Thursday, August 16, 2018

Kosher harvest

Chris McGann

Every summer, when green wheat fields have turned to gold, the search begins. In the small town of Monroe, about 50 miles up the Hudson River from New York City, Rabbi Jacob Tyrnauer begins lining up the farms to make sure he can find soft white wheat in just the right condition to make Jewish matzah for his congregation.

Matzah is unleavened bread Jews eat during Passover to commemorate the time the Israelites fled Egypt, leaving in such haste, they had no time to allow their bread to rise.

Many years, Tyrnauer, or Rabbi Jacob as he calls himself, finds the wheat he needs in the places like Woodburn, Indiana. But this year, apparently because of wet weather, his quest took him farther, all the way to Eastern Washington.

New York rabbi Jacob Tyrnauer and his sons
 inspect wheat in Eastern Washington.
“We had a problem here this year, we could not cut the wheat before it sprouted,” he explained.

In order to meet the requirements and restrictions of kosher law, the wheat - and matzah milled from the wheat - must not be allowed to ferment before baking. Fermentation is the result of the natural microbial enzymatic activity caused by exposing grain starch to water. In the case of kosher wheat, if even a small portion of the crop is sprouted, it is rendered chametz or fermented and not suitable for matzah.

With harvest season upon him, the 71-year-old Orthodox rabbi needed to find enough clean dry wheat to mill for his 6,000-member congregation in Monroe and Brooklyn.

That’s when Tyrnauer reached out to WSDA for help and Laura Raymond stepped in.

Raymond leads WSDA’s Regional Markets Program, which aims to strengthen the economic vitality of small and direct marketing farms and increase availability of healthy, locally grown Washington foods.

Although the program does not act as a representative for any individual seller, Raymond provided a list of grain producers who sell directly to consumers and serve niche markets such as local bakers and craft brewers.

“Wheat is not typically sold direct to the consumer,” Raymond said. “But as consumer interest in farm to table connections continues to grow, we are seeing that demand from the market expand into grain. An increasing number of producers are interested in opportunities to sell grain directly. Our program helps support growers to build and connect with those markets.”

The clientele for the Regional Markets Small Farm and Direct Marketing program is often smaller scale with unique needs. Raymond said it makes the work more interesting. In the case of this kosher wheat request, she answered several of the rabbi's questions about Washington’s cropland to make sure all aspects of production met the kosher standard.

“On one occasion I had to confirm that the area is not considered a desert, which apparently is a concern,” Raymond said. “This is a fascinating process and I am learning a lot.”

With Raymond’s help, Tyrnauer connected with Shepherd's Grain, a Northwest grain growers’ group that espouses sustainable farming practices and cultivates direct connections between farmers and consumers. The 35 growers in the group package grain with tracking numbers so buyers can trace products back to the individual farms where they were grown.

Shepherd’s Grain Business Development Manager Tim McElroy helped find the right farm.

“They have a lot of requirements, but Rabbi Jacob was a pleasure to work with,” McElroy said. “We enjoyed doing business from someone across the country and finding new markets for our wheat.”
McElroy said the whole thing happened fast.

“He wanted to see the moisture levels on the wheat. We got it and when we gave it to him, he came right out,” McElroy said.
Rabbi Jacob and his sons discuss
 the wheat harvest.
Within a few weeks of contacting WSDA, the New York rabbi was in the Palouse rolling down wheat field rows in the cab of a combine. Kosher rules require the rabbi to cut the wheat.

“I was sitting in the combine. Every time he went to lower the knife arm, I pulled the lever,” Tyrnauer said. “I have to pray while we are cutting. The prayer is, ‘I’m cutting it for matzah.”

In addition to inspecting the grain and engaging the cutter bar, a rabbi must also make sure the machinery is properly cleaned and supervise the entire process from harvest to baking.

In the end, the work paid off. Tyrnauer bought five truckloads – 3,500 bushels – of wheat to send back to New York.

“(WSDA) took care of me,” said Rabbi Jacob. “(Raymond) was very nice and very good.  And Tim, too! The main thing is we have wheat! That means you did very well.”

Visit WSDA's Regional Markets webpage or our Small Farm Direct Marketing page for more information.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Slow start for West Nile virus

Chris McGann

A Grant County Quarter Horse named Tiny tested positive for West Nile virus last week. According to WSDA Veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph, the five-year-old gelding is the first horse in Washington identified with the disease this year.
Horses' best protection against West Nile virus is vaccination. 

Although West Nile virus can be fatal, Tiny is receiving care for a neurological deficit in the right rear and his prognosis appears to be good.

Last year, nine horses were diagnosed with West Nile virus statewide, and just two years earlier, 36 cases were reported in Washington, with several horses dying or being euthanized as a result of the disease.

Joseph said the positive test comes as no surprise.

“It happens every year,” he said. “But this is a good reminder. It’s so easy to prevent if you vaccinate.”

Horse vaccination for West Nile virus  requires two doses and annual boosters. It is most effective when given to horses in spring, before mosquito season.

“But it’s never too late to vaccinate,” Joseph said. “It’s so easy to prevent it.”

Records indicate Tiny may have received one of the West Nile virus vaccinations which may have helped reduce the danger.

“There’s about a 30 percent mortality for horses showing severe neurological symptoms,” Joseph said. “Most horses show milder, flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all.”

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds and while it can sicken people, horses, birds and other animals, it does not directly spread from horses to people or other animals.

“People and horses are “dead end” hosts,” said Joseph, explaining that the disease does not travel directly from horse to horse – or person to person.

Other preventative measures include mosquito control, which reduces the horses’ contact the main vector or the disease. Circulating air around stalls can really help.
West Nile virus is not spread between horses. Mosquitoes are
the main vector, passing the virus from birds, such as crows. 

This first West Nile virus case showed up a little later in the year than normal, the dry hot weather may have contributed by reducing the habitat for mosquito larva, Joseph said.

Watch for symptoms

West Nile virus is prevalent across the country, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for signs of infection in horses. Closely observe your horse and look for signs, which include:

• Fever of 102.5 degrees F or higher
• Discharge from eyes or nose
• Limb edema or swelling
• Spontaneous abortions
• Neurologic signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, urine dribbling, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

Veterinarians who diagnose potential West Nile virus cases should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at (360) 902-1878.

Visit WSDA’s West Nile virus webpage or the state Department of Health for more information.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Capturing a taste of Washington

Chris McGann

Taiwanese buyers snap photos of the popcorn candy coating
 process at a Seattle-area factory. After sampling the gamut
 of flavors, truffle was a surprise standout!
WSDA is always busy looking for ways to expand markets for Washington producers. Our International Marketing Program helps facilitate buyer-seller connections, delivers resources and continually advocates for global market access.

Recently, the program joined forces with the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association to connect Taiwanese buyers with 17 Northwest suppliers.

After a whirlwind of face-to-face, buyer-seller meetings - more than 80 on the first day - the buyer group struck out on day two to see where the magic happens at three Seattle-area facilities. They visited Seattle Popcorn Company (Uncle Woody’s Popcorn);  AMES International (chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, nuts, and cookies); and SuperValu International (product consolidation/private label brands).

WSDA International Marketing Program Trade Specialist Elisa Daun organized the mission.

“Connecting professional buyers with Washington companies is a great opportunity,” Daun said. “These missions showcase the abundance of quality products available in our state and can be invaluable for producers trying to reach overseas markets.”

In 2017, Taiwan imported more than $264 million worth of Washington's agricultural and food products. The top five products were:

  1. Apples ($72 million)
  2. Frozen French Fries ($53 million)
  3. Sweet Cherries ($41 million)
  4. Frozen/Chilled Beef ($18 million)
  5. White Wheat ($16 million)

The International Marketing Program is working to help position Washington companies to export their products efficiently and profitably, while promoting our state’s consistent high quality, diversity of offerings, and high standard for food safety and handling.

Washington’s major crops and commodities have trade associations for promotion. The WSDA International Marketing Program helps bridge the gap for smaller suppliers, many of whom sell processed or packaged goods. The buyers can meet the operators, tour facilities and get a better sense of the quality of products and companies they will be working with.

For more information about upcoming international marketing events and activities, check out this WSDA calendar.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hot weather tips for pets and livestock

Dr. Minden Buswell
WSDA Veterinarian

As the summer heat rises, it's important to help
 your livestock stay cool.
Hot weather can reduce animals’ feed intake, growth, production, reproduction, welfare, and overall health. Each year the livestock and poultry industries lose billions due to livestock heat stress.

Here are a few tips and links to help keep your livestock and pets healthy during the summer heat.

Livestock heat stress: recognition, response, and prevention

According to this WSU fact sheet, keeping animals cool with shade, water on the skin, airflow and cool drinking water is important, especially if they show signs of heat stress. These warning signs include:

Crowding around water tanks or shade
Poor appetite
Increased respiratory rate
Elevated heart rate
Immobility or aimless wandering
Drooling or slobbering

If you observe signs of heat stress, it's time to take action. To help cool them down, you should

1. Provide shade immediately.
2. Soak the animal's body with lukewarm to cool water.
3. Increase airflow around the animal using fans if possible.
4. Provide cool drinking water.
5. Minimize handling, transportation, and stress.
6. Call veterinarian for consultation.

A word about water

It may seem obvious that water requirements for livestock rise with the temperature, but some folks may not be aware of just how much more water animals need when it gets hot. According to information from University of Nebraska and University of Iowa extensions, water consumption when the temperature reaches 90 F can be almost twice what it is at 70 F.
Here’s a link to a useful fact sheet put out by the Iowa 4H.

Heat index:

 "Be prepared, even if the risk is several index units away. Additional
 solar heat, lack of air movement and heavy fat cover all can lead
 to disastrous effects of heat stress." NDSU Heat Stress Guide 
Many factors come into play when it comes to assessing the level of stress heat puts on animals. Physical workload, body weight, confinement and even hide color can all contribute to heat stress. For example, dark-hided animals are more susceptible to heat stress than their light-hided counter parts. But,  just like it does for people, humidity can really increase the discomfort on a hot day. As this table illustrates, the “feels like” factor should be taken into consideration, too.

Heat stress in cattle

With all that’s at stake, it pays to adopt a three-step plan for hot weather.
  1. Learn how to identify the animals most at risk of heat stress.
  2. Develop an action plan.
  3. Know when to intervene.
North Dakota State University lays out a sensible approach to the problem in this brochure.

Visit WSDA's webpage, Protecting Animal Health and the Livestock Industry for other resources.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Keeping Washington on the Congressional radar

Chris McGann

In the world of national politics, corn is king and Iowa often takes center stage. But here in Washington, where the agricultural economy is driven by tree fruit, dairy, potatoes and hay to name just a few major products, it’s easy to feel overlooked.

Director Derek Sandison and a delegation of leaders from the
 agriculture community met with elected officials in Washington DC
 this summer to help keep our issues in the mix.
That’s why WSDA Director Derek Sandison recently joined a delegation of WSU leadership and our state’s agricultural community in Washington D.C. to help make sure our issues and products aren’t forgotten as the debate over international trade policies continues.

Sandison and the group met with Washington’s elected officials, key lawmakers and administration representatives. While many of the meetings touched on topics related to the 2018 Farm Bill, including the importance of research, the group also discussed the possible impacts of recent trade disputes with China, Canada, and Mexico.

“Our representatives seemed engaged and genuinely concerned,” said Sandison, who has been in regular communication with the administration and Congress on these topics.
This recent meeting was particularly important.

“With so many highly important policies and issues on the table right now, these meetings could not have come at a better time,” Sandison said. “Our elected leaders heard what we had to say and were very supportive of the work we are doing to advance agricultural practices and promote trade.”

WSDA Director Sandison discusses trade issues with Senate Agriculture
 Committee Chairman Pat Roberts. AndrĂ©-Denis Girard Wright, the newly
named dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural
Resource Science sits at Sandison’s right. 
The group, which included representatives from the wheat, tree fruit, dairy, potato, and wine industries, spent time with U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who commented that Sen. Maria Cantwell doesn’t ever let him forget about Washington.  He said Cantwell is always “whispering in his ear” about the implications policies have on tree fruit, wheat and other Washington products.

Washington State University took part in the mission to promote research and education. University President Kirk Schulz discussed issues and opportunities to collaborate with administration officials responsible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture research portfolio.

A Taste of Washington reception showcasing our state’s fruit,
 wine, cheese and other signature products. Nearly 200 people
 attended, including lawmakers Rep. Dave Reichert,
 Rep. Dan Newhouse and Rep. Rick Larsen. 
Sandison said the research goes hand-in-hand with trade, another major focus of the visit. An estimated $900 million in agricultural and food products could potentially be affected by retaliatory tariffs. Tariffs on Washington apples have gone up to 75 percent in India, 50 percent in China and 20 percent in Mexico.

Shortly after the group’s visit, the Trump administration announced a $12 billion aid package to reduce the harm associated with retaliatory tariffs, though it is unclear how it will assist Washington ag sectors affected by the trade disputes.