a few legal and technical issues are resolved.

The law also expands the field of people authorized to do brand inspections. Trained certified veterinarians or field livestock inspectors dispersed throughout the state will be able to conduct brand inspections. Those certified by the department to conduct brand inspections will be required to collect and remit the fees outlined in the bill to WSDA.

A few Washington brands on the side-
walk outside the Cattlemen's Association.
Inspection training for certified veterinarians and field livestock inspectors will be scheduled in the coming months.

“We don’t want to have any conflicts of interest with those authorized to do brand inspections,” Jones said. “We plan to put some language in the [proposed rules] to make sure we have a sound asset protection program.”

For more information about the Livestock Inspection Program, contact Jodi Jones at (360) 902-1889 or Robbie Parke at (360) 902-1836.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Beetle Blitz Week: Have you seen this pest?

Chris Looney
Entomology Program

Pest detectives are needed this week as WSDA conducts a "Beetle Blitz" week June 17 - 23 to find and map the spread of a relatively new and highly destructive pest - the Lily Leaf Beetle.

If you see a lily - wherever you are - take a close look at it. You might find a lily leaf beetle in a garden, park, hiking area, or even landscaping throughout the community.

Local residents first discovered and have been critical in helping track the spread of this pest so far, and you can continue to help during this Beetle Blitz week.

Here's what to look for:


Adults are easiest to spot as they are bright red, even though they are relatively small.


Eggs are usually on the underside of leaves and are normally an orangish color.


Larvae are brownish blobs also usually found on the underside of leaves.


If you find any life stage of the Lily Leaf Beetle, here's what to do:
  1. Take a clear photo of the beetle, eggs, or larva. Cell phones are great for this!
  2. Go to the lily leaf beetle reporting form online.
  3. Submit the photo, and include the date you saw the lily leaf beetle (or eggs/larvae) and general location information using the online reporting form. That's it!
If you can't access the online submission form, you can send the photos, location information, and date you saw the pest to Once the week is over, WSDA entomologists will compile all of the emailed sightings and those submitted directly to the website, creating the most complete map of this invader to date. 

Want more info about the Lily Leaf Beetle? Here is a short video about it:

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Hearing scheduled for proposed Moses Lake livestock market

Gloriann Robinson
Hearing Officer

There are six public livestock markets licensed in Washington state. A new
one is proposed near Moses Lake. WSDA welcomes public input. 
A new livestock sale barn may be coming to the Moses Lake area.

Central Washington Livestock recently applied for a WSDA public livestock market license to locate a proposed sale barn off Interstate-90 east of town.

There are currently six public livestock markets licensed in Washington state.

Public comments invited

A public hearing is scheduled July 8 at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake.

The public and any interested parties are invited to comment. Those attending the public hearing can also contribute evidence in favor of or opposed to the proposed market with oral or written testimony at the hearing.

Public hearing for proposed public livestock market.
1 p.m., July 8, 2019
Big Bend Community College
Masto Conference Center, Building D-1800
7662 Chanute Street N.E.
Moses Lake, WA 98837

Anyone unable to attend the hearing can mail written testimony to the address below by 5 p.m. on July 8, 2019. Written testimony carries the same weight as oral testimony.

Please send written testimony to: 

Gloriann Robinson, Hearing Officer
Washington State Department of Agriculture
PO Box 42560
Olympia, WA 98504-2560
Fax: 360-902-2092

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Checking in with aquatic farmers

Laura Butler
Washington State Aquaculture Coordinator

Tim Jones talks about his mussel farm in front of the
Washington Grown cameras. 
Where the road winds along the bluff above a tiny cove tucked into the leeward side of Whidbey Island, you’ll spot the rafts, about 40 of them, floating in orderly rows on the crystalline water. From here they appear nondescript, gray three-panel docks evenly punctuating the mirror blue expanse.

But on the 40-foot lines hanging just below the surface you’ll find some of the richest mussel production in the country, the anchor crop at one of the Northwest’s most iconic seafood companies, Penn Cove Shellfish.

Mussel rafts in Penn Cove near
Established in 1975, Penn Cove Mussels is the oldest and largest mussel farm in the United States. Their mussels have won top honors at international taste-test competitions for their sweet flavor and fabulous texture.

Listening to growers

We pulled into the parking lot outside the warehouse and were soon greeted by farm operations manager Tim Jones. This week we’re in north Puget Sound to check in with growers, talk about the issues they may be concerned about and, here at Penn Cove, we’re taking a guided tour of the operation as part of shellfish episode we’re filming with Washington Grown.

My role as the state’s aquaculture coordinator involves travel around the state’s coastal waters to connect with the folks who farm our state’s tidelands and aquatic farms to see how the issues associated with aquaculture are affecting the public.

The state aquaculture coordinator position, and the multifaceted roles and responsibilities that come with it, is a natural fit for WSDA.

What does the state aquaculture coordinator do?

To me it’s obvious.

Aquatic tractor? A Penn Cove Mussel worker taxis between
There’s no question that shellfish farmers are farmers. They buy seed, plant seed, and tend their
crops. Then they harvest the product and market it domestically and internationally. WSDA works with industries that do that on land, and this is no different.

It’s farming in a unique environment of a marine ecosystem. But because of the many concerns associated with that ecosystem, several local, state and federal agencies regulate activities that take place in it. One of my roles, and the role of WSDA, is to advocate for these producers, help them navigate the complex regulatory system, and promote their product.

In addition, these farmers and the public rely on clean water, verifiably sanitary handling processes, market access, and promotion -- all areas where this office can provide resources and support.

For the public, the value comes in protecting one of the crown jewels of our state’s history and economy. Commercial shellfish harvesting has been going on since the mid 1800s, and the region’s indigenous people have relied on shellfish for thousands of years. The industry provides critical jobs in the rural communities along the coast.

Mussels are processed fresh, right out
 on the water.
Back at the Penn Cove warehouse, Jones outfits our crew with life vests before we head down to a skiff that will taxi us out to the mussel rafts for the tour. As his truck bounces down to the beach, he talks about why Penn Cove uses a raft system and one his biggest predator pests. And no, it’s not an orca or a harbor seal.

“Ducks are our big predator,” he said. “Surf scooter ducks.”

“You know who Daffy Duck is?” he asked, revealing traces of his Maine accent. “Daffy Duck is a surf scooter. We’ll get big flocks of birds, 2,000 or more, in the winter months and they love eat’n mussels. There was no way we could protect the mussels from the ducks with a long-line system, so we went to a raft system so that we can put nets around the rafts to keep the ducks from getting in there.”

In spring, the cords below the rafts are
coiled to catch the mussel seed near
the water's surface. 
Out on the water, Jones steps off the skiff onto the raft. Thousands of lines hang into the clear water. Right now the lines are coiled to catch the mussel seed near the surface. But 14 months from now each line will be weighed down with as much as 50 pounds of mussels. With about 2,000 lines on each of the 42 rafts, “I’ll let you do the math,” Jones said with a smile.

Thousands of lines hang below the rafts.
Each cord can produce up to 50 pounds
 of mussels. 
Penn Cove never feeds or fertilizes their shellfish; they just give them an ideal place to grow and thrive. Clean water and abundant algae are the key ingredients. Although mussels require clean water, they also return the favor. Each mussel filters 18 gallons of water a day. That’s how mussel farming provides enhanced habitat and ecosystems, and adds to the overall health of the marine environment.

As the state aquaculture coordinator, I’m dedicated to working with farmers like Tim Jones to make sure the aquaculture industry will continue to prosper as a center part of Washington’s heritage and economy.

Laura Butler prepares for a Washington Grown interview
on the wharf in Coupeville. 
I hope to see you out on one of our many tidelands in the future. Please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail or at 360-902-1842 if you need assistance with your operation or have questions about aquaculture in Washington.

And if you’d like to see more about mussels and other aquaculture, tune into Washington Grown at the beginning of next year and watch the episode we took part in.