Wednesday, May 16, 2018

“Fat is where it’s at” when it comes to Washington asparagus

Colleen Donovan
Farmers Market Integrity Project

Sizing up spears was one of many lessons growers shared with a group of King County farmers market managers who headed from “market to farm” to learn about Washington asparagus. Knowing where, when and how asparagus grows, what to expect from market vendors, and facts to share with shoppers helps farmers market managers better promote Washington farmers.

Tip number one: don’t go skinny.

“Fat is where it’s at. Thin is not in!” was how farmer Alan Schreiber explained that asparagus with thicker spears is more tender than “skinny” asparagus. The greater girth gives fibers more breathing room. Farmer Manny Canales noted that the skinny asparagus is tougher because it works harder to stay upright in the spring winds of the lower Yakima Valley.

Another interesting takeaway from the day was that Washington’s asparagus varieties usually have dark purple “bracts” – those triangles on the sides of the spear. The “tip” of the asparagus is made up of lots of bracts. And the colder the temperatures, the more purple you should see in the asparagus. So, expect more purple in your asparagus in early April at the beginning of the season than at the end in June.

What should you look for when buying asparagus at your farmers market? According to Alan and Manny:

  • Look for asparagus with the white end of the spear left on. This is the part that was once underground. This might look a little less neat and tidy, but it preserves the plant’s energy and keeps it fresher.
  • To get the best part of the spear, farmers recommend snapping off the bottom instead of cutting. As the asparagus ages, the “snapping point” moves up the spear. So, fresher asparagus breaks closer to the bottom end. 
  • The tip should be tight and not starting to flower. 
  • Well-cared for asparagus has been kept cool and hydrated. Outdoors at a market, look for spears standing in water. Treat asparagus like cut flowers to make it last.
  • If the bundle has a regular rubber band and has mixed sizes, then it has not been through a packing line. (The classic blue bands with PLU 4080 printed or PLU 94080, if organic, are usually for asparagus headed to wholesale markets.)  

According to Alan, who is also the Executive Director of the Washington Asparagus Commission, when asparagus is super fresh, you can rub two spears together and they squeak. But, to keep the peace, don’t try this at the farmers market until after you’ve bought your bundle. That’s a tip from the market managers.

Once you have your fresh, fat, Washington-grown asparagus, you can steam, simmer, roast, grill, or sauté it. Asparagus is incredibly versatile. The snapped off ends are great for flavoring soup stocks!
Asparagus is great for you too: low fat and packed with nutrition, especially Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and folate.

Now’s the time to find Washington asparagus at a Washington farmers market. Enjoy! And remember: “Fat is where it’s at; thin is not in.”

Colleen Donovan is the Coordinator for the Farmers Market Integrity Project, a statewide collaboration of market managers, farmers, and industry leaders working to ensure transparency in local foods. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Answering gypsy moth eradication questions

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

On Tuesday, May 8, we conducted the first of three planned treatments to control gypsy moth in Pierce and Kitsap counties. Various questions about the treatment have been asked on social media both before and after the treatment. While we have responded to those concerns on various posts on social media, we wanted to provide a central location for information about two topics: a viral video and treatment on school grounds in Kitsap County.

Spraying on School Grounds

Cougar Valley Elementary

During our treatment planning, we anticipated treating Cougar Valley Elementary school at 10 a.m., which is what we communicated to the school district prior to treatment.

Subsequent adjustments to the flight plan were necessary to manage flight restrictions over the Kitsap Naval Base and for the safety of the pilot. In order to avoid flying in the prohibited area, the applicator had to modify the initial flight plan. This meant that the pilot would arrive at the school sooner than initially anticipated. We indicated to the applicator that treatment should not start at the school until after 9:10 a.m. when classes would start and students would be inside. The pilot arrived at about 9:05 a.m. and began treating the school grounds. Some children were still outside when treatment began.

We worked with the Central Kitsap School District on Tuesday to inform parents, identify what happened, and provide revised information about when to expect treatments to start at the school. We have finalized a modified application plan by working with the base personnel to adjust flight time restrictions over the base. This will now allow us to treat the school grounds no earlier than 9:30 a.m., if future treatments occur on a school day. We have also communicated this revised plan to the school district.

Again, Btk, the product we use to treat for gypsy moth caterpillars, has an excellent safety record. More info about Btk and human health is available on our website. However, if anyone has health concerns from the treatment, they can contact the Washington State Department of Health at 1-877-485-7316.

Clear Creek Elementary

There have been claims that Clear Creek Elementary school was sprayed when children were outside for recess. Clear Creek Elementary was not in the treatment area and was not sprayed. However, the plane did fly over the school as it was making its turns.

Viral Video

A video which has now been viewed thousands of times makes several claims about the treatment in the Silverdale area. In the video, the individual claims that her animals are being harmed by the spray and she makes broad statements about the types of impacts the spray can cause. Here are the facts:

  • Btk is not toxic to humans, pets, livestock (including goats,) birds (including chickens,) bees, fish, or other animals. It is toxic only to caterpillars and only after the caterpillar has ingested the Btk. Only coming in contact with the product, but not consuming it, will not harm even the caterpillar.
    Btk is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. Foray 48B, the formulation of Btk used in this application, is approved for use in organic agriculture. More information about Btk can be found on our website.
  • The video makes various claims about potential detrimental health impacts to humans. Btk has an excellent safety record. You can find more information about the Washington State Department of Health’s review of Btk and Foray 48B on DOH’s website and on our website.
  • The video claims to show Btk in the air on her property. While Foray 48B can be seen far overhead when the plane first dispenses it, the product is not visible as it approaches the ground. Also, according to our ground observers, there was fog in the area. 

In addition to the video, this same individual has made other claims on social media both before and after the treatment.

  • The individual claims that we sprayed her property 19 times. Treating the entire 1,000-acre block requires several passes with the plane. Anyone in or near the treatment area would have heard the plane many times. However, no place in the treatment area was treated more than once.
  • There have been claims that we used a product other than Btk, which left an orange powder. Btk does not leave a powder but does leave a sticky residue. See our blog about what to expect during gypsy moth treatments
  • There have been claims that Btk killed her bees. Btk is not toxic to bees. In many years of using Btk, we have not had complaints of Btk killing bees. 

Our commitment

Our agency has been working for over 40 years to prevent gypsy moths from becoming established and have used Btk many times for this purpose. Btk is also used commonly around the U.S. and the world to control caterpillars for gypsy moth treatments and on organic farms. We chose this product because it is both safe and effective. Our own staff members are always stationed in treatment areas, whether conducted by air or on the ground, and have the highest exposure to Btk. They have never reported any ill effects from exposure to this product.

While Btk has a long-term, excellent safety record and is even approved for use in organic agriculture, the risk that gypsy moths pose not only to the environment but also to human health is substantial. While we continue to protect our environment from this devastating invasive pest, our goal is always to provide extensive outreach so that the public is aware when eradication takes place.

Outreach this year has included news releases, social media outreach and education, public open houses, four postcard mailings to addresses in or near the treatment area, signs in the treatment areas and promotion of the ability to sign up for email, text, or robocall notifications to find out when treatments will occur. We are planning two additional treatments and encourage those who would like to know when they occur to sign up for these notifications.

Wildtype EHV-1 detected in one King County horse, quarantine order issued

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian 

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has quarantined a King County facility near Redmond after a single laboratory-verified case of equine herpes virus EHV-1, non-neuropathogenic strain, was detected there. 

This “wildtype” strain of EHV-1 tends to be less contagious than the neuropathogenic type. 

On May 9, one horse at the facility tested positive for the disease. The horse is now isolated on the premises, and WSDA has quarantined the facility. The quarantine will last until 14 days after WSDA confirms no more signs of the disease and the horse tests negative.

The facility has cooperated fully with the quarantine order and is working to ensure strict biosecurity measures are in place. WSDA is tracing movements of horses off the premises and may issue additional quarantine orders if needed. 

Given the infectious nature of EHV-1, WSDA urges horse owners to follow the recommendations below.

Watch your horse for signs of possible infection, such as:

  • Fever of 102.5F or higher
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Swelling of the limbs
  • Spontaneous abortions
  • Neurological signs such as unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

Check your horse’s temperature twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Also, check before administering medications as some can lower body temperature.

Notify your veterinarian immediately if you detect any of the symptoms above. Your veterinarian may want to take nasal swabs for virus detection or blood samples for evidence of exposure to EHV-1.
When the virus is detected, WSDA and local veterinarians work closely with affected communities to ensure the best biosecurity standards are practiced. For more tips on keeping your own horses safe through good biosecurity practices, please see our previous blog post.

The time between exposure and illness from EHV-1 varies from two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with possible symptoms, practicing good biosecurity and contacting your veterinarian as soon as you suspect possible symptoms, you can help prevent the spread of this virus.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Gypsy moth caterpillar spraying - what to expect

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

In May, WSDA’s pest program will begin their project to eradicate gypsy moth populations detected in the Graham and Silverdale areas. Having been in many of the spray areas during the 2016 eradication project, I want to let people who live in or near one of the 2018 gypsy moth treatment areas what they can expect this year.

The day before treatments

Treatments are highly dependent on the weather, so WSDA usually makes the decision to spray about 24 hours in advance. If you have signed up for treatment notifications, you will receive an email, text, or robocall the day before treatments begin. We also post notice of pending treatments on WSDA’s Facebook and Twitter

The product used to treat for gypsy moth is Foray 48B. The active ingredient is Btk – a soil bacteria. Foray 48B is approved for use on organic food crops.

People who live in areas to be treated may want to close their windows, bring in outside toys, or cover their cars. Foray 48B is sticky, so bring in or cover outdoor items to prevent the need to wash them off after the treatments.

Cover or put your car in a garage to avoid having to clean
Btk off of your car. It is sticky.
If Btk does get on your car or other outdoor items, don’t worry – it won’t damage them. But because it is sticky, you will probably want to wash it off with soap and water as soon as possible. My car was in the spray zone for several treatments over a couple of weeks and one trip through the carwash removed all of the sticky residue. Luckily, Btk is much easier to remove than gypsy moth caterpillar droppings!

Treatment day

Airplane applying Btk - a soil bacteria - during 2016
gypsy moth eradication
Gypsy moth caterpillar spraying starts as early in the morning as possible – usually around sunrise (the pilot cannot legally spray in the dark) if the weather is good. Fog or wind, for example, can delay or even cancel spraying for the day.

Treatments will be conducted by airplane. The plane is red and white. It will fly over the treatment area at a relatively low altitude – about 250 feet above the ground. You may hear the airplane but I'm happy to say that it is much quieter than a helicopter, which WSDA has used for these treatments in the past.

The plane will make several passes over each treatment area until the entire area has been covered. The plane has guidance systems and GPS to make sure that it is on target. The release of the Btk automatically starts when the plane enters the treatment area and stops when the plane leaves, ensuring that only the target area is treated.

The spray comes out in a very fine mist. It is so fine, in fact, that if you are outside when the Btk is applied you will not even feel the spray. I didn't and neither did the other WSDA employees in the treatment areas in 2016. You will notice an odor in the air; it has a bit of an earthy scent to it.

The Washington State Department of Health says that Btk – and Foray 48B specifically – poses very low risk to human health. Still, if you want to avoid contact with the spray, the Department of Health recommends remaining indoors during the spray and for 30 minutes afterward. If you do come in contact with the spray, they recommend washing with soap and water. I was in the spray area several times in 2016, washed with soap and water when I returned to the office and didn’t have any problems.

Even as safe as Btk is, if you believe you have had some reaction to the spray, you should see your doctor and/or report it to the Department of Health at 1-877-485-7316.

After treatments

Fine mist of Btk left on gypsy moth sample during treatment
As each treatment is completed at each site, those who have signed up for notices will receive a text message or robocall letting them know treatment is complete for the day. When treatments at both sites are complete, an email message will go out to those who have signed up for email alerts. We will also have real-time updates on Twitter letting people know when treatments are complete.

Because the gypsy moth caterpillars emerge over a period of about two weeks and Btk breaks down quickly in the environment, each site will be treated at least three times, with 3-14 days between treatments depending on the weather. You can expect the same pre- and post-treatment notification each time.

Summer trapping

After all gypsy moth caterpillar spraying is complete for the year, the next step will be to conduct intensive trapping for two years. This confirms the success of the eradication project. So you will likely see our traps in trees in your neighborhood or along a road. Please do not disturb them.

Gypsy moth caterpillars defoliated this forest in 2016
I have visited areas with gypsy moth infestations twice in my life. Seeing first-hand the damage they can do is astounding. Witnessing entire forests defoliated - and even trees killed - by gypsy moth caterpillars and having the "pleasure" of experiencing the gypsy moth caterpillar rash and poop falling like rain is something I'll never forget. It really brought home the reason - and continued need - for WSDA to keep gypsy moths from becoming established in our state as they have for 40 years.

If you have any questions about the eradication project or our gypsy moth program, you can visit our website at or call our gypsy moth hotline at 1-800-443-6684.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pesticide applicators can take steps to reduce drift

Joel Kangiser
Pesticide Management Division

Measuring nozzle output, as
practiced in a WSDA training
for pesticide applicators. 
As crop-planting and growing season gets into full swing, now is peak time for applying pesticides across Washington agriculture country. Pesticide applicators are responsible for assuring that pesticides do not drift off-target. 

Last year, WSDA’s Pesticide Management Division investigated 161 incidents involving potential violations of the state’s pesticide laws and 64 of those involved allegations of pesticides drifting onto neighboring property. So far this year, WSDA has received nine complaints of pesticide drift and most involve potential human exposure. All are currently being investigated. 

To ensure that pesticides do not drift beyond the intended treatment area, WSDA offers the following suggestions to reduce the risk.

  • Read the label on the pesticides being applied and abide by all precautions and restrictions on safe handling, necessary protective equipment, buffers, the effect on crops and more.  
  • Pay special attention near sensitive areas such as highways, homes, schools and other occupied dwellings or where workers are present. 
  • Properly calibrate equipment, using the proper nozzles and pressure to keep the spray on-target.
  • Based on the amount of foliage and tree size and shape, optimize your sprayer by using the appropriate volumes of water and air, and the correct pressure and nozzle size.  
  • Scout the areas bordering the place that’s being treated.
  • Evaluate conditions such as wind speed, wind direction, and temperature.
  • Stop applying immediately if conditions change in ways that increase the risk of drift to unsafe levels or if anyone approaches the area without proper protection.  
    Illustration of the steps to calibrate a sprayer, from a
    WSDA training presentation for pesticide applicators.

WSDA licenses about 28,000 pesticide applicators, dealers, consultants and inspectors. Licensees are trained to apply pesticides safely. If problems do occur, WSDA will investigate complaints that allege the state’s pesticide laws have been violated -- including cases of drift, worker exposure, or environmental harm. 

To file a complaint, email or call toll free to 1-877-301-4555. When you call, have as much information as possible ready to share with the investigator. 

The state Department of Health investigates potential cases of pesticide illnesses. Visit their website for more information. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Farm to Food Pantry– a win-win for farmers and food pantries

Nichole Garden
Food Assistance 

The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Food Assistance programs, in partnership with Rotary First Harvest, is kicking off the fifth year of its Farm to Food Pantry initiative. The goal is to make more fresh produce available to hungry people by connecting local farms to food pantries. This initiative also helps promote a community-based food system, increasing the viability and success of both agricultural producers and emergency food assistance providers.

What is the Farm to Food Pantry Initiative?

WSDA contracts with Rotary First Harvest of Seattle to coordinate the allocation of grant funds. These funds are distributed to lead agencies involved in the emergency food system that, in turn, use the money to buy produce directly from local growers. These lead agencies are asked to obtain matching funds from private groups, in some cases doubling the amount available to purchase produce.

What’s New?

WSDA has launched a Farm to Food Pantry Seal that lead agencies, food pantries, farmers, and donors can use to display their participation in the initiative. The seal was created as part of a collaboration between WSDA and Farm to Food Pantry participants. Elements included in the seal  came from the feedback we received when speaking with the farmers, food pantries and lead agencies that will use it. This seal is meant to give farmers a marketing tool for their produce and food pantries a tool to leverage additional donations.

What Impact is the Initiative Making?

Since our pilot in 2014, WSDA has invested $98,467 in the initiative, with $77,000 of that going directly to farmers. Farmers also received $52,181 in local match and SNAP-Ed funding for a grand total of $129,181 targeted for farm direct purchases. This resulted in food pantries receiving over 395,882 lbs. of purchased, donated, and/or gleaned, nutrient dense produce to distribute to low-income families in the state of Washington.

Next Steps

This year, WSDA has carved out $33,000 in existing state and SNAP-Ed funds to pay local farmers in 18 Washington counties. These counties include: Asotin, Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Island, Jefferson, King, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skagit, Snohomish, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima. In addition to the 12 lead agencies participating in 2017, Opportunities Industrialization Center in Yakima and the South King County Food Coalition in Des Moines are joining the initiative for the first time.

Where can I Learn More?

More details on the initiative, with feedback from the participating food pantries and farmers are included in the 2017 Farm to Food Pantry Report. Visit our Farm to Food Pantry webpage  to review the report, past reports and learn more about our project. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Practicing to protect the food supply post-disaster

Sonia Soelter
WSDA Emergency Management

Last month several WSDA staff participated in a multi-agency exercise to prepare for one of the least-known agency responsibilities: protecting the food supply after a
radiological incident.

PNW’s only nuclear power plant 

Columbia Generating Station near Richland
The Pacific Northwest has only one active nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generation Station (CGS). The federal government requires that nuclear facilities such as CGS demonstrate that they can appropriately respond to protect the public if there were an incident at the facility that resulted in the release of harmful levels of radiation. They demonstrate this readiness by having regular exercises that simulate nuclear incidents. Several local and state agencies participate in these exercises, including WSDA.

Protecting the food supply

WSDA plays a critical role ensuring the safety of the food supply both at the time of a radiological material release and in the months that follow. The agency has two main responsibilities:

  • Issuing an “ag advisory” which provides the community with advice about how to protect their food and water supplies from potential radiological exposure. 
  • Establishing food control areas to prevent contaminated food from entering the food supply chain. 

It was the first of these responsibilities – issuing the ag advisory – that WSDA staff practiced during last month’s exercise.

Practice makes perfect

WSDA’s Rapid Response and Emergency Management Program works closely with the Food Safety and Consumer Services Division, the Animal Services Division and the Communications Office to plan, prepare for, and practice for these events.

During the exercise, participants play out a fictitious scenario using real-world data. For example, the scenario may be that a malfunction has resulted in the release of a plume of radiation. Exercise participants then use real-time weather information to make decisions about how to respond to the incident.

During the exercise, WSDA food-safety staff work with county representatives to identify which counties may be impacted by the scenario. They use this information to draft the ag advisory, which is then coordinated with the other participating agencies and released to the media. Speed is key to getting the advisory out, so farmers and the public can take to protect food and water supplies before any potential exposure. The ag advisory recommends things like:

  • Sheltering animals.
  • Covering animal food and water supplies.
  • Not transporting agricultural products out of the area.

Feedback from other exercise participants, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) which monitored and graded the exercise, was positive. WSDA staff have dramatically sped up the process for issuing the ag advisory over the years, and they continue to look for ways to improve.

The real-world implication for the public is that they will get information in time to take actions to protect our food supply, which is important for both the health of Washingtonians and our agricultural economy.

As WSDA practices for emergencies, we encourage residents to prepare as well. Check out our website for information about WSDA’s disaster response and how you can prepare for emergencies, such as a nuclear event.

Interested in learning more about the Columbia Generating Station? Check out the video below!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Nine ways to celebrate Washington Shellfish Week April 15–21

Karla Salp

Washington state leads the nation in the production of many agriculture commodities, such as apples, cherries, and even tulip bulbs. But another commodity in which we are tops is sometimes forgotten: shellfish.

Enjoyed for generations

Shellfish – including oysters, clams and muscles – have long been an important staple of area’s diet as tribal communities harvested and enjoyed shellfish from the Puget Sound and coastal beaches for generations. Today, both tribes and Washington’s shellfish farmers continue the tradition and cultivate shellfish that are enjoyed both locally and around the world; over 20 million pounds of shellfish are produced in Washington’s waters each year.

Boon to the environment

The fact that Washington leads the nation in shellfish production is good news not only for the economy, but for the environment as well.

Shellfish are a key part of our marine ecosystems by helping filter and clean water which in turn promotes healthy growth of seagrass habitats.

Shellfish beds also act like reefs, providing habitat and increasing biodiversity in our waters. Scientists consistently find higher populations of marine life around shellfish beds.

Threats to shellfish

No agricultural endeavor is without its challenges, though, and shellfish are no different.

Less than 4% of historic core populations of native Olympia oysters remain in Puget Sound. Shellfish growers and the Washington State Shellfish Initiative are working to restore historic locations that will create nearshore habitat and natural filtration.

Shellfish also face pressure from invasive species, ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, habitat destruction and urban runoff. Shellfish growers, researchers and many government agencies are working together to identify and mitigate the threats to our shellfish, ensuring that shellfish will continue to remain a Washington staple for generations to come.

Join the celebration

Here are nine ideas for digging into Washington Shellfish Week:

Whether you are a shellfish lover or just appreciate their environmental benefits, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate shellfish this week.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Spring is here – time to vaccinate your horse for West Nile virus

Dr. Thomas Gilliom
WSDA field veterinarian 

Mosquito season is upon us which means it’s time to make sure your horses are vaccinated for West Nile virus. Washington often reports more cases of West Nile virus in horses than most other states in the nation, making vaccinations all the more important.

Usually, most confirmed cases of West Nile virus are in the central and eastern part of our state. Cases crop up beginning in late spring and through the summer and fall, which is also prime mosquito season.

Since the virus spreads by mosquitoes, there are no mass outbreaks affecting several horses at once, but rather just one or two cases at a time. Last year, nine horses were diagnosed with West Nile virus statewide, but just two years earlier, 36 cases were reported in Washington, with several horses dying or being euthanized as a result of the disease.

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.

Most horses exposed to the West Nile virus don’t show any symptoms. When they do become ill, however, symptoms can include lack of coordination, loss of appetite, confusion, fever, stiffness, and muscle weakness, particularly in their hindquarters. The disease is fatal in about a third of the cases where these symptoms show up.

West Nile virus can be prevented with vaccination and spring is when horse owners should plan to include West Nile virus with annual equine vaccinations.

The vaccine is most effective when given to horses early in the mosquito season. Horses require two doses of the vaccine initially, and then boosters at least annually.

Use insect repellent and fly sheets to reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Also,look for and eliminate areas with standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Get rid of old tires or other areas where rain water can accumulate. It’s even a good idea to refresh the water in water troughs weekly.

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.

Friday, April 6, 2018

EHV-1 detected in horse at equine facility, quarantine order issued

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has quarantined a facility in King County after a single laboratory-verified case of equine herpes virus EHV-1, neuropathogenic strain, was detected there.

On April 5, a horse at the Gold Creek Equine Facility in Woodinville tested positive for EHV-1. The horse has been moved to an isolated area on the premises and WSDA has quarantined the facility. Temperatures of the horses at the facility will be taken twice daily.

Gold Creek has cooperated fully with the quarantine order and operators there are working to ensure strict biosecurity measures are in place. WSDA is tracing movements of horses off the premises prior to the quarantine and may issue additional quarantine orders if needed.

Given the highly infectious nature of the virus, WSDA is urging horse owners to follow these recommendations:

  • Watch your horse for signs of possible infection, such as:
    • Fever of 102.5F or higher
    • Discharge from the eyes or nose
    • Respiratory symptoms
    • Swelling of the limbs
    • Spontaneous abortions
    • Neurological signs such as unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.
  • Check your horse’s temperature twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Also, check before administering medications as some can lower body temperature.
  • Notify your veterinarian immediately if you detect any of the symptoms above. Your veterinarian may want to take nasal swabs for virus detection or blood samples for evidence of exposure to EHV-1.
More information about testing, vaccines and biosecurity can be found in our previous blog about EHV-1.  This is a developing situation. We will update this blog as we learn more.

4/9/18 UPDATE: 

As a precautionary measure, on April 6 WSDA issued quarantine orders for two additional locations in Snohomish County where horses from Gold Creek had been transported prior to WSDA issuing the initial quarantine. The additional locations include a stable in Snohomish and a private residence in Monroe.

Horses at these additional sites are being monitored by veterinarians, but none have shown any signs of illness. All three sites are cooperating with the quarantine orders and are working to ensure strict biosecurity measures are in place.

4/26/18 UPDATE: 

The quarantine at Gold Creek remains in place although no other horses have tested positive or displayed neurological signs. The quarantine will remain until the infected horse, has had two negative tests for EHV-1 (the horse has had one negative swab since the initial detection and is awaiting a second negative test for confirmation.)

The quarantines on the other two facilities have been lifted as no horses tested positive or displayed symptoms.

5/1/18 UPDATE:

We're happy to update that all quarantines have now been lifted, including the quarantine at Gold Creek Equestrian. The horse that initially tested positive at Gold Creek has subsequently had two negative tests and is expected to make a full recovery. No other horses, at Gold Creek or the other two facilities that were quarantined, have tested positive or showed signs of EHV-1. Many thanks to all of these facilities for their excellent response in keeping this detection contained and protecting animal health!

Sign up soon for free pesticide disposal in Eastern Washington

Joe Hoffman
WSDA Waste Pesticide Program

A WSDA employee holds a can of DDT,
collected at a waste pesticide disposal event. 
If you have agricultural or commercial-grade pesticides you want to be rid of, WSDA has a program for you! WSDA’s Waste Pesticide Program provides a free public service collecting unwanted pesticides from farmers, businesses, and public agencies.

Waste pesticide collection events are scheduled in May in four cities in Eastern Washington. If you want to participate, you’ll need to submit in advance an inventory of the products you want disposed. But hurry, deadlines to submit are fast approaching, especially for the first two events.  

Collection site | Inventory due | Event date
Yakima                    April 12              May 8
Prosser                   April 12              May 10
Wenatchee             April 26              May 31

Once you’ve submitted your inventory list, we’ll contact you with details about the exact collection location and time, and what to expect. 

Storage drums holding waste pesticides at a collection event.
Waste pesticide collection events smoothly transfer waste product from pickup trucks and cars to large semis, with trained professionals recording the pesticide container and carefully repackaging it for its long trek to disposal. 

Begun in 1988, the Waste Pesticide Program has collected and properly disposed of more than 3.3 million pounds of waste pesticides from more than 8,250 customers. 

The program aims to reduce the amount of unusable pesticides and prevent currently used pesticides from becoming waste through education and specialized technical assistance. If old pesticides aren’t collected properly, their aging, potentially compromised containers can leak hazardous chemicals into surrounding soil and water.

For more details and instructions on how to submit an inventory, see the program’s webpage or you may email, or call 1-877-301-4555.

UPDATE (5/18/18) - The collection event in Okanogan, scheduled for May 30, has been CANCELLED due to flooding in the area. This collection will be rescheduled at a later date.   

Friday, March 30, 2018

Washington agriculture, exports and China

Hector Castro
WSDA Communications 

For farmers, ranchers and those producing food and drink in Washington, international markets are crucial to maintaining a robust agriculture industry.

Washington exports about 30 percent of the food and agricultural products produced here, and the third largest market for our products is China. This is one reason WSDA is closely following developments regarding increased tariffs proposed on some imports from China, followed by the response from China to impose higher tariffs on 128 U.S. products.

Eight Washington agricultural products are on the list China has marked as subject to higher tariffs. Together, those products generated $120 million in revenue in 2017 in exports to China alone. Statistics in both charts below are based on the calendar year and are estimates based on data from World Trade Atlas.

Washington ag products possibly subject to higher tariffs by China

2017 value in export to China 
Sweet Cherries                         
$99.7 million
Fresh Apples                           
$17.6 million
$1.6 million
Fresh Pears                             
Dried Fruit                               
Frozen Fruits & Berries           
Fresh Cranberries                   
Fresh Plums                             

Two of the products listed, sweet cherries and fresh apples, are also among Washington’s top 10 ag exports to China. In fact, China is now the number one market for Washington sweet cherries. All told, Washington ag and food exports to China generated $594 million in export revenue in 2017. 

Top 10 exports to China in 2017

Dollar Value
Fish and Seafood                              
$154.5 million
#2 market
$103.6 million             
#3 market
Sweet Cherries                      
$99.7 million
#1 market
Frozen French Fries                  
$54.4 million                
#3 market
White Wheat                              
$45.1 million               
#5 market
Dairy Products                           
$25 million                  
#5 market
Fresh Apples                             
$17.6 million                
#10 market
Seeds (fruit, veg, forage)           
$12.3 million                
#2 market
Frozen Vegetables                    
$10.5 million                
#2 market
$10.3 million                
#1 market
Like others in the agriculture industry, WSDA will continue to monitor the developing tariff situation. The negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the recent completion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement without U.S. involvement are also expected to affect the agriculture industry, both in Washington and around the county.

With trade being so crucial, WSDA will continue to work with the agriculture industry and our federal partners to make sure that the voice of farmers, ranchers and food producers is heard.

Work also continues on maintaining and developing export markets for our state. Members of the WSDA International Marketing Program are already scheduled to participate in two trade activities involving China - one in May and another in June.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Industrial Hemp Research Pilot gets funding to resume activities

Kathy Davis
WSDA Communications

Bags of industrial hemp seed obtained by WSDA for the pilot research pilot. 
Washington state’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot (IHRP) received funding in the supplemental operating budget signed by Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday. The $100,000 appropriation will allow the program to stay afloat for the next growing season. 

With this one-time funding, WSDA will resume activities such as processing applications to participate in the program. It will also allow the agency to recruit for an IHRP coordinator to oversee the program. That position has been vacant since June 2017.  

The IHRP was created in state law in 2016 with a one-time appropriation to get the new program up and running. WSDA was given authority to establish and collect fees to finance it into the future. 

During the first growing season last year, WSDA issued seven licenses. The revenue generated by those fees alone was not enough to sustain the program beyond the first year. The agency continued to accept license applications, but has not collected fees or processed any applications.  

Restarting operations

“With this legislative funding, we can continue to serve the industrial hemp pioneers in our state for at least the next year,” said Jason Ferrante, assistant director of WSDA’s Commodity Inspection Division. 

Ferrante noted that WSDA will assess participation in and financial support of the program through this spring and summer. Ultimately, Washington’s industrial hemp needs to be self-supporting, which may involve adjusting the fee structure.  

Ferrante said WSDA will respond to customer feedback by simplifying the application forms. The agency will also provide more resources for potential applicants, such as the Liquor and Cannabis Board map of marijuana growing locations since industrial hemp cannot be grown within four miles of marijuana. 

Industrial hemp in WA

Of the 2017 IHRP licensees, the four licensed growers planted 180 acres of industrial hemp. One license was issued for seed distribution and two were some combination of processing, marketing, and growing.

Industrial hemp has many potential uses. It is primarily grown as a source of fiber for textiles, rope, paper and building materials. Hemp seed is used for food and oil. The plants can be a source of livestock feed and bedding. 

As a cannabis plant, industrial hemp is considered a controlled substance under federal law. However, the 2014 farm bill authorized state agriculture departments to oversee growing the crop for research purposes. With legislative approval in 2016, WSDA launched the program, adopted rules and began processing licenses.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Washington rabbit owners - be aware of deadly rabbit virus reported in British Columbia

Dr. Lyndon Badcoe 
Animal Health Program, 
Field veterinarian 

A deadly virus that infects both domestic and feral European rabbits has been detected in British Columbia, and is good reason for owners of rabbits or fair managers with rabbit shows to take extra precautions this year. It is not known how this new rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) serotype virus 2 would affect native North American wild rabbits.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported the detection of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) serotype virus 2, or RHDV2, on March 8. Rabbit deaths were reported on Vancouver Island, and there are tests in progress to determine if this disease has spread to the Canadian mainland. Officials in Canada are currently reviewing a vaccine for RHDV2, but there is no vaccine available in the U.S.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease, or RHD, is easily spread among rabbits, causes a high rate of infection and death, and the agent (calicivirus) is very stable in the environment. The first signs of the disease can take up to nine days following infection, but affected rabbits can also develop a fever and die within 12 to 36 hours.

European rabbits have been shown to be affected by RHD and are the type of rabbit most commonly used as show animals by 4H, FFA and other hobby groups. The rabbits that died in British Columbia were European rabbits that had gone feral. It is not known how the virus would affect native North American rabbits, which are typically cottontail and jack rabbits.

Protecting your rabbit 

Since there are no vaccines currently available in the U.S. for the virus, the best way to protect your rabbits is by practicing good biosecurity, including good sanitation and disinfection, and keeping new rabbits separated from your existing flock.

With fairs, shows and exhibitions coming up soon, there is always the concern that someone could bring an infected rabbit from an area where the disease has been reported.

Remember that a certificate of veterinary inspection must accompany all animals entering Washington State, including rabbits.

Rabbits can shed the virus in urine or feces for as long as four weeks after infection. It can be spread on contaminated food, bedding, fur and water, or by direct contact with infected animals or contaminated objects. Rabbits can become infected through oral, nasal, or conjunctival routes in the eyes.

While the disease does not affect humans, it can be spread through contaminated clothing or vehicles, or other animal handling equipment. Biting insects, birds, rodents, and wild animals can also spread the virus. The virus can survive for long periods of time in the environment and remain infectious to animals.

Signs of infection in rabbits include:
  • Listlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Congested membranes around the eyes 
  • Nervousness 
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Excitement or paddling 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Blood-stained, frothy nasal discharge upon death
If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, contact your veterinarian. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease must be reported to state or federal authorities immediately upon diagnosis or suspicion of the disease.

To report a diagnosis or an unexplained increase in deaths among rabbits, you can contact WSDA at 360-902-1878 or 1-800-606-3056. Wild rabbit die-offs can be reported at or by visiting to file a report online.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease in the RHD form has occurred in the U.S. before, back in 2000 in Iowa and in 2001 in Michigan, New York and Utah. However, the outbreaks were restricted to small groups of affected rabbits. RHDV2 has never been reported in the U.S.

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