Thursday, March 15, 2018

From timber to hay, inspectors keep busy and keep exports moving

Sue Welch
WSDA Plant Services Program

Keeping out invasive plant pests and diseases is a challenge for every country, especially since so many plants and plant products are shipped around the world every day. Whether it is timber products going to China or Christmas trees to Mexico, hay to Japan or seed potatoes to Uruguay, it must all be inspected and certified before it can be shipped.

Inspection of logs at the
Port of Olympia.
WSDA’s Plant Services Program has 10 environmental specialists who conduct export inspections of Washington plants and plant products bound for market in other states or overseas. These specialists focus on ornamental plants, and fruiting shrubs and trees, which carry a higher risk of moving live pests, as well as agricultural products like timber, hay and grain. WSDA has a separate program, Fruit and Vegetable Inspection, that focuses on inspecting edible produce.

The author training a
new inspector.

Most countries – including the United States - require a phytosanitary certificate, or “phyto,” before plant products are allowed in. An inspector in the country of origin issues the phytos once they have determined a product meets the requirements of the importing country.

While many of the international shipping inspections are done by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a lot of them are done by WSDA inspectors who are trained, tested and licensed by USDA to issue international phytosanitary certificates.

The inspectors with the Plant Services Program work in log yards, vineyards, nurseries, packing warehouses, or out in growing fields. Growing season inspections are timed to match when disease symptoms will be most noticeable. So tulip bulbs are inspected for viruses during flowering, and grape plants are inspected twice, for early spring and late summer viruses. Logs, lumber and grains can be inspected year-round.
A commercial nursery greenhouse in Elma, Wash.

Inspectors examine plants for symptoms of viral, fungal or bacterial infections, or for signs of insect infestation. Sometimes, before they can be certified for export, plants must be tested and found free of specific diseases. Some products, like lumber, may need to be treated with heat or chemicals to ensure that there are no live pests hitching a ride.

From incredibly destructive insects like the Japanese beetle and gypsy moth, to diseases that can wipe out entire crops, the goal is to do all we can to keep intruders from invading new territory.

Every country has their own requirements for the import of plant products, and they vary greatly by the type of plant, and what part of the plant is being shipped. Inspectors refer to the Phytosanitary Export Database, which lists official plant health requirements for all countries, to determine whether the products are in compliance with the importing countries’ rules.
Plant Services supervisor John Wraspir (L) and
inspector Ed Stansbury (R), inspect tulip bulbs
for export.

WSDA Plant Services inspectors issued 29,584 export certificates for foreign countries in 2017. The goal of state inspectors is to help shippers meet all export requirements so the shipping process goes smoothly and Washington plant products continue to enjoy a reputation for high quality and desirability.

If you need help exporting plant products, contact WSDA Plant Services inspectors at or 360-902-1874.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Outreach campaign to show value of nursery endorsement

Cindy Cooper
WSDA Plant Services Program

Before you plant your spring flower garden this year, consider how these plants got to your yard. Did you know they are backed up by a statewide system of pest quarantines, plant inspections and nursery licensing? This system helps sellers present the best possible plants to their customers, but also protects both consumers and the environment.

Yet, participation in the licensing program that funds these efforts have fallen off in recent years, and with it, the widespread awareness of our state’s plant protection rules and standards. Currently, there are more than 5,000 licensed nurseries in the state, a decline in compliance of 40 percent since 2008 when more than 8,500 businesses held a WSDA nursery endorsement on their business license.

WSDA would like to reverse this trend

WSDA inspector at a retail garden center
Our WSDA Plant Services Program is kicking off a year-long campaign to educate businesses and the public about nursery licensing requirements and the work of our inspectors. Their efforts benefit plant-oriented businesses, protect consumers and Washington’s native environment, while reducing the risk of insects and plant diseases moving around the state by accident.

Many of our inspectors have worked for nurseries in the past and all receive training from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. They offer tips on how to comply with state and federal plant quarantines, make sure plants for sale are healthy, and share best management practices with growers.

Our staff plays a vital role in facilitating trade by providing inspections of plants, logs, hay and grain being exported to foreign countries.

Licensing is the link to education, awareness

It all starts with licensing nursery and landscape firms so we can communicate important information to these businesses and schedule necessary inspections. It is possible that some nurseries and landscapers operating without a license may not be aware they need one.

Businesses that sell more than $100 worth of plants in a year are required to have a nursery endorsement on their master business license from the Department of Revenue's Business Licensing Service. That means garden centers, landscapers, grocery stores that sell plants, home improvement stores, pet stores that stock aquatic plants, and farmers market vendors need a nursery endorsement.

Fees for a  nursery endorsement are based on gross annual sales of plants and whether you sell more retail or wholesale. The cost of the nursery endorsement ranges from $63 a year up to $273 a year. The fees support the program of inspections and education, but they also support important research that benefits the state’s nurseries and landscapers.

There are exemptions for non-profit plant sales and school programs.

Check your inbox

Starting this month, WSDA Plant Services will be ramping up awareness of licensing requirements and benefits, through emails, postings on social media, speaking at nursery industry meetings, publishing articles and even snail mail.

Our goal is to continue supporting our state’s nursery industry while improving compliance with our licensing requirements.

So if you’re in the business of plants, keep an eye on your inbox. Email us at if you have questions

Monday, February 12, 2018

Quarantine lifted at Woodinville equestrian center

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

A quarantine that has been in place at a Woodinville equestrian center since Dec. 13 was removed today following tests showing no new evidence of the highly contagious neuropathogenic strain of equine herpes virus (EHV-1).

The stable’s veterinarians deserve praise for quickly alerting WSDA of the outbreak last December, working cooperatively in protecting the horses and communicating difficult decisions to the stable's owners.

It also helped that the owners were exceptionally cooperative with our oversight. Their efforts prevented this situation from becoming an outbreak at additional horse facilities.

This incident is a reminder for all horse owners to continue practicing good biosecurity at their stables and keep an eye on their horses for signs of possible infection such as high fevers, discharge from their eyes or nose, or swelling in their limbs. Owners should also look for neurological signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

Notify your veterinarian if you detect any of these symptoms.

Our earlier article from December on EHV-1 has additional advice for horse owners concerning equine herpes.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Food safety starts on the farm

Karla Salp

Each participant receives a binder packed with information
In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed into law as the first major food safety reform in over 70 years. With the passage of FSMA came new requirements for farmers, most notably pertaining to the safe growing and postharvest handling of produce.

Less known is the fact that any farm with more than $500,000 in annual sales is required to send at least one employee to mandated grower training on produce safety. In Washington, this amounts to about 2,000 farms required to take the training. Many more farms may also elect to take the training to improve their food safety knowledge and practices.

WSDA’s new Produce Safety Program is collaborating with Washington State University and the Produce Safety Alliance to put on trainings that meet the FSMA requirement. These day-long trainings are being held at various locations throughout the state and new training dates continue to be added.

Here’s an overview of topics covered in the training:

  • An introduction to produce safety
  • Worker health, hygiene, and training
  • Working with soil amendments
  • Wildlife, domesticated animals, and land use
  • Agricultural water – production water and postharvest water
  • Developing a farm food safety plan

The training focuses on helping farmers understand food safety concerns that growers need to address on the farm. It does not tell farmers exactly what they must do, recognizing that each farming operation is unique. Instead, the training focuses on thinking through food safety concerns and enabling farms to develop their own food safety plans to address the unique challenges and opportunities on their own farms.

For many farms, the training provides a refresher and reinforces their existing food safety practices. “It’s just like GlobalGAP*,” one farmer said during the training. But whoever attends the trainings will likely come away with new ideas on improving food safety on their farms, as well as a better understanding of current regulation.

Several trainings are still available to attend before farming season begins in earnest:
  • Feb. 15 – Vancouver
  • March 6 – Mount Vernon
  • March 6-7 – Mount Vernon (Train the trainer)
Visit our website to register for these and future trainings about produce safety. You can also email the WSDA Produce Safety Program with questions or to request training in your area. Visit the Produce Safety Alliance website for more produce safety resources and to find trainings around the country.

*GlobalGAP, or Global Good Agricultural Practices, is a voluntary certification program focused on ensuring a safe and sustainable global food supply.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

King County horse barn quarantined for equine herpes virus

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

On Monday, WSDA placed a King County equine premises under quarantine after a case of equine herpes, or EHV-1, was detected in a horse at the facility. However, this is a different strain of EHV-1 than the virus strain that lead to an earlier quarantine at a separate horse facility in Woodinville this past December. The two cases are not related.

The most recent case involves a non-neuropathogenic strain of equine herpes virus, though it is still serious and can cause respiratory problems in horses. The detection was made in a gelding that had recently been transported from Oregon. It is recovering under treatment and has not shown clinical signs of illness. 

In addition to placing the facility under quarantine, WSDA is working with local veterinarians actively monitoring the other animals at the facility that have been exposed to the infected horse. 

The earlier case at the Woodinville facility involved a neuropathogenic strain of EHV-1. That detection resulted in a quarantine of the facility and the need to euthanize seven horses. WSDA has not yet lifted the quarantine. 

Horse owners should take precautions to protect their animals against these contagious diseases by practicing strict biosecurity. You should also monitor your horses for signs of illness, monitor their temperature twice a day and notify your veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns.

More recommendations for horse owners to guard against equine herpes are included in a previous WSDA blog article.