Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Four ways to keep unwanted holiday pests from spreading

Mike Louisell
Communications Office

One of the many ways WSDA supports the agricultural community and consumers becomes more obvious during the holiday season. This is when the staff of our Plant Services Program kick into high gear, inspecting licensed retail and wholesale nurseries at a record pace to keep up with demand while ensuring consumers and exporters get healthy wreaths, Christmas trees, and other holiday plants that are free of pests and disease.

We've wrapped up our inspections of Christmas trees bound for consumers in Mexico, Hawaii, China, Japan and U.S. military bases. Christmas trees sold in the U.S. don't require inspection by WSDA. Although we support export and domestic markets for plants and shrubs year-around, it's especially important this time of year because of the high demand for holiday-themed plants.

Consumers can help keep pests out
Consumers play a major role in keeping damaging pests from damaging plants. Our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer these tips to protect Washington's communities and environment from harmful pests and plant diseases.
  1. Ordering Online: Poinsettias and amaryllis make festive gifts, but be careful when ordering any plant online. To spread holiday cheer instead of invasive pests, only buy or order plants from reputable vendors that comply with federal quarantine restrictions. To be safe, ask the grower if they are aware of and abide by all USDA regulations for that particular plant.
  2. Trees, Wreaths and Greens: When buying your holiday tree, deck the halls with greens and holly, but be sure to buy them from trusted sources.  Established retailers make sure their suppliers follow federal quarantine restrictions that prevent invasive pests from hitchhiking on trees and decorations.
  3. Don't Move Firewood: For a safe and cozy yuletide fire, buy firewood where you plan to burn it.  If burning your own firewood, don’t move it off your property or you may spread invasive tree killers like the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.  Instead, buy or responsibly gather firewood near the place you’ll burn it.  Or take certified, heat-treated firewood with you instead.
  4. International Travel: Traveling abroad for the holidays? Declare all agricultural items to customs officials upon your return or you may bring back more than memories.  In addition to fresh produce, declare all spices, grains and packaged foods, which could carry the destructive Khapra beetle.
Visit www.DontPackaPest.com, a website sponsored by USDA and several partner agencies, to learn what is safe to bring back, along with other valuable travel tips.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Many changes in works for Worker Protection Standard

Brent Barnes
Assistant Director, Pesticide Management Division

Farmworkers can be exposed to specific hazards in their workplace, such as preventable pesticide exposure. 
WSDA and L&I train a
class of farm workers. 

To further protect the health of workers, their families and others in the industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made changes to Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, a set of federal requirements aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide exposure and injury. 

Most changes take effect on Jan. 2, 2017, while some are delayed until January 2018. It’s important that all farm operators and pesticide applicators comply with the new regulations because WSDA will be enforcing them. 

Furthermore, WSDA is coordinating with the state Department of Labor & Industries to update state rules to align with the new federal regulations. While each agencies’ rulemaking process will be separate, ultimately, state rules will be consistent. Our agency began this process by filing proposed new rule language this week and announcing public hearings scheduled for January (watch this page for details)

Washington state already had ag worker standards on the books that, in some areas, have been more protective than federal requirements. Examples of where the fed’s rules have now caught up to Washington include those around medical evaluation, training and respirator fit testing. 

However, some of the new federal standards will be stricter. Those who are affected – growers and pesticide handlers – will need to be ready to comply with these requirements. 

Here are a few examples of what’s new:

  • Training: Workers and handlers must be trained every year, instead of every five years as previously required. Also, a record of that training must be kept for two years. 
  • Information and Posting: The type of information and location for displaying it have been expanded and specified. For example, Safety Data Sheets must be posted along with application and safety info in a spot that’s easily seen by workers and handlers. 
  • Application Exclusion Zone: Agricultural employers must keep all people, except properly trained and equipped pesticide handlers, out of these application zones. 

The changes to the Worker Protection Standard cover a lot of areas. It’s critical that agricultural employers learn and understand what’s being required to comply and protect workers and their communities. 

A good place to start is EPA’s web page, Revision to the Worker Protection Standard where you’ll find an overview and links to a number of helpful resources. 

And WSDA’s Pesticide Management Compliance Program is also here to help. We’ll focus on outreach, resources and technical assistance as these changes take effect. Stay tuned for more information. And in the meantime, if you have questions, contact us at 360-902-2040 or email compliance@agr.wa.gov.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Keeping those who support agriculture safe on the job

Jason Gambill 
WSDA Western Washington Safety Officer

For many WSDA employees, supporting Washington agriculture means spending time out of the office and in the field. So to make sure our employees are safe, WSDA’s safety team has begun a new campaign we call “The day in the life of a WSDA employee.”  

As part of the campaign, agency safety officers are shadowing supervisors and field employees to learn more about their work and safety concerns while offering ways to improve their safety and championing best practices about workplace safety.

Feed inspector Angela Gantuah collecting samples.
Through this new initiative, I recently joined Angela Gantuah, a feed specialist in WSDA’s Food Safety and Consumer Services Division, during a routine inspection of a busy Bellingham chicken feed processing plant.

Traffic collisions are a common factor in workplace injuries, as are tripping hazards like pallets and being struck by objects, like forklifts. Angela and I discussed these hazards, and her strategies for staying safe.

Angela took several samples from peas, fish meal, wheat and other commodities to test for Salmonella and other diseases. Some of her samples were taken from an auger, which was amazing to watch, but can also be a serious workplace hazard. Care has to be taken when working around augers. Again, I discussed this with Angela and offered some tips on keeping safe.

Our agency inspections are essential to the agricultural way of life. Producers require our various inspections in order to export their products to overseas markets. It's my team's job to make sure our inspectors are safe while doing their jobs.

In fact, our team’s motto is “Their Safety Matters.”  I will be shadowing other employees throughout the coming year, playing my part to support WSDA’s staff as they support Washington agriculture.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

10 easy steps to setting up a 35-foot tall tree - indoors

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Whether you call it a Christmas tree, holiday tree, yule tree, or something else entirely, nothing says it is time for the holidays like beautiful evergreen trees decorating homes, offices, and even the Capitol. Recently, a truck load of holiday cheer arrived at the Capitol in the form of a 35-foot noble fir, destined to be decorated from top to bottom with lights, ornaments, and toys.

If you dream of your own Capitol-sized tree, it’s easy. Check out our 60 video of how it was done at the Capitol and then check out our instructions below.

  1. Find a 35-foot tall tree. This year’s tree was donated by Weyerhaeuser and was grown at its tree farm in Vail near Rainier. It grew in an open area, so it was nice and full all the way around and top to bottom. If you can’t get a tree big enough for your tastes, try planting one and waiting about 25 years, the age of this tree, or perhaps less time if you would like a mere 25-30 foot tree. Once you have the tree, hire a company to cut it down and haul it to your location.
  2. Prepare tree stand and 4 x 4’s. No store-bought tree stands for this tree! You’ll have to custom make a steel tube braced and attached to a wooden platform to protect the floor. You’ll also need to prepare several 12-foot 4x4 boards for carrying the tree.
  3. Gather together 30 – 40 of your closest friends.  How many people does it take to carry a 35-foot tree? A lot. You can load it off the truck with a crane, but you are going to have to carry it into the building.
  4. Carry tree into the building. After slipping the 4x4 boards under the tree at about 4-5 foot intervals, have friends grab the ends of each board. On the count of three, everyone will lift their board (while using proper form, of course) and walk forward, carrying the tree into the building. Make sure the stump-end of the tree leads the way.
  5. Get it through the door(s.) The door will likely be one of your biggest challenges in carrying the tree. The branches are so large they will try to prevent you from getting through. However, with determination, it will go through, foot by foot. As it goes through the door, you’ll have to stop each time you reach a 4x4. Pull the 4x4 out from under the tree and run inside to slip it back under the portion of the tree that has made it through the door. If you have columns inside the building, you’ll get to do this same dance to get between them as well.
  6. Carry the tree to the stand. Next you need to get the tree to the stand. Have your buddies continue to carry it forward until the base of the tree is at the stand. Rest the base of the tree on the top edge of the steel tube. If available, it is helpful to lay the tree half way up some stairs to prepare for the next step.
  7. Prop the top of the tree off the ground. Have your friends heave the top of the tree up as high as they can. Place two 4x4’s suspended on each end by two ladders (acting like a giant sawhorse) about half way up the tree (higher if you don’t have stairs) to hold the tree off the ground.
  8. Decorate the top half of the tree. Before you can fully stand up the tree, you’ll need to decorate the top half. Remember, this is a big tree, so you’ll need BIG ornaments. You might consider a theme, like the “Under the Sea” stuffed animals donated by the Association of Washington Business, which will be delivered to local hospitals for children at the end of the year. You’ll also need a lot of lights – 5,000 or even more.
  9. Stand the tree up. Using four ropes and about 20 of your friends, pull the tree upright until it falls into the base. Three of the ropes will pull the tree up while one on the backside will ensure that it doesn’t topple over the other direction. Once standing, bolt the tree to the base to secure it.
  10. Decorate the bottom half of the tree. Using ladders, decorate the rest of the tree. Hopefully you’ve been testing the lights as you go…
Ah! Now you can step back, enjoy the tree, and start looking for some new friends to replace the ones who will never speak to you again after this project.

Okay, maybe this isn’t so easy after all. To truly appreciate all of this work, you’ll definitely want to visit the Capitol to enjoy this tree. One great time to go would be this Friday, December 2nd, when they will be having a tree lighting at 6 pm.

For a much easier tree but still a bit of adventure, be sure to visit one of the many Washington family Christmas tree farms.

See the final raising of the tree at normal speed in the video below: