Thursday, June 28, 2018

Animal feed inspection fee audits explained

Liz Beckman
Animal Feed Program

To protect the health of animals and humans, WSDA’s Animal Feed Program regulates commercial animal feed for household pets, as well as farm livestock and poultry. 

Those who make or distribute – or are listed on the label as responsible for – animal feed in Washington state must be licensed or registered and pay fees. Inspection fees pay for agency services that help the industry comply with state and federal laws, and ensure that animal food is safe. 

We also provide auditing services to our customers. Audits maintain a level playing field for the industry, ensuring that businesses are paying the correct amount of fees – no more, no less. Audits also open a dialog between the department and fee-payers, so we can provide education and technical assistance. 

If you are one of the approximately 240 animal feed registrants or licensees in the state, and we identify your company for an audit, don’t panic. We aim to make the process as efficient, collaborative and transparent as possible. 

Note that we may ask licensees or registrants located outside the state for a desk audit and have you send information to us. 

Steps in the audit process 

First, we will contact your business and schedule the audit. Next we have a conversation to discuss your company’s business and accounting system. This helps determine which records we will need to review. 
Animal feed storage facility.

From the start, and throughout the audit process, we welcome questions. We want to create a mutually beneficial learning experience. 

Records review

We will ask you to make available production records, unique software reports (electronic or hard copy), sales invoices, scale tickets, bills of lading and receipts for the period being audited. 

Based on our initial conversation, we may request other documents used for verification. Some information may not be reviewed in detail because it has little or no effect on inspection fees.

Note that records detailing tonnage of commercial feed distributed within Washington state are not considered public information and therefore, will be kept private.  

After the review

The auditor will ask you to clarify any inconsistencies in a closing conference. 

You’ll receive a preliminary report shortly afterward. Be sure to review this report carefully and ask if any information is unclear. This is your opportunity to make corrections and provide additional documentation if necessary. 

If the preliminary report is revised, we’ll share it with you again. 

If we find that your business is in full compliance, we will send a final audit report within about three weeks.

If the audit reveals inconsistencies with payment of your inspection fees, the final report will include an invoice with a detailed breakdown of fees that you either owe or overpaid. 

If you owe WSDA inspection and late fees, these are due within 30 days of receiving the audit report and invoice. State law authorizes the department to collect this debt. 

If the audit report shows that you have overpaid fees, the department will refund the identified amount and mail you a check. 

Audit follow-up

If you disagree with the results of your audit report, you have the right to an appeal. We must receive your written request for an appeal within 30 days of the final report date. 

Following the audit process, we will send you a survey asking how the process was for you. Results will be kept confidential, so please be candid. We use feedback from these surveys to identify areas we need to improve and ones that are successful. 

Please contact me at or by phone at 360-902-1942 if you have questions about this process.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Growing healthy potato crops through seed potato certification

Cindy Cooper
Plant Services Program 

WSDA’s Plant Services Program works with the potato industry year round to grow seed potatoes, certifying they are inspected and tested for harmful diseases or pests that could ruin a crop. Each year, Washington farmers produce thousands of acres of commercial potatoes, and it all starts with certified seed.

Farmers don’t plant traditional seeds to grow potatoes, they plant a part of the potato itself and it’s critical that these seed potatoes be healthy to ensure a healthy crop.

Visiting the annual seed potato lot trials in Othello.
Last week, several specialists with our Plant Services Program participated in the annual seed potato lot trials near Othello. For these trials, potato growers submit potato seed in lots to be planted and 'read' for virus and fungal disease symptoms. The reading results are then published so they are available for potential buyers.

These trials are a collaboration involving researchers with Washington State University, Oregon State University, University of Idaho, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Washington Potato Commission and other potato industry groups.

This year's trials included a USDA-sponsored demonstration planting of seed potatoes inoculated with different strains of the PVY virus, or Potato Virus Y. This plant disease has varying effects on different potato varieties, sometimes showing disease symptoms, like spots, on the foliage and, in some cases, remaining latent with no visual symptoms at all. The virus only affects plants, not animals, but can be spread through aphid activity.
Examining the demo plot of PVY infected plants. 
The USDA demo and training for seed potato inspectors in Washington and neighboring states is part of a national training effort to combat the spread of PVY.

About 17 states certify seed potatoes for interstate planting. Washington has about 3,500 acres of certified seed this year, with 10 growers participating in the program.

A complete list of all the seed potato lots certified in the past year is available on our website. You can visit our Plant Services Program webpage for more info.

Thanks to Plant Services Program environmental specialist Sue Welch for the photos.

Monday, June 18, 2018

American Flowers Week promotes cut-flower producers

Katie Lynd
Regional Markets Program

Red, white and blue… blooms? We’ll be seeing these patriotic colors as we celebrate our nation’s independence. Now, for the fourth consecutive year, they take center stage during American Flowers Week (June 28-July 4) – a time to highlight local flowers and the people who grow and design with them.

Close to home, WSDA Regional Markets and the Washington State Farm Bureau are partnering on a project funded by a WSDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to market and promote Washington cut flowers. By promoting American Flowers Week through social media with the hashtag #americanflowersweek, #WAgrown, and #WAflowers, project partners hope to make more flower growers in Washington aware of this marketing opportunity and help consumers get to know where their blooms come from.

Triple Wren Farms with their cut flowers in Ferndale, WA
American Flowers Week, a project of engages the public, policymakers and the media in a conversation about the origins of their flowers. The campaign is timed to coincide with America’s Independence Day on July 4th, providing florists, retailers, wholesalers and flower farmers a patriotic opportunity to promote American-grown flowers.

“Red, white and blue blooms and bouquets are encouraged,” says campaign founder Debra Prinzing of Slow Flowers. "With Washington's status as the nation's second largest state producing cut flowers, flower farmers and florists in the Evergreen State have a unique platform to tell their story through local and seasonal flowers."

How can you get involved? Share your photos of local flowers on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and don’t forget to tag your farmer or florist! You can also use the visual resources available at, including logos and social media badges, a coloring map and downloadable fact sheets and infographics.

We can’t wait to see what creative endeavors our farming community brings to #americanflowersweek. Share your blooms and include #WAgrown and #WAflowers as well. We hope to highlight some farms and flowers on WSDA’s social media channels later this month. Join us for American Flowers Week!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

WSDA report examines the challenge of getting local produce to schools and other institutions

Chris Iberle
WSDA Regional Markets 

Serving local produce and minimally processed foods is a goal for many school cafeterias and other institutions, but there are challenges to reaching that end. To understand the challenges and potential solutions better, WSDA’s Regional Markets team studied supply chains in Washington state for local, minimally processed food from farm to school for 2016-2017.

The study, “Value Chain Strategies for Source-Identified Minimally Processed Produce for the School Market,” was completed earlier this year.

The study also sought to identify strategies for developing a “value chain” infrastructure and building relationships to help local farms meet the demand for these products from schools, hospitals, and other institutional buyers.

The value chain model 

A value chain model is one that considers how value is added to a product or service at each step along the supply chain to best meet customer needs. The model seeks to maximize the business benefit that comes from engaging interested parties at all steps along the chain, from the initial supplier through the end customer.

Value chains often provide increased transparency so it is clear where the food is coming from and how it is produced. They also foster collaboration between suppliers, distributors, processors, sellers, and buyers.

Many value chains help develop relationships among the various partners built on shared values, reflected in their business operations and the products they make. Below are some of the findings of the report.

Farmers working together 

In Washington state, several different groups of farmers have formed cooperatives and food hubs in order to develop value chain relationships with processors, other food businesses, and their end customers.

WSDA studied some of these food hubs and small farmer co-ops to understand what barriers they encounter when developing source-identified, minimally processed products such as fresh cut fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, or Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) vegetables and berries, for schools and institutional markets. WSDA also identified some strategies that farmers and food hubs are using to overcome those barriers and meet school demand for minimally processed produce.

Access to processing

The availability of appropriate, minimal processing infrastructure, such as space and equipment to cut, freeze or dehydrate food, varies widely depending on the region and the crop. Finding scale-appropriate processing equipment and meeting minimum volume requirements for frozen processors was especially challenging. While fresh cut processing services are available in some regions and for some products, the lack of information about them and the lack of coordination among these services means less access for smaller farms.

Existing and emerging supply chain models

One emerging supply chain model for providing source-identified, minimally processed fruits and vegetables to schools and other higher-volume markets appears to be food hubs, which are currently poised to meet this demand in three main ways, each with their own opportunities and challenges:
  1. Processing capacity: Some food hubs have developed internal infrastructure to process their own members’ produce into specific products. They are still working to refine their operations, marketing, and suppliers to achieve a financially and operationally viable business model. 
  2. Sales of farmer-processed products: Some food hubs do not have their own processing infrastructure, but may have individual farmer members who already produce their own processed product that is sold through the food hub. This may offer a good fit for meeting institutional buyer needs.
  3. New partnerships: Some farms and food hubs already sell to a small or medium sized processor, and could launch or develop source-identified products with a processor to better serve K-12 school buyer needs. 
Learning from businesses building new relationships

Through interviews and surveys, WSDA learned more about traditional supply chain operators, such as conventional processors, and emerging alternatives, like food hubs and farmer cooperatives, and believe both can learn from each other to foster value chain development.

Conventional and traditional agricultural minimal processing infrastructure either no longer exists or has consolidated to serve primarily high-volume, larger-scale farms. This leaves little room for custom runs to serve smaller farms or for purchasing raw product from smaller-scale suppliers. Traditional processors have developed flexible, competitively-priced products that meet some school buyer needs, but face challenges sourcing from local farms and building value chain partnerships, such as co-packing for farmers, food hubs, or schools.

Negotiating values, relationships, and new participants

WSDA tried to understand whether new physical infrastructure are needed to fill the supply chain gap, or whether new relationships and integrating new participants in the value chain could fill this need.

Overall, there is high demand for specialized, mechanized facilities and equipment for processing, product storage, and transportation at small and medium scales, oriented to local regional markets. Until further investment in infrastructure is made, or capacity for new processing is built within current staffing or facilities, food hubs and small to mid-sized farms will have very limited access to the processing services they need within their region.

The full report includes a profile of the five food hubs that participated in the research project, and four case studies on specific products (dried treefruit, sliced carrots, frozen strawberries, and bagged salad mix).

To assist food hubs and small farmer co-ops with these issues, WSDA developed a toolkit for product development and potential supply chain partnerships. This also includes a Salesforce database to help with networking and referral services to support regional links in produce value chains. Simply email to request these resources.

This project was funded and made possible thanks to a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Help track the lily leaf beetle

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Lily leaf beetles mating
Warmer weather and flowers are here and so is the lily leaf beetle! For the second year in a row, the Washington State Department of Agriculture is enlisting help from local gardeners to track this pest. Last year WSDA was seeking to collect the pest itself. This year we need help to track the development, life cycle and spread of this invasive beetle that threatens both homegrown and commercial lilies and fritillaries.

The beetle only recently invaded the Pacific Northwest and we do not know how (or if) its seasonal lifecycle differs from other locations where it has been found. So far, the beetles have been found in Redmond, Bellevue, Renton, Issaquah, and a gardener recently found one as far south as Maple Valley.

With the help of local gardeners, WSDA is hoping to learn:

  • When the beetle starts to mate and lay eggs.
  • When new generations emerge each summer.
  • When it stops reproducing and begins to overwinter at the end of the year.

Confirmed lily leaf beetle sightings as of May 31, 2018
Tracking the precise timing of the lily leaf beetle’s lifecycle will enable researchers and gardeners to know when to start looking for this pest and when different control activities – like releasing our parasitoid wasps – should be implemented.

You can help with this effort by simply scouting your lilies weekly and reporting what you see. WSU Extension and WSDA have created a website where your observations can be easily uploaded, giving us real-time mapping of this pest’s lifecycle. The lifecycle reporting website is located here. You can also find more information about the lily leaf beetle from Washington State University and in a previous WSDA blog post.

WSDA entomologist Maggie Freeman is heading up the lily leaf beetle project. You can email her with any questions about the project at

We wouldn’t be able to understand the life cycle of the lily leaf beetle locally or develop ways to control them without your help.

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.