Thursday, December 19, 2019

Pest Alert: Asian giant hornet

Chris McGann

The Asian giant hornet found near the Canadian border earlier this month.
 Its enormous size and yellow head are unique to this invasive species. 
This month, WSDA entomologists identified a large hornet found near the Canadian border as an
Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), an invasive species not previously found in Washington State.

Although it is not typically aggressive toward humans, this unwelcome pest can inflict a powerful sting and also represents a threat to honeybees, for which they have a voracious appetite.

On Dec. 8, a resident in Blaine near the Canadian border reported an unusually large hornet they found on their property. Two days later, WSDA visited the site, collected the specimen, which was dead, and confirmed its identity a short time later.

The resident also reported seeing a live giant hornet at a hummingbird feeder before it retreated into a nearby forest.

WSDA and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials ask people in the area to be on the lookout for and take precautions to avoid contact with these large bugs.

Adults can be nearly two inches long, have a distinctly light-orange head with
prominent black eyes, a black thorax and a black/yellow striped abdomen. 
The invasive hornets are typically almost an inch and a half long and are distinguished by their large yellow heads.

Asian giant hornets nest in the ground. Though they are typically not interested in humans, pets or large animals, they can inflict a nasty sting if threatened or their nest is disturbed.

Asian giant hornets are typically dormant over the winter, and are most often seen from July through October.

Health advice 

DOH advises individuals to take preventative measures in the outdoors by keeping food and drink covered or under screens, and cleaning up by disposing food and garbage properly. People should avoid swatting at the hornets, which may cause these insects to sting.

If you are stung, DOH recommends washing the site thoroughly with soap and water and applying ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling. The agency also recommends an antihistamine or use of an anti-itch cream to reduce itching if necessary. If you are stung multiple times or have symptoms of a severe reaction following a sting, call 911 or seek medical care immediately.
Asian giant hornets are not usually aggressive, but because
of their size and stinger, it's best to avoid them.  

Additional information about bee and wasp stings and prevention measures can be found on the DOH website.

A threat to bees

Asian giant hornets feed on insects and are of particular concern to beekeepers because they are capable of quickly destroying honeybee hives.

This is the first time this invasive species has been detected in Washington State. In August, a large colony of Asian giant hornets was discovered and subsequently destroyed in British Columbia. The BC Ministry of Agriculture issued a pest alert about the detection in September.

Responding to the Asian giant hornet 

In 2020, WSDA will conduct outreach to generate public assistance in looking out for the Asian giant hornet and reporting any detections to the WSDA Pest Program.

Additionally, WSDA is preparing plans to set traps in the Blaine area to monitor for Asian giant hornets.

If you think you may have spotted an Asian giant hornet, report it to WSDA’s Pest Program and, if possible, include a photo.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The scoop on adding soil to the apple maggot quarantine

Amy Clow
Pest program

Washington has long had an apple maggot quarantine in place in several counties to control the spread of apple maggot into pest-free areas of the state. After months of meetings and consultation with numerous partners in the tree fruit industry, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is proposing to add soil and growing medium to the list of apple maggot quarantine regulated materials. 

The rule change would regulate the movement of soil and growing medium, in pots or root balls of both plants that can host apple maggot and some non-host plants. 

Under the proposal, plants with soil that originate from a quarantined area must have a phytosanitary certificate stating the following if they will be moved out of the quarantined area: 

Host Plants (Apple, crabapple, hawthorn, cherry, pear, plum, prune, and quince)  
  • Have not produced fruit and were not located in the drip line of host plants that have fruited or
  • Originated in an area where apple maggot is not considered established based on official  trapping surveys or
  • Had soil or growing medium treated with an appropriate pesticide treatment just prior to shipping.
Click on the image for a larger version.

Non-host plants grown within the drip line of fruiting host plants in the quarantine area
  • Originated in an area where apple maggot is not considered established based on official  trapping surveys or
  • Had soil or growing medium treated with an appropriate pesticide treatment just prior to shipping.
Click on the image for a larger version.
As a reminder, moving fruit attached to host plants is already prohibited under the apple maggot quarantine. 

The following remain unregulated, even under the proposed rule change: 
  • Bare root plants (host and non-host) – host plants cannot have fruit attached
  • Plants (host and non-host) originating from the WSDA pest-free area
  • Non-host plants that were not grown in the drip line of fruiting host plants
In addition to adding soil and growing media to the list of regulated materials, WSDA is also proposing to change the rule to reflect how plants may enter the pest-free area if the risk is mitigated.

The rule change was first suggested by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association after WSDA trapping discovered that apple maggot had likely been moved into the pest-free area in the soil of a potted nursery fruit tree. WSDA identified soil on nursery plants as a probable pathway for the introduction of apple maggot into pest-free areas. 

Public hearings for the rule change are expected to take place sometime in January, with exact dates to be determined. 

WSDA is currently developing a Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS) to determine what economic impact this rule change may have on small businesses. The results of the SBEIS will be made public with the filing of the CR-102. Visit for more information on WSDA rulemaking activity or to view the CR-101. 

Visit to stay informed about this rule change and other apple maggot quarantine issues. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Additional rules to contain deadly rabbit disease

Chris McGann

Good biosecurity practices will reduce risks to your
 fuzzy friends and help control the spread of disease.  
January 6, 2020 UPDATE: Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) continues to spread in northwest Washington. Three dead rabbits kept at a property in Clallam County tested positive for the disease last week.  

Washington State Veterinarian Brian Joseph said he expects the areas affected by the disease to continue to expand because it can be spread easily by a wide variety of means including small rodents, birds and larger carnivores.  

WSDA has quarantined the property where the disease was identified. WSDA is not currently expanding the general quarantine area described in the article below. We will continue to monitor the situation. Rabbit owners are urged to continue to maintain high levels of biosecurity to protect their animals.  

Original Post: 

A deadly rabbit disease that struck in the San Juan Islands this summer, but appeared to be under control, reemerged much closer to the mainland this month raising new concerns about containing the disease before is spreads further into the state.

WSDA has added Whidbey Island to a rabbit quarantine area established this summer in the San Juan Islands to contain an outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), an extremely contagious viral disease with high infection and death rates in domestic and feral rabbits.

Although the disease could be devastating to rabbit populations, it is not a human health risk.

Tracking the outbreak

In July and August, WSDA confirmed positive diagnoses of RHD found in domestic and feral rabbits on Orcas Island and San Juan Island. A die off consistent with the disease was also reported on Lopez Island in the following weeks. The department issued an emergency rule in these areas in September, restricting the movement of rabbits, rabbit products, rabbit equipment and crates to prevent the spread of RHD.

WDSA expanded the quarantine to Whidbey Island after a dead feral rabbit found there tested positive for RHD on November 7. There have been two additional reports of dead feral rabbits, and there are reports of no rabbits in places they had been seen frequently, such as Ft Casey.  The department stopped movement of rabbits in or out of the area to contain the disease before it spreads further onto the mainland and becomes endemic in Washington.


Rabbit breeders, people who own rabbits as companion animals, 4-H participants, and those who raise rabbits for consumption face substantial losses if the spread of RHD goes unchecked. The state veterinarian will investigate and test all domestic rabbit mortalities and will test feral rabbits in new geographic regions where RHD has not been diagnosed.

The RHD virus is easily spread through numerous means, including direct contact with infected live or dead rabbits and/or contact with contaminated equipment, tools, hutches, and bedding.

Biosecurity is the best defense 

In the U.S., RHD is considered a foreign animal disease; only rare, sporadic, and isolated cases have previously been reported in the U.S. This year’s outbreak in the San Juan Islands appeared to have been contained and run its course since no new cases had been confirmed since August.

The Whidbey Island case reinforces the fact that the virus can survive in the environment for several months. Maintaining biosecurity measures is critical in our effort to stop the spread of this disease.

Essential steps include:

  • Keep a closed rabbitry
  • Exclude wild and feral rabbits and predators from rabbitry
  • Wash hands between handling rabbits in different pens or cages
  • Clean and disinfect equipment, tools, footwear, feed and water containers, cages, etc.
  • Control flies and biting insects
  • Remove brush, grass, weeds, trash, and debris from rabbitry
  • Protect feed from contamination by flies, birds, rodents, etc.
  • Do not feed grass or other forage that could be contaminated with the virus
  • Do not use forage, branches, etc. for bedding
  • House rabbits indoors if possible
  • Do not share equipment with others who raise rabbits
  • Remove and bury or dispose of dead rabbits promptly
  • Submit carcasses for examination and sampling promptly
  • Contact a veterinarian promptly if sick or dead rabbits are observed
  • Do not transport rabbits into or out of RHD quarantine areas
  • Quarantine new rabbits or those returning from shows for one month


Vaccines for RHD exist but are costly and, because RHD is considered a foreign animal disease, the vaccines are only available in the U.S. through private veterinarians who have USDA authorization.
Rabbit owners interested in vaccinating their rabbits should contact their veterinarian.

For more information about RHD, check out WSDA’s Animal Health webpage that include links to the quarantine, a fact sheet and articles about the disease. You can also contact a WSDA veterinarian by e-mail.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Christmas tree inspections allow Washington trees to travel the world

Karla Salp

woman inspecting Christmas trees
WSDA inspector Sue Welch checks baled trees
It was a chilly, foggy morning a week before Halloween when WSDA plant protection inspectors Sue Welch and Haley Palec pulled up to a remote Christmas tree farm near Cinebar, just west of Mount Rainier National Park. While most people were still carving pumpkins and designing costumes, at Bear Canyon Tree Farm, the smell of fir was in the air. The farm’s freshly-cut Christmas trees were waiting for WSDA inspections so they could be shipped around the world. 

Bear Canyon Tree Farm’s trees were destined for markets in Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. In past years, they’ve even sent Christmas trees to Dubai.

To export Christmas trees to these and other countries, an inspection is usually required to make sure the trees don’t harbor any pests that might cause problems in the destination country. WSDA
gloved hand holding slug
Welch finds a slug under a tree, but it isn't a concern
in the countries where these trees are headed
inspectors will visually examine both baled trees (trees that have been cut and wound with string to tightly secure the branches to the trunk) and cut, loose trees.

While baled trees get a close inspection, it’s the loose trees that get the action with a forceful, lengthy machine shaking that will knock loose needles and pests from the trees.

Two men holding Christmas tree in mechanical shaker
Farmworkers shake tree while Welch observes.
To the untrained eye, the shaking just appears to create a pile of dead tree needles. But inspectors know what to look for. They bend down to carefully examine the pile, looking for needles showing signs of disease or insects that have fallen out.

On this inspection, several insects had lost their grip on the tree, but none were pests of concern and inspectors did not find evidence of any diseases. This was great news for the tree farm waiting to export their trees.

As for the baled trees, they also get a good shake prior to being bound and are then visually inspected.

Haley Palec examines fallen needles for potential pests
Washington ranks fourth nationally in the production of Christmas trees, with all of those trees grown on about 400 tree farms statewide.
Noble and Douglas fir trees are the most popular Christmas trees sold in Washington, accounting for 90 percent of all sales.

But many of our state’s Christmas trees end up in Hawaii, California, Canada, Mexico, Asia, and U.S. military bases worldwide.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Oysters, eelgrass and burrowing shrimp

Chris McGann

An expanse of eelgrass, one of the critical components of
the Willapa Bay ecosystem being studied. 
Washington Sea Grant, a program at the University of Washington's College of the Environment, hosted the first of four workshops in support of the Washington Coast Shellfish Aquaculture Study in South Bend last week.

The study is aimed at pulling together and advancing research to better understand the tidal ecosystems of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, with particular attention to interactions among shellfish aquaculture, eelgrass and burrowing ghost shrimp.

Burrowing Shrimp are a native species that become a problem
for oyster farmers when their populations grow to excess. 
The problem with burrowing shrimp

Willapa Bay is home to some of the most productive oyster farms in the country, but in recent years it has been plagued by a booming burrowing shrimp populations that are threatening thousands of acres of oyster beds.

Left unchecked, the burrowing shrimp populations can grow to such high densities that broad swathes of the tidelands are reduced to unstable muck devoid of other sea life. The quagmire created by the shrimp is devastating for bottom culture oyster growers, who have no available tools to prevent their crop of oysters from sinking into the soft mud and suffocating.

The soft mud created by a burrowing
 shrimp infestation in Willapa Bay. 
Research dating back several decades in Willapa Bay has illuminated many characteristics of burrowing shrimp including survival rates, growth patterns, biomass production and long-term population trends in shrimp-dominated areas. But scientists know much less about other elements of their life cycle including recruitment, population dynamics and the influence and interaction of other species, such as birds, eel grass and shellfish.

The study

The Washington Sea Grant study will compile existing information and coordinate new research about the bay’s ecosystem to advance a shared understanding among scientists, resource managers and shellfish farmers of how the ecosystems of Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor function.

With a better understanding of the biology of the shrimp, their interaction with native eel grass, and oyster farms, Sea Grant believes stakeholders will be able to make informed and effective choices to develop solutions.

Sea Grant’s stated goal is “to sustain shellfish aquaculture in the two bays by establishing a collaborative ecosystem-based management framework that will highlight potential solutions to the current challenges and support ongoing participation from tideland managers, owners and regulators.”

Discussion is critical to the success of the study.
The workshop established a working group representing entities that own, manage or regulate shellfish beds, public tidelands and other natural resources, including shellfish farmers, public agencies and tribes. WSDA’s Aquaculture Coordinator Laura Butler is a member of the working group. Washington Sea Grant believes the dialogue between all the entities is as essential to the success of the study as scientific and technical contributions.

Although the study is not a public decision-making process, the public was invited and several community members attended and listened to local, regional and global experts and the working group’s dialogue. The group collected public comments submitted on notecards at the event. The public input will be incorporated into future discussions.


Projects currently contributing to this study are funded by a $400,000 appropriation from the Washington State Legislature and a $1.2 million grant from NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Future Workshops

The study will include three more workshops scheduled over the next two years. These workshops will move the study forward and develop the tools needed for an ongoing ecosystem-based management collaboration among stakeholders.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Tilth Conference draws ag industry and WSDA staff

Chris McGann

WSDA joins a host of agricultural experts participating in the annual Tilth Conference in Yakima this weekend.  Agency specialists from a wide range of disciplines will share their expertise and experience in workshops, meetings and presentations throughout the three-day event that begins Nov. 8.

This year's theme is "Growing a Resilient Future: Production and Beyond," and will provide an opportunity for farmers, food system professionals, researchers and educators to learn from one another, share best practices and network with others in the agriculture industry.

Attendees will have a chance to explore topics such as crop and livestock production, pest and weed management, marketing, certifications, land access, and opportunities and challenges in agriculture.

WSDA staff are among the numerous speakers at the conference, and will cover a variety of topics including:

Market Expansion and Development
  • Hear from our Farm to School team and learn the basics of selling to schools and how to get started.
  • Later, our WSDA staff will be involved in a panel discussion offering practical guides and checklists for hiring and training (including what hires need to know), market day operations, food safety requirements, booth and display set-up, customer service, working with market managers, and vehicle safety. 
Business Planning Toolkit
  • Get an update from the Office of the Washington State Veterinarian, including new outreach materials, animal disease status in the state, personnel changes, new programming, foreign-animal diseases of concern, regulation changes, and the new WSDA website.

Resource Opportunities to Support Farm Success
  • Listen to a panel discussion on the Farm to Food Pantry initiative where participating farmers, food pantry managers, WSDA, and Harvest Against Hunger partners recount their roles within this initiative, share their vision for scaling it up and sustaining it statewide, and how attendees can participate in the effort.
Technology, Regulations and Certifications
  • WSDA conducted their first season of inspections under the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. Hear how farms responded and the results of these initial inspections. WSDA staff will share their inspection approach, the frequency of inspections and the prioritization process used by the WSDA Produce Safety Program.
  • Take part in a Q&A with the WSDA Organic Program staff and get an overview about the program, as well as updates on program activities. The session is intended to answer certification questions, cover the organic system plan, as well as recordkeeping, forms, processes, and other things to know about certification. 

Market Expansion and Development

  • The newest edition of the Handbook for Small and Direct Marketing Farms (popularly known as the “green book”) is now available for free. In this workshop, attendees will hear from the experts behind the handbook, learn what’s new in this updated edition and how to find the information needed for your farm business.

Visit the Tilth event schedule for a full list of the talks, workshops and panel discussions.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Recognition for a career of service to the Central Washington State Fair

Chris McGann

WSDA Director Derek Sandison presents retiring Central
Washington State Fair Manager Greg Stewart with the
Director's Citation Award. 
Greg Stewart hired on with the Central Washington State Fair the same year singer songwriter Don McLean topped the music charts with his iconic song “American Pie.”

This year, after almost a half century with the fair, Steward announced his retirement as the fair’s general manager.

With his hit song, McLean evoked and payed tribute to a transformative era in music.

Likewise, it’s only fitting that with Stewart’s retirement, we take time to celebrate the man who helped transform the fair from a small, annual event to a year-round venue for wide-ranging events and continued to encourage kids to get involved and excited about agriculture.

Last week, WSDA Director Derek Sandison presented Stewart with the Director's Citation Award.

A patriotic spread of Washington produce at the fair.
“This award is a small token compared to what Greg has accomplished in his career, he moved the dial bigtime," Sandison said.

And through it all, Stewart never forgot where it all started.

"Greg made sure this fair stayed true to its agricultural roots and promoted agriculture as a core function,” Sandison said.

Stewart’s history and achievements are well known to most anyone who has been a part of the Central Washington State Fair. His impressive record and has resulted in the betterment of fairs not only in Washington, but across the entire fair industry.

Shortly after hiring Stewart in 1972, the Central Washington Fair Association promoted him to general manager of what was then a five-day fair, overseeing a fulltime staff of three people.
A lot has changed over those 48 years.

The Central Washington State Fair and the 120-acre fairgrounds, now known as State Fair Park, have grown considerably. The fair is now a ten-day event recognized as one of the premiere events in the Northwest. Fulltime employment has grown to 22 people who help oversee and accommodate some 222 annual event days.

From the small fair he took on 48 years ago, Stewart has built an entertainment hub for the entire region.

Stewart oversaw management of the Yakima Valley SunDome located at State Fair Park. The 8,000-seat SunDome, is a $20 million multi-purpose facility now home to concerts, rodeos, and numerous other events throughout the year.

He also oversaw the management of Yakima County Stadium which opened at State Fair Park in 1993. In 2014, Yakima County Stadium became the new home to the Yakima Valley Pippins, a West Coast League baseball team.

In 2000, the former Yakima Meadows horse race track located on the grounds was turned into a three-eighths-mile racetrack, now called State Fair Raceway.  The all-clay racetrack is used for sprint car and dirt-track car racing.

Stewart was also director and vice president of the Western Fairs Association 1979-1981 and a Hall of Fame recipient in 1995. He was the first recipient outside of California to be on the Western Fairs Association Board and to receive the Hall of Fame award.

Come one! Come all! Come tall!
In October 2018, Stewart received the Lifetime Achievement Award established in 2014 by the Washington State Fairs Association Board of Directors.  This award is to recognize an individual's accomplishments and contributions to the fair industry.

Stewart has been pivotal in establishing relationships with the Hispanic and Native American communities. In 2018, he helped Yakima create a Sister City partnership with Hadong, South Korea and their Green Tea Festival.

Born and raised in Olympia, Stewart attended Centralia College in 1963 and graduated from Washington State University with a degree in agricultural economics. He served in the U. S. Army 1966-1969, including a tour of duty in Vietnam.

Stewart and his wife, Karen, live in Selah, and in his spare time he enjoys traveling, boating, horses, fishing, and spending time with their daughter Tami and her family.

Friday, October 25, 2019

First-ever fresh hop beer for Seoul

Chris McGann

A can of Amazing Brewing's fresh hop beer. The Seoul-based
 brewery used Washington hops fresh from the field to bring
Korea that unique, fresh hop flavor.
It took several acts of reckless optimism, and help from WSDA’s International Marketing and Plant Services programs, but an ambitious Eastern Washington hops company has succeeded in supplying the key ingredient to enable Korean brewers to produce the country’s first-ever fresh hop beer made with U.S. hops.

Capturing the bright complexities of fresh hops in beer is a lot like trying to catch a fall flash of lighting in a bottle. For a true “fresh hop” beer – a nectar bursting with the flavors of cut grass, flowers, citrus or even pine trees -- brewers must add the delicate green hops cones to the brew within 24 hours of harvest.

That’s a tall order even for craft brewers in Washington state, where they have close access to some of the world’s top hop farms and almost three quarters of the nation’s total hops production.

For breweries in Seoul, Korea, trying to catch real lightning may be more realistic.

That didn’t stop Yakima Chief Hops. When they got the idea late last summer, they approached their Korean distributor to see if he would be willing to give it a try and with his nod, the bold adventure began.

The grower-owned network of family hops farms already supplies premium hops to brewers around the world in dried and frozen forms, but it had never attempted to deliver fresh product to Korea for a fresh hop beer.

The challenge was great

Though it seemed impossible, the siren call of a juicy new batch of India pale ale that would be brewed on the other side of the globe was just too intoxicating to ignore.

To pull it off, Yakima Chief not only had to ship the fresh hops cones from a field in the Yakima Valley to a brewery on the other side of the world in one day, they would also have to undergo U.S. export inspections and pass rigorous Korean Customs Service phytosanitary requirements on the way.

The company enlisted the help of WSDA International Marketing and Plant Services staff to help whisk an aromatic and highly perishable shipment out of Washington and through Korea Customs Service (KCS) fast enough for breweries in Seoul to hop up their beer.

Danny Kim, WSDA's trade representative in
South Korea worked with Korean customs
officials to help bring in fresh hops. 
To make it all happen, Yakima Chief Sales Representative Jim Lambert reached out to Julie Johnson at WSDA’s International Marketing Program.

"I took this crazy idea to Julie a few months ago and with her help and a lot of other great people, it all lined up," Lambert said.

Johnson worked alongside Yakima Chief throughout the process and looped in WSDA’s trade representative in South Korea, Danny Kim, who worked with the Korean customs officials.  Johnson also connected the company with Sherry Lagerstam in WSDA’s Plant Services Program to find ways to streamline the domestic inspections process.

Lagerstam said she worked with Lambert and Yakima Chief warehouse staff to decide if it would be better to meet at the hops fields or the warehouse. In a seamless swoop, she double-checked the requirements, inspected the hops (at the warehouse) and issued the Phytosanitary Certificates.

A big win

Lambert acknowledged the challenges of sending fresh hops to the other side of the globe, through a strict inspection process, before they spoiled.

“A huge thanks to all for the quick responses and willingness to accommodate our tight timeline. Everyone’s help was deeply appreciated and we are so excited the fresh hops made it through Korean customs in a timely fashion,” Lambert said. “Shout-outs to you guys at Washington State Department of Agriculture for your major contributions to this effort – on the inspection here in the U.S. and with customs in Korea. We could not have done this without you.”

"It was a big win for all of us," he said.

Korean breweries and fresh hop beer

Yakima Chief's Korean Distributor, Brewsource, lined up three breweries to receive the hops.

Seoul Brewery was the first to brew with the fresh “Mosaic” hops. The brewery adjusted its entire week’s schedule and planned for a 3 a.m. brew day to make a fresh hop version of their signature Salinger Rye India Pale Ale. The beer was so popular, they sold out in about a week. Those lucky enough to taste it said it was: “Amazing, super juicy and drinkable with tropical flavors that really shine.”

Amazing Brewery also received the fresh Mosaic hops. They produced a wet-hop IPA called “Yakima Express.” This beer was scheduled to be released Oct. 25 and will also be available in cans that showcase the Yakima Chief Ranches logo.

Finally, Playground Brewery brewed a double IPA called “Big & Certain Hoppiness.” This beer is scheduled to be released on Nov. 1.

New Frontiers

Thanks to this year’s success, Mike Goettl, Yakima Chief CEO, said he has a few new challenges for fresh hop beer next year. He’s added Taiwan and Japan along with Korea as challenges for 2020 fresh hops.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

As Brexit looms, Sandison joins U.S. delegation in London to set the stage for new UK trade agreements

Chris McGann

WSDA Director Sandison visited U.K. sheep farm
 Baber Sheep Breeding and Consulting. 
WSDA Director Derek Sandison traveled to London with a small delegation of agriculture officials
earlier this month to explore new trade opportunities with the United Kingdom as it negotiates its post-Brexit relationship with the European Union.

The U.K. sponsored the seven-member team of American ag representatives through the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). Sandison joined five other state agriculture directors and NASDA’s CEO Barb Glenn on an itinerary that included farm tours and dozens of meetings with senior British trade and agriculture officials, university leaders, research scientists, farmers and business representatives.

The trade mission came at a time when U.K. leaders are trying to find ways to minimize economic disruption associated with the nation’s push to leave the European Union (EU).

Depending on the outcome of the negotiations, the U.K. will need to explore and expand new agricultural markets to feed its citizens and keep its farm economy afloat.

“As they move towards Brexit, they are very much interested in entering into a free-trade agreement with the United States,” Sandison said.

The meetings were a chance to set the stage for discussions with U.S. trade representatives in the future.

“They wanted to learn more about U.S. agriculture – what some of our issues are, what products we might be interested in exporting and what products we might be interested in importing,” Sandison said.

Sandison toured a UK beef farm on a recent trip to the U.K.
Washington already exports products such as hops and wine to the U.K. But the discussions revealed an opportunity to expand that relationship. Sandison said British officials and producers expressed interest in exporting more lamb, cider and other beverages to the U.S.

The delegation, which represented individual states, was not there to try make a deal, rather they wanted to get a better understanding of the landscape.

“We were there to understand what our producers will be facing when they want to sell products to the U.K. and what the U.K.’s bottom line is,” Sandison said. “A lot of what we talked about are the standards, phytosanitary standards for example, that are imposed currently under EU restrictions and what we can expect if they are free of European Union restrictions.

Compared to U.S. standards, the European Union’s standards are often stricter in areas such as pesticide use, veterinary medicines, and decontamination techniques. This is especially true for food safety standards associated with new technologies in agriculture and food processing such as genetically modified organisms (GMO), growth hormones and lactic acid treatments.

“We were trying to understand what we can expect,” Sandison said. “We wanted to know if they would deviate from the EUs current restrictive approach and liberalize their standards a bit.”

Sandison said British officials expressed interest in moving towards less restrictive import policies, they did not discuss any specific standards.

The U.K. is currently negotiating the terms by which they would conduct trade with the EU after Brexit. The two most likely scenarios at this point include one in which the U.K. comes to an agreement that will allow it to continue to do unrestricted business within the EU. In this case, standards would likely align closely with current EU standards.

Sandison with delegation at Thatchers Cider orchard. The UK
seeks to expand its export markets. 
Another possibility would be a situation in which the U.K. does not reach an agreement with the EU but leaves the union anyway. In this hard-break scenario, Sandison believes they would be more open to adopting standards that would facilitate more trade with U.S. producers.

“If it’s a hard break, then I think they are going to be more interested in getting to a solid agreement with the United States, something that would promote the ease of trade and movement of goods,” Sandison said.

At this stage in the process, the Brexit outcome remains highly uncertain. But whatever the outcome, Sandison’s work with his NASDA partners could well lead to export opportunities in the future.

Visit the WSDA International Marketing Program webpage to learn about other activities WSDA conducts to promote Washington agriculture abroad.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Eggs crack top 10 list and other highlights

Chris McGann

Eggs cracked this year’s top 10 list last year with
a 70 percent jump in production value.
Washington’s agricultural production top 10 list featured ups, downs and a new listing in the annual U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report released this week.

Our state produced an estimated $9.67 billion of agricultural commodities in 2018, down 2 percent from the previous year.

Notable rankings 

The value of all Washington grape production, second only to California’s, hit a record high with an estimated value of $361 million, a 13 percent increase from 2017.

The value of grape production in Washington hit a record high.
The $2.19 billion estimated production value of apples was a 10 percent drop from the previous year, but apples remained Washington’s top commodity and our state maintained its status as the nation’s number one apple producer.

And eggs cracked this year’s top 10 list with a 70 percent jump in production value estimated at $241 million. Pears fell off the list as the 2018 value declined 15 percent to an estimated $211 million.

The 2018 top 10 list

The rest of the list remained largely unchanged with the following rankings.

 1. Apples              $2.19b
 2. Milk                  $1.13b
 3. Wheat $845m
 4. Potatoes            $788m
 5. Cattle                $652m
 6. Hay                   $519m
 7. Hops                 $428m    (ranked 8th in 2017)
 8. Sweet Cherries $426m  (ranked 7th in 2017)
 9. Grapes              $361m
10. Eggs $241m

Apples remain at the top of the list for production value. At
an estimated valued of $2.19 billion, they make up 23 percent
 of our total agricultural value.
The heavy hitters

The top five commodities for 2018 had a combined value of $5.60 billion, or 58 percent of the year’s value for all commodities.

Other upticks

There were several commodities that did not make it into the top 10 production list, but showed significant increases in value from the previous year.

These include onions, which saw an increased value of 10 percent to $178 million in 2018. Blueberries also increased, by 21 percent from 2017 to reach $139 million in 2018. Barley value of production increased 55 percent to $21.5 million in 2018 and the value of canola, at $20.3 million, increased 23 percent from the previous year.

A few slips

Five of the top 10 commodities declined in value from the previous year, including apples, cattle and calves, hops, and sweet cherries. In addition to pears, other commodities that declined in value in 2018 were raspberries, down 38 percent to $35.9 million; and green peas, down 21 percent to $22.8 million. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

A ground-up approach to baking

Chris McGann

Sage Dilts talks about her baking philosophy with WSDA
Director Derek Sandison in front of the Barn Owl Bakery's
wood fired oven. Dilts won a NASDA Foundation contest
for women in agriculture. 
When Barn Owl Bakery owner Sage Dilts explains the potential health benefits of the wild sourdough starter and heritage grains she uses in her artisan breads, she astutely points out -- the digestion process begins when you smell the food.

“That’s when you start salivating,” she says.

Walk into her tiny Lopez Island bakery and you’ll see what she means. The rich aroma of her craft bread, fresh out of the wood-fired oven, is sure to make your mouth water.

Wild Starter

Dilts says the yeast and bacteria in her wild leaven (or sourdough starter) provide the complex flavors that make the bread taste so good, and they also help break down parts of the grains that can be hard to digest, allowing the body to better absorb the nutrients.

WSDA Director Derek Sandison followed through on his
promise to visit Dilts' Lopez Island bakery after she won
a NASDA Foundation award in February. 
She is committed to using locally grown and milled grains and even grows her own specialty and heritage varieties of wheat, rye and barley that add to the distinctive flavors in her loaves.

In the 200-square-foot bakery she and her husband Nathan Hodges built in 2012, she has established a thriving niche market on the islands with baked goods made in ways she believes are healthy for the body and the planet.

Farm to Food Competition

This year, Dilts won the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation’s Women’s Farm to Food Competition. The contest is dedicated to fostering growth among women producers (i.e., farmers, fishers, ranchers) and women entrepreneurs with food and beverage businesses in Oregon and Washington.
Sage Dilts started baking bread on Lopez Island 8 years ago.
Now it's time to expand the Barn Owl Bakery.  

When competitors presented their business plans at NASDA’s Winter Policy Conference in Washington DC in February, WSDA Director Derek Sandison presented Dilts the $20,000 Grand Prize and promised to visit to the Barn Owl Bakery.

Barn Owl Bakery employee Ona Blue tends to the wood-fired
oven and some of the locally-grown ingredients.
Last week he followed up on his commitment and made the trip to the remote island in Northwest Washington.

Sandison said this type of competition and the awards are important because they help promote diversity in agriculture.

 “We are trying to encourage women to enter agriculture and for them to thrive once they are in it,” Sandison said.

A big challenge

“Particularly for small-scale operations, you have to develop your own markets,” Sandison said. “It’s not just that you have to grow or produce something, but you then have to find a way to market that product.”

Moving to the country

Sage Dilts bakes with locally grown and milled grain. She
recently won the National Association of State Departments
 of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation’s Women’s Farm to Food
Dilts and her husband Nathan Hodges moved from the San Francisco Bay area eight years ago and set up shop on this laid-back island known for its artists, craftspeople, farmers, and fishermen. The area’s tight-knit, open-minded community was the perfect business micro-climate to start a bakery embracing ancient baking and farming methods, and adhering to Dilts’s ideals about health and nutrition.

Dilts makes her bread by hand from scratch using no commercial yeast or chemical leavening. Instead she maintains and relies on a wild leaven, rich with bacteria and yeasts, to impart flavor and nutrition to her breads and pastries.

A world of wheat varieties

Hodges, her husband, zealously experiments with heirloom grains trying to identify varieties that grow well in the area and taste good in the bread.

“There’s all these crazy flavors,” Hodges said. “It takes three or four years for us to get enough seed to mill up to actually taste the grain. So there’s always that moment where it’s like, what’s this one going to be? Sometimes it’s not that interesting but other times it’s really wild!”
Nathan Hodges shows Sandison a sample of the grain he is
drying at Barn Owl Bakery's granary.

In the past four years he had planted more than 50 varieties in search of a seed like the Ethiopian Blue Tinge emmer wheat, for example. His crop notes describe it as grain that threshes easily with an intriguing dark purple seed that makes a dough that darkens to the color of chocolate.

“In our baking trials, this is always a crowd favorite for taste,” he notes.

Hodges and Dilts hope to cultivate the connection between food and the land as part of their business model.

“Modern wheats tend to be ill-suited to our form of agriculture here,” he said. “We don’t water our wheats, we don’t fertilize our wheats, and our soils are relatively poor. But the older wheats, like the Landrace varieties, are perfectly suited to that form of agriculture because that’s the way they were grown for thousands of years.”

Locals pick out hand-made baked goods themselves and pay
on the honor system. 
The right niche

The Barn Owl Bakery’s business model may not be suited to other bakeries. They run a bakery with no counter help and customers pick out their own purchases and pay on the honor system in an open bowl on the baking rack.

But on this low-key, high-minded island, it seems to be working.

In fact, the bakery is expanding. Dilts can make 25 loaves an hour in her Allan Scott style wood-fired oven, but even with 13 hours of baking a day, that’s not enough bread to keep up with demand.

With the prize money from the NASDA Foundation competition, she is upgrading to a Bassanina wood-burning deck oven that will allow her to quadruple output.

“We really needed to expand to make this work for us as a family,” Dilts said.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Deadly deer virus detected in Western Washington yak

Chris McGann

The state animal disease lab confirmed a case of EHD in a
 Whatcom County yak this week.
Last week, a Whatcom County veterinarian  euthanized a six-year-old yak cow showing symptoms of Epizootic Hemorrhagic disease (EHD), a potentially deadly virus that primarily effects wild deer populations, but occasionally crosses over to cattle.

A subsequent Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) necropsy confirmed the animal had EHD.

Two other yaks from the herd died in recent weeks after displaying similar clinical signs such as stiff gate, drooling and nasal secretions that are consistent with EHD.

According to the owner's report, the euthanized yak began showing signs of illness on Sept. 30.  It appeared to isolate itself from the herd, developed a thick-mucous runny nose, and had difficulty moving. The owner also observed small droplets of blood coming from possible fly bites near its eyes. They called the vet.

The clinical signs of EHD are similar to the much more devastating foot-and-mouth disease, so it is important to report suspected cases to the State Veterinarian.

EHD is not a threat to human health.

The the owners took the euthanized animal to WADDL in Pullman, where lab reports confirmed the EHD diagnosis.

The outbreak in Western Washington comes on the heels of a confirmed EHD diagnosis in four cows from Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

Biting midges or Culicoides gnats, commonly known as “no-see-ums” are the main way the disease is spread. Female biting midges can ingest blood from infected animals and then feed on uninfected animals. These midges typically breed near mud, so EHD outbreaks often occur when cattle and other ruminants congregate in wet areas.

No vaccines are available for EHD, so controlling the midges by eliminating standing water from areas used by cows, applying insecticides around water areas to decrease the swarms, or using bug repellent on the cows is the best defense.

For more information visit WSDA’s Animal Services Division webpage.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Taste Washington Day celebrates farm fresh food in schools statewide

Christopher Iberle
Regional Markets

First Lady Trudi Inslee visits with students in the Cordata
 Elementary school garden, supported by Common Threads.
Imagine all the all the good things you could do if people got together to connect school lunchrooms with local farms that grow the food.  You could:
  • Feed thousands of school children with nutritious, local foods. 
  • Teach students about where their food actually comes from. 
  • Connect farmers with a growing local market.
  • Begin to bridge the gap between our urban and rural communities.

First Lady Trudi Inslee visits with students in the Cordata
 Elementary school garden, supported by Common Threads.
Here in Washington, partners and advocates for children’s health and education, agricultural business vitality, farmland preservation, environmental protection, and poverty alleviation have made that vision a reality with farm to school -- and it’s flourishing.

Today’s Taste Washington Day event brought a wide-ranging group of people together – everyone from school lunchroom staff to Washington State First Lady Trudi Inslee - in celebration of the farm to school collaboration.  

Preparing red peppers for Taste
Washington Day lunch at
 Bellingham Public Schools. 
“Taste Washington Day is a great way for students to make the connection between farmers and the healthy food that is critical in helping them to learn, grow and develop,” said First Lady Trudi Inslee. “It’s also is a fantastic opportunity to spotlight the hundreds of crops we have here in our state and to recognize the people who grow them.”

Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation for the day recognizing the values of school meal programs and the contributions made to them by Washington state agriculture.

WSDA Regional Markets works with dozens of partners to help connect farmers with school districts. Working with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Washington School Nutrition Association, they coordinate the annual Taste Washington Day promotion of farm to school connections. This year more than 40 school districts statewide served a Washington grown meal to help celebrate how Washington farmers provide food for schools year-round.

Farmers statewide participate in Taste Washington Day

The Washington Apple Crunch!
Eighty-seven farmers signed up to take  part in this year’s Taste Washington Day and partnered with a school to provide seasonal, local ingredients for breakfast or lunch, or visit a school for lunch. About 240,000 students at 43 participating schools ate a locally-sourced meal, learned about Washington agriculture, worked in a school garden, or did other farm to school activities.

Many schools also did a “Washington Apple Crunch” to celebrate one of Washington’s top crops, by simultaneously crunching into farm fresh apples all across the state at noon.

"We love the rich impact that community food systems offer our society”, said Eric Abel, owner of Bellewood Farms which sells to multiple districts in Whatcom County. “We believe it's important children learn how food gets to the table. By selling to schools, we hope kids will discover the difference that ‘local’ can have—providing fresh food, great taste, improved nutrition, all while supporting farms in the local community in which they live."

First Lady Trudi Inslee joins the celebration

Students, teachers and staff in Bellingham Public Schools welcomed a few special guests for their Taste Washington Day events. First Lady Trudi Inslee visited Bellingham Public Schools’ (BPS) new Central Kitchen, which is serving locally sourced, scratch-cooked meals across the district.

On the menu: salmon cakes, bean salad, pilaf with
 farro, apples, and milk.
The Central Kitchen is a facility years in the making, with support from BPS administration, school board, food service staff, students and parents, Whatcom Farm to School, WSDA Farm to School, Whatcom Community Foundation, Common Threads, and other local partners. The new scratch cooking kitchen and menu allows BPS to use a wider variety of seasonal ingredients from Washington farms. On the menu for Taste Washington Day were salmon cakes with Lummi Island Wild salmon and Cloud Mountain Farm Center onions, pilaf with farro from Bluebird Grain Farms and beets from Joe’s Garden, farm fresh apples from Bellewood Farms, and a local cabbage and kale on the salad bar.
First Lady Trudi Inslee tours Bellingham Public Schools'
Central Kitchen with Director of Food Services and
Executive Chef Patrick Durgan on Taste Washington Day.

Mrs. Inslee also visited Cordata Elementary to see food and agriculture educators from Common
Threads giving lessons in the garden. Produce from the 19 school gardens supported by Common Threads is also served in cafeteria salad bars during the school year. To top off the visit, Mrs. Inslee visited the new Sehome High School to tour BPS Career and Technical Education (CTE) sites related to food and agriculture education.

School market in Washington State

The USDA Farm to School Census estimates that Washington school districts spend more than $17 million on Washington grown foods each year. But this only makes up about 9% of an average school’s food budget. There’s plenty of opportunity to grow the school market for Washington farms - especially in a state that grows over 300 different products, many available year round.
Keith Carpenter from Lummi Island Wild, Chef Patrick Durgan
 from Bellingham Public Schools Central Kitchen, Eric Abel from
 Bellewood Farms, Chris Iberle, WSDA Farm to School Specialist,
 Mataio Gillis, Bellingham Public Schools Central Kitchen, fisher
 Ellie Kinley from Lummi Nation, and First Lady Trudi Inslee
 visit Sehome High School’s CTE kitchen classroom.
For smaller and direct marketing farms, schools can be a particularly meaningful market that provides a regular, larger volume buyer.  Many farmers find it personally rewarding to know their food is being eaten by people in their local community.  Farmers selling to schools also make an impact by teaching kids about agriculture in urban and rural districts of all sizes, and helping schools put nutritious, fresh meals on the tray for students each day. About half of school districts in the state participate in farm to school in some way each year.

“Local agriculture plays an important role in Child Nutrition Programs in Washington State”, said Leanne Eko, Director of Child Nutrition Services at OSPI. “Learning about where their food comes from and getting to taste local foods in school meals promotes lifelong healthy eating to our children and supports local farmers.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Plan now to manage manure and water this winter

Kerri Love
WSDA Dairy Nutrient Management Program

Cement blocks and fences hold manure
 and cows back from wet, muddy areas. 
As the days grow short and bunkers are loaded with the summer’s crops, it is also time to ensure manure lagoons are empty and ready for winter rains and storage.

Don’t lose valuable nutrients to rain

Late season nutrient applications have special risks. Fields may be compacted from harvest and application equipment. The dry summer may have reduced forage crop density. Applying nutrients where they may run off or pool in low spots of your field after our first big rainfall wastes your time and money, and is a risk to water quality.

Apply nutrients in the right place and at the right rate to ensure they enter the soil where your crops need them most.
Following best practices, a tractor
 incorporates manure after an
Use expanded buffers, avoid bare soils or slopes, and apply at a rate appropriate for the field and soil conditions.
Do not pasture animals or apply nutrients to flood-prone areas of fields.
Incorporate solids into bare fields, especially after corn harvest where soils can be highly compacted from silage trucks.

To evaluate weather and run-off risk, check the three-day forecast for rainfall.
A great tool in Western Washington is the Manure Spreading Advisory tool. Click on the map on a location near you and see a 72-hour weather forecast with an associated risk rating for applying nutrients.
Pro tip – you can print the weather forecast or save a screen shot, and use it as part of your application record keeping.

Pastures and heavy-use areas (HUAs)

Move cows off pastures before they get wet.
Remove animals before fields are saturated, then drag a harrow behind your tractor to distribute manure.

Reseed animal lanes or HUA’s with winter wheat, while there is still light and warmth to get seeds going.


You should always have at least 12-15 inches of freeboard from the top of your lagoon or 12 inches from the top of an upright tank, to allow for a 24-hour (25-year) rain storm.
If you have more nutrients than storage this fall, work with neighbors, custom applicators, and your local conservation district to locate appropriate application locations or storage structures.

Do not direct silage leachate to the ground or water.
Feed-bunker leachate should be collected and transferred to storage.
Vegetated treatment areas (VTA) must be designed to treat the volume of runoff expected, and must be healthy enough to trap and absorb the nutrients carried in the runoff.
If not designed well, concentrated runoff from the feed area can “burn” the grass and destroy these treatment areas rendering them ineffective and requiring diversion to storage.
Conservation district planners can provide guidance on whether your VTA is adequate for preventing a water quality issue.

Small fixes now go a long way

Check your gutters and downspouts to ensure they are clean and connected.
Did you know that an inch of rain on a 10,000 square-foot roof amounts to 6,000 gallons? If clean water isn’t properly diverted, then it’s being collected and is transferred to storage. Collecting clean water will fill up your lagoon and may cause you to lose sleep come March!
Know where water flows.
Park manure handling equipment (scrapers, manure spreaders tankers and hoses), away from surface water and storm drains.
Avoid manure track-out, and keep manure off surfaces that may run to ditches or storm drains.

Be prepared

To prevent a manure spill:

Maintain a 12-inch freeboard in lagoons, plus an extra 4-6 inches to accommodate rain from a 25-year, 24-hour storm.
Inspect storage structures regularly for signs of leaks or problems.
Inspect valves, pumps, hoses, and other manure conveyance equipment before and during use.
Conduct routine maintenance and repair to prevent failure.

Have a plan!

Post emergency numbers where they can be easily seen and found in a hurry - on the wall in your office, in the milk house, and/or in the breakroom. Post the farm address including the numbers below, so callers know exactly where to direct responders.

Numbers to include:
Emergency first responders - 911
Farm managers/operators cell and home numbers
Ecology – Spills to water 1-800-258-5990
WSDA – To report a spill 360-746-1249
CAFO permitted facilities-- 1-800-407-6600; call within 24 hours of the spill

If you have questions about winter manure management, please contact your local conservation district or Kyrre Flege with WSDA’s Dairy Nutrient Management Program at 360-746-1249.