Friday, April 29, 2016

Pest-free logs to China, working safely are top priorities for WSDA inspectors

Scott Brooks
Plant Services Program

WSDA staff conducting inspections at Washington’s busy log export facilities have two goals in mind during their work shift. One is working safely in an often hectic, noisy port environment and the other is to provide our customers with good service.

Environmental specialists with the Plant Services Program recently met in Tacoma to discuss both situations. 

Good customer service means ensuring exported logs are free of prohibited pests for China and other trading partners. Washington supplies more logs to China than any other state. Last year, Plant Services staff certified nearly 245 million board feet of logs to China. A typical log vessel holds about 6 million board feet of logs. The logs are used for construction in China, after being milled into lumber, forms and scaffolding.

Hitchhiking pests
Before the logs leave the port, WSDA inspectors look closely for hitchhiking wood-boring pests, like beetles or Pinewood nematodes. Core samples of the log are collected and analyzed at a WSDA lab in Prosser to test for the nematode, a process required by China. If all goes well, WSDA issues the exporter a phytosanitary certificate for the shipment. Though evidence of bark beetles is not uncommon, Washington logs have always tested negative for the presence of Pinewood nematode.

At the Tacoma meeting, the group reviewed inspection protocols and safety concerns. There can be many things to watch out for at congested port log yards. Logs are stacked into high decks to save space and log moving equipment is constantly sorting, stacking and loading logs throughout the yard. In this environment, it’s important for our inspectors to be seen and stay safe. 

Safety precautions
An orange reflective vest helps, but WSDA also requires that our personnel be escorted during inspections and that log moving equipment cease operations within 100 feet o

f the inspector when they are on site. Inspectors wear hard hats, steel toed boots and carry a cell phone in case they get into trouble.

Besides Tacoma, Plant Services’ staff works at six other ports: Longview, Olympia, Port Angeles, Seattle, Everett and the Port of Grays Harbor. They also are called out to private log yards.

The variety of commodities inspected by Plant Services personnel is extensive and involves logs, lumber, nursery stock, cut greens, grains, hay varieties and many minor specialty crops. Our team is dedicated to work with Washington exporters to assure consistency in applying federal export rules and policy. Working safely and focusing inspections on pests of concern are two major ways WSDA helps keep foreign trade running smoothly.