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.