Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Outreach campaign to show value of nursery endorsement

Cindy Cooper
WSDA Plant Services Program

Before you plant your spring flower garden this year, consider how these plants got to your yard. Did you know they are backed up by a statewide system of pest quarantines, plant inspections and nursery licensing? This system helps sellers present the best possible plants to their customers, but also protects both consumers and the environment.

Yet, participation in the licensing program that funds these efforts have fallen off in recent years, and with it, the widespread awareness of our state’s plant protection rules and standards. Currently, there are more than 5,000 licensed nurseries in the state, a decline in compliance of 40 percent since 2008 when more than 8,500 businesses held a WSDA nursery endorsement on their business license.

WSDA would like to reverse this trend

WSDA inspector at a retail garden center
Our WSDA Plant Services Program is kicking off a year-long campaign to educate businesses and the public about nursery licensing requirements and the work of our inspectors. Their efforts benefit plant-oriented businesses, protect consumers and Washington’s native environment, while reducing the risk of insects and plant diseases moving around the state by accident.

Many of our inspectors have worked for nurseries in the past and all receive training from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. They offer tips on how to comply with state and federal plant quarantines, make sure plants for sale are healthy, and share best management practices with growers.

Our staff plays a vital role in facilitating trade by providing inspections of plants, logs, hay and grain being exported to foreign countries.

Licensing is the link to education, awareness

It all starts with licensing nursery and landscape firms so we can communicate important information to these businesses and schedule necessary inspections. It is possible that some nurseries and landscapers operating without a license may not be aware they need one.

Businesses that sell more than $100 worth of plants in a year are required to have a nursery endorsement on their master business license from the Department of Revenue's Business Licensing Service. That means garden centers, landscapers, grocery stores that sell plants, home improvement stores, pet stores that stock aquatic plants, and farmers market vendors need a nursery endorsement.

Fees for a  nursery endorsement are based on gross annual sales of plants and whether you sell more retail or wholesale. The cost of the nursery endorsement ranges from $63 a year up to $273 a year. The fees support the program of inspections and education, but they also support important research that benefits the state’s nurseries and landscapers.

There are exemptions for non-profit plant sales and school programs.

Check your inbox

Starting this month, WSDA Plant Services will be ramping up awareness of licensing requirements and benefits, through emails, postings on social media, speaking at nursery industry meetings, publishing articles and even snail mail.

Our goal is to continue supporting our state’s nursery industry while improving compliance with our licensing requirements.

So if you’re in the business of plants, keep an eye on your inbox. Email us at if you have questions