Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrate Taste of Washington Day

Chris Iberle
WSDA Farm to School & Value Chains Specialist

Lentil sloppy joes, farmers sitting with school children, and the Washington Apple Crunch are all part of Taste Washington Day on October 3, when schools across the state will showcase locally grown foods in their cafeterias.

A past year's La Conner School District Taste Washington
 Day menu featured broccoli from Hedlin Farm in Mt. Vernon
The annual event highlights how school districts and our state’s agricultural industry can collaborate to provide locally-sourced school meals throughout the school year and celebrate farming across the state.

For the eighth year running, farmers and schools will partner with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Child Nutrition, and the Washington State Nutrition Association to feature Washington-grown foods in school cafeteria meals and celebrate farm to school programs.

So get ready to enjoy some white bean chicken chili, fresh Washington milk and kale Caesar salads, but make sure to save some room for one more big bite, the Washington Apple Crunch!

“The Farm to School initiative is a great reminder of the benefits of collaboration,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “For schools, it is a way to source locally produced foods to serve in their cafeterias, farmers are able to make connections that could provide another revenue source, and children enjoy lunch from crops grown in their home state.”

Riverview School District's Taste Washington Trolley
 filled with dragon tongue beans, lemon cucumbers,
Easter egg radishes, rainbow carrots, and green peppers.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed Oct. 3 as Taste Washington Day, recognizing the farmers that feed us and put locally grown food in our school cafeterias.

Schools sign up with WSDA to share information about their local menus, ingredients, or other Farm to School activities they have planned for the day. Schools also get free templates and materials from WSDA for their promotions.

Twenty-seven school districts and 20 farms are signed up so far this year. There’s still time for more to sign up, and over 50 districts are expected to participate. Some schools plan special events for Taste Washington Day, such as inviting a farmer to lunch, visits to school gardens, or doing the Washington Apple Crunch - when schools or classes all bite into a Washington apple at the same time, usually at noon.

“School Nutrition Programs all across Washington will spotlight our state's bountiful offerings of locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as locally raised beef, chicken and pork. These events provide opportunities to invite farmers to the classroom, plan a school garden, teach our kids about where our food comes from and encourage them to taste something new and fresh”, said Vickie Ayers, President of the Washington School Nutrition Association.

Putting it all together. School cafeteria cooks deliver
 flavor with locally sourced meat and produce. 
Farmers sign up with WSDA to be a part of Taste Washington Day and sell their products to schools or participate in school activities. WSDA Farm to School sends a list of farms that have signed up to participating schools and helps with local food procurement by matching farms and schools, finding farmers to participate in school events, and other logistics.

This year, schools are planning all kinds of activities.

Sometimes the farm is already at the school. WSDA staff visiting
 the Freedom Farmers at Olympia School District for
 Taste Washington Day 2017
Lopez Island School District has been serving meals made of ingredients from within 25 miles of the school throughout September, including produce from the Lopez Island Farm Education program’s school garden. Pullman Public Schools will serve Washington grown lentil sloppy joes and brownies and feature a visit from Mr. Lentil. Grandview School District will do a large Washington Apple Crunch at noon with teachers and students in classrooms and cafeterias across the district.

This is the first Taste Washington Day put on with support from the Washington State Farm to School Network. Launched in May 2018, with over 160 members, network members include school nutrition staff, farmers, teachers, school gardeners, non-profits and state agencies working together to grow farm to school in the state. Through the network, members are learning from each other, sharing resources, and many are a part of Taste Washington Day celebrations. The Washington State Farm to School Network is also a way to find out what’s happening with farm to school in your community, get involved, and illustrate the impacts of farm to school across the state.

Taste Washington Day is popular with farmers, school administrators, students and parents. Many participating schools use the day to highlight what “farm to school” means to them.  At least 100 districts in Washington State do some form of farm to school throughout the year, such as buying foods from Washington farmers or offering agricultural education. The USDA estimates schools spend over $17 million on Washington grown produce during the school year.

Visit the WSDA Farm to School program’s Taste Washington Day web page for more information or contact Chris Iberle at (206) 256-1874.

Friday, September 21, 2018

$4.6 million awarded for Washington specialty crops

Leisa Schumaker 
WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program 

Could extracts from wood decay fungi be used to formulate treatments for honey bee viruses? Could a novel strain of fungus be used as a biological control agent to control bee-killing Varroa mites? Washington State University researchers think so, and with the help of a new, quarter million dollar federal grant, they are continuing research that could improve honey bee health and the long-term vitality of Washington’s tree fruit, berry, vegetable, and horticultural crops.
WSU bee researchers are among 25 Washington recipients
 of 2018 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.  

WSU bee researchers are among 25 recipients of $4.6 million in 2018 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funds awarded by WSDA for innovative projects to support the state’s fruit, vegetable, and nursery industry through the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBG).

The SCBG Program was created to support the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. In awarding these funds, WSDA selected projects that will directly benefit specialty crop producers, address critical issues to the industry, and contain strong performance measures.

Awards for individual projects range from $25,000 to $250,000 and will go to agricultural commodity commissions, non-profit organizations, Washington State University, USDA-ARS and WSDA.

This year the block grant is funding a variety of projects including some designed to ensure the sustainability of honey bee pollination, grow wholesale prospects for specialty crop producers in Whatcom and Skagit counties, evaluate agriculture water disinfection treatments, and detect potato pathogens. Berries, potatoes, cucurbit crops, tree fruit, asparagus, horticultural seeds, wine grapes, and apples all stand to benefit from these projects.

New application deadline

If you are interested in applying for a grant, please note: the application period for WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program has been moved up by several months this year. The Request for Concept Proposals (RFCP) released this month has a 4 p.m., November 2, 2018 deadline. In past years the proposals were due in February. The new RFCP period gives applicants an additional month to complete the concept proposals for projects that would be funded in 2019.

Other grant program changes

In addition to the new deadline, the SCBG program will no longer accept Food Safety Research projects through the competitive process. Food Safety projects for Washington should be submitted through the Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) competitive process, where they will be reviewed for eligibility, evaluated and scored through their technical review process. Top projects benefiting Washington specialty crops that make it through CPS’s competitive process will be provided to WSDA for possible funding.

The first step in applying for grant funding is to submit a brief concept proposal through our online application system. WSDA staff will review the concept proposals. Successful applicants will be asked to submit full proposals for further review.

Visit the SCBG webpage for application information, forms and schedules. For additional SCBG information, go to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service webpage or contact WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program manager Leisa Schumaker at or (360) 902-2091.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Climbing trees to protect the environment

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Tiffany Pahs takes a selfie up in the tree canopy
Last month a team of nine WSDA biologists learned how to do something most hadn’t done since childhood – climb trees.

The tree climbing training was held at USDA’s Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) eradication facility in Ohio. The five-day course was the start of an effort to build the skills of agency staff and prepare them to respond rapidly to new invasive pest detections.

The week included learning various ways to climb and move about the canopy of trees, learning the characteristics of different species of trees and which are appropriate for climbing, and of course, safety. Each person received one-on-one training with an instructor. One instructor said the course was like trying to cram one year of tree climbing knowledge into a week.

Susan Brush high up in the trees
“It was fun, but exhausting,” Tiffany Pahs, gypsy moth survey coordinator for WSDA’s pest program, said.

In addition to the mechanics of climbing trees, the team also had classroom time when they learned how to identify ALB and the damage they cause to trees.
Gear used to help climb trees

“When it comes to inspecting damage high up in the canopy of a tree, there are really only two options – climb up to inspect the damage or cut the tree down. With this training, we can inspect trees while keeping them standing,” Pahs said.
Merely by being present at the training location brought home the reality of the massive damage that invasive pests can do to the team. When training, they would hear trees crash to the ground – dead and falling ash trees destroyed by Emerald Ash Borer infestations.

The week-long training was the start of a certification process for both climbing trees and inspecting them for insect damage. The team plans to continue their training and become fully certified in the upcoming months.

When it comes to invasive species, early detection and rapid response are critical to contain and eradicate tree pests. These new skills will enable WSDA to respond rapidly to an invasive pest detection in our trees, potentially preventing the establishment of pests that could otherwise destroy the Evergreen State.

WSDA pest program biologists and their tree climbing instructors
To learn more about this USDA program, check out this blog.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Fighting hunger together

Nichole Garden
WSDA Food Assistance 

Food pantries, hunger relief agencies, and others dedicated to fighting hunger will gather in Yakima September 12th – 14th for the Washington Food Coalition (WFC) conference. The annual conference provides a unique opportunity for those interested in hunger relief in Washington to share best practices, tools, and resources; hear about new and innovative programs and services; and network with others who share in a commitment to alleviate hunger.

The conference will feature speakers, breakout sessions, and tours, including:

  • Keynote speakers discussing the growth of food insecurity on college campuses 
  • A panel discussion with current Farm to Food Pantry participants
  • Touring Rainier Fruit, a family owned and operated farm that grows and sells organic apples, pears, cherries, and blueberries

In addition to facilitating the Farm to Food Pantry panel discussion, the WSDA will staff a booth. Attendees can visit the WSDA Food Assistance programs resource booth to show their support of the Farm to Food Pantry initiative by donning a F2FP temporary tattoo, posing for a picture, and posting it on social media with the hashtag #Farm2FoodPantry.

Cow proudly displaying F2FP "tattoo"
WSDA’s resource booth will also feature new resources now available in English, Spanish, Russian, and Ukrainian. These resources include Washington Grown Produce posters and brochures as well as MyPantry posters and recipe cards highlighting where the commodity foods available at food pantries fit into USDA’s MyPlate. 

Visit WFC’s website o learn more or register for the conference. WFC represents a unified voice in the emergency food system, providing technical assistance and advocacy for hunger relief agencies.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

An ounce of prevention

Chris McGann

In healthcare, a little prevention goes a long way. It can reduce costs, worries and disease. And in the case of rabies vaccination, the old axiom holds true for pets and for people.
A free clinic at the S’Klallum Tribal Center last month
 inoculated 62 dogs and 18 cats against rabies. 

That’s why WSDA veterinarian Dr. Minden Buswell pitched in to staff a free rabies vaccination clinic at the S’Klallum Tribal Center in Port Gamble last month. The program not only improves animal welfare, it also can protect people and save trips to the doctor – for children, in many cases.

When an unvaccinated pet bites someone, that person may be exposed to this incurable and fatal disease. In some circumstances, the bite may lead to a life-saving, but expensive and unpleasant series of shots for the victim. The same is true if the vaccination status of the offending animal is unknown.

But people can safely forego the stress and expense of getting rabies prevention shots after an animal bites, provided they know the animal has been vaccinated.

“By vaccinating a pet for rabies, a veterinarian protects the pet’s life, the human lives this pet enhances on a daily basis, and whole community in which the pet lives,” Buswell said. “One small shot can help prevent and relieve the medical and economic suffering of a community. This is why I became a veterinarian and why I am so honored to taken part in this clinic for the last three years.”

The tribal center’s annual vaccination clinic has reduced the number of people who require the preventative shots because it provides a system by which the community can quickly identify pets that have been immunized.

There’s an app for that

The information about which animals have been vaccinated is now available to the community through an app. After having their animal vaccinated, pet owners receive collars and tags with Quick Response (QR) codes, allowing anyone with a cell phone to take a picture and learn that animal is up-to-date on its rabies vaccinations. Reservation police also get copies of vaccination certification for records purposes.

The Washington State Department of Health hosts the clinic. Intern students organized the event and WSDA and USDA support it. Dr. Buswell is on hand to provide small animal veterinary equipment and perform the vaccinations.
Cats, or any mammal for that matter, can carry rabies. 

In total, 80 animals, 62 dogs and 18 cats, were vaccinated at this year’s clinic.

That can make a big impact for everyone involved, Buswell said.

“Rabies is nearly 100 percent fatal to all that contract the disease, human or animal,” she said. “As a veterinarian, our professional oath  calls on us ’to use [our] scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.’

“The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe rabies vaccination clinic is an event that embodies ALL the principles of the veterinary oath,” Buswell said.

For more information about animal health, visit the WSDA Animal Health Program webpage or contact us at 360-902-1878.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Kosher harvest

Chris McGann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Slow start for West Nile virus

Chris McGann

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

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

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

Joseph said the positive test comes as no surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch for symptoms

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Capturing a taste of Washington

Chris McGann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hot weather tips for pets and livestock

Dr. Minden Buswell
WSDA Veterinarian

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

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

Livestock heat stress: recognition, response, and prevention

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

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

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

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

A word about water

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

Heat index:

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

Heat stress in cattle

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

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Keeping Washington on the Congressional radar

Chris McGann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pest Alert! Lily leaf beetle is on the move

Karla Salp

The lily leaf beetle is a new pest threatening Washington’s gardens, nurseries, and native plants. It is a voracious feeder that can decimate lilies, fritillaries, and giant lilies overnight where it becomes established. 

Now, it is on the move and we are asking your help to monitor this pest and stop its movement. 

Here is what to look for:
  • Adults – Bright red adult beetles are about 1 cm long.
  • Larvae – Larvae look like blackish brown blobs because they cover themselves with their own excrement to protect themselves from predators.
  • Eggs – 1 mm long orange eggs are laid on the underside of leaves.
If you suspect you have found lily leaf beetle, you can quickly and easily report it online.

While the lily leaf beetle has been found around the Bellevue and greater Seattle area for a few years, the pest was first found in Olympia in June 2018 – a sign that it is significantly more widespread than expected. The pest was transported to Olympia on infested lilies, and it could have spread rapidly throughout the region on lilies or fritillaries moved from the greater Seattle area to other locations.

Learn more about the lily leaf beetle by reading our previous blog posts from 2018 and 2017. You can also contact entomologist Maggie Freeman in the WSDA Pest Program at 360-902-2084.

Adult lily leaf beetles are about 1 cm long

Lily leaf beetle larvae cover themselves with excrement
Photo credit: Richard A. Casagrande, University of RI

Lily leaf beetle eggs 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A call for vigilance: keep deadly poultry disease out of our backyard

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

An outbreak of a deadly poultry disease in southern California is cause for local poultry growers and those with backyard flocks to keep their guard up.

If you have poultry, we ask that you be on the lookout for signs of Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) and report any cases to the WSDA Sick Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-3056. 

The warning comes on the heels of an outbreak that began this May in Southern California, where the virus appeared and spread through backyard poultry flocks in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The disease has not been detected in any domestic poultry in Washington – we would like to keep it that way.

Watch for unusually large numbers of poultry deaths or symptoms such as swelling around the eyes and neck, dripping of fluid from the beak and nasal area, coughing, sneezing, twisting of the head and neck, greenish diarrhea, decreased appetite, or decreased egg production.

Commonly known as exotic Newcastle disease, vND spreads quickly with high rates of illness and mortality for domestic poultry. 

The vND virus can infect many bird species including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and game birds. Infected birds shed large amounts of virus in respiratory fluids and feces.

Backyard chickens are at greater risk and are highly susceptible because they can be “silently” infected by other birds, such as parrots, that show few or no signs of illness.

No commercial poultry operations have been affected so far and properly cooked poultry poses no risk to humans when consumed. For poultry, the virus can be transferred between facilities on clothing, feed, equipment or by moving birds, which may appear unaffected. 

Prevention through biosecurity 

The key to preventing vND infection is to practice consistent biosecurity. Recommendations from CDFA include:

  • Use dedicated clothing and footwear or wear disposable coveralls and booties when visiting birds
  • If exposed to poultry waste, change clothes and footwear, disinfect any items used and wash your car
  • Use footbaths for the bottoms of shoes or plastic botties at entry/exit of poultry enclosures
  • Practice good hygiene for your hands and disinfect equipment
  • Prevent wild birds from entering poultry enclosures
  • Carcasses of dead birds should be double bagged in plastic garbage bags
  • DO NOT dump bird carcasses on the roadside or other exposed locations
  • Avoid gatherings where poultry are present
  • Avoid sharing or borrowing equipment from other poultry owners
  • Avoid moving your birds or purchasing new additions unless they are from an NPIP certified seller.

Visit our avian health webpage if you have questions about exotic Newcastle disease, or how to keep your birds safe and healthy. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Six questions to ask before getting an exotic pet

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian 

You have seen the pictures – the cute little button face with big eyes that makes you say to yourself, “I want one, where can I get one?” Next thing you know, you are the proud owner of a Capuchin monkey, a chimpanzee, or some other exotic animal.

The bad news is that once someone turns you in-- and that is very likely-- authorities can confiscate the animal you paid hard cash for. Don’t expect to get your animal back. Furthermore, it could even be euthanized, because many wild and exotic animals are illegal to own in Washington State.

So before you purchase or otherwise acquire a wild or exotic animal as a pet, ask yourself these six questions:

1. How will I keep my friends, family and neighbors safe from this animal?
2. How will I meet all of its health requirements?
3. Am I prepared to care for this animal as a pet for 30 years or even longer?
4. Am I prepared for the liability that accompanies keeping a wild animal?
5. Where will I obtain veterinary care?
6. Most importantly, is it legal?

From wild to domestic

Dogs are thought to be the first animal domesticated as a companion, rather than as a source of food for humans, over a process that took thousands of years. Most modern breeds developed only over the last 200 years.

Domestication requires controlled breeding, many generations of investment, and starting with an appropriate species. Most wild or exotic animals, such as foxes, wolves, non-human primates, venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators, have not been subject to long-term domestication.

Wild and many exotic animals can pose risks to public safety, carry diseases that can infect humans, and require specialized diets and care.

Check the law

Most exotic animals are illegal to own under state law. In addition, many local ordinances governing owning exotic or potentially dangerous wild animals have rules even stricter than state regulations. Among the many reasons these regulations exist are to protect against the public safety and health risks, as well as concerns about the animals’ welfare.

So, before you take on the responsibility of owning an exotic pet, research the state law (RCW 16-30) and your own city or county ordinances.

Every year throughout the world, wild animals kept as exotic pets injure people. Animal companionship is wonderful, and many of us crave it, but domestic animals are a safer bet as pets.

Email us at if you have questions about acquiring an exotic animal.

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.