Monday, July 19, 2021

It’s dry. Really, really dry.

Amber Betts, WSDA Communications

Washington's wheat crop is
expected to show reduction in yield
due to the drought this year. 
It all comes down to one fact: If it grows, it needs water. Water that our agriculture producers in Washington state simply do not have enough of this year.

In what looked like a promising year for snowpack, agriculture producers around Washington were hopeful this year would see adequate water supply resulting in healthy crop yields and a productive year. The spring season came and left with little to no rain, causing great concern especially for dryland producers.

Dryland producers are primarily in Eastern Washington state and are without irrigation to rely on to water their crops or feed their animals.

Our agricultural growers are telling WSDA that they are already experiencing yield reduction and other effects that could reduce revenues. Livestock producers also report having to buy feed sooner than expected, likely at a higher price tag, because grazing lands are drying up.

At WSDA, we work to ensure our federal and state partners hear the concerns of our ag producers. And the message was heard loud and clear.

In late June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a federal drought declaration for 14 primary and 10 contiguous counties in Washington. USDA’s drought monitor tool continued to monitor Washington state’s water supply and on July 6 triggered seven more primary and four more contiguous counties as disaster areas due to drought.

Then, last week, on July 14, Washington’s Department of Ecology declared a drought emergency for most of the state.

Declaring a drought means more than just acknowledging the hardship our producers are facing, it opens up opportunities for our agriculture partners to access programs, services, and funding to help alleviate the hardship caused by drought.

Ecology is able to expedite emergency drought permits, process temporary transfers of water rights, hold public education workshops and provide funding assistance for public entities, including irrigation districts. Ecology is currently in the process of identifying needs and potential funding.

The federal declaration means dryland farmers in the counties the disaster was declared allows for emergency loans that can be used to help the producer recover from this drought. Loans can be used for replacing equipment or livestock, or to reorganize the farming operation, or to refinance other debts. USDA’s Farm Service Agency also manages relief programs including the livestock forage program, where producers are eligible for payments to assist in buying feed for their livestock and the tree assistance program, as well as crop insurance.

If you think you may qualify for federal assistance, visit USDA’s disaster assistance discovery tool. You can also visit WSDA’s drought information webpage for more on available resources.


Thursday, June 24, 2021

CDC bans importing dogs from countries with high-risk for dog rabies

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

Rabies has been eliminated in dogs born in the United States since 2007, but there is growing concern that importing dogs from across the world could spread the disease in an uncontrollable fashion.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a temporary suspension of dog importations from about 100 countries worldwide. The CDC may make rare exceptions, with written consent, to bring dogs from those countries.

These high-risk countries have high incidence of rabies in dogs and have less stringent regulatory programs than the United States.   

A dog walking in a vineyard.
Dog rabies was eliminated in the United States in 2007, and the temporary restrictions will help us avoid reintroduction. Rabies is a disease that can transfer from dogs to humans. It’s important to note that for both animals and humans, rabies is fatal.

Many dog across the world have falsified health certificates or aren’t immunized against rabies, which poses great risk in reintroducing the disease we fought so hard to eliminate. Over the last year, the U.S. has seen an increase of imported dogs being turned away due to insufficient or falsified vaccination records, or possible exposure to rabies. The change in regulations will make it less likely that rabid animals are allowed to enter the U.S.

Nearly 60,000 people die from rabies every year around the world, and approximately 5,000 animal rabies cases are reported annually to the CDC. Around 90 percent of those animals are wild. Animals that most commonly show rabies infections include bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

Before entering or re-entering the United States with a dog, importers should continue to check other federal regulations, as well as rabies vaccination requirements of state and local governments at their final destination.

The biggest concern is animal-to-human transfer, which could happen after a well-intentioned family adopts a dog that was imported from one of these high-risk countries.

The best thing we can do is make sure our pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations, and adopt animals from local, well-respected shelters that have their own animal health programs, including veterinary care by veterinarians licensed in Washington. Read more about ‘what to know’ when rescuing a pet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Top reasons to trap for Asian giant hornets

Karla Salp
Communications

Asian giant hornet bottle trap
With this being National Pollinator Health Week and only days away from the July 1 start for citizen scientist Asian giant hornet trapping, we reached out to our Pest Program and Asian Giant Hornet WatchFacebook group members to get their top reasons (some serious, others...not so much) to trap for Asian giant hornets.

  • To help honey bees keep their heads. – Cassie C.
  • So I can get some business cards made that say "Citizen Scientist" on them and pass them out. Duh. – Steve S.
  • No species of hornet is native to Washington. Let's keep WA hornet-free. – Sven S.
  • You might come upon a new odor you have never experienced previously! – Debbie V.
  • It is a great way to get kids and kids-at-heart involved in a science project that really makes a difference. – Karla S.
  • They are great for stir-fry. Best part is they are already soaked in orange juice and cider. – Lior H.
  • I garden and don't want to have the AGH become commonplace for me or anyone else. – Georgia N.
  • Because I don’t want my honey bee tattoo to be the only version I get to see in the future. – Becca S.
  • I'm SEVERELY anaphylactic and need to stay as safe as possible, so knowing how close the AGHs are is critical to me. – Rhainy C.
  • The hornet squad might come over and chest bump after removing the nest. – Rian W.
  • Tired of getting "Ancistrocerus sp.", "Polycheirus sp.", "Andrena sp." on iNaturalist. I just want a nice unambiguous chonker insect that doesn't need a microscope to ID to species. – Peter L.
  • Because if you trap one, the team in hornet suits might come. – Sven S.
  • No packing and mailing in nasty OJ-soaked bugs this year! Unless it is AGH of course... – Karla S.

If these reasons have inspired you to participate in citizen scientist trapping for Asian giant hornets (or you want to trap anyway), get ready now by getting your supplies so you are ready to trap starting July 1. A list of materials and trapping instructions are available on WSDA’s website.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Pollinator Week brings welcome news as pollinator health task force resumes work with new mandate

By Katie Buckley  
Pollinator Health Coordinator

Bees and other pollinators are critical to agriculture, food security, and our state’s overall ecosystem. In Washington, there are more than 400 species of bees as well as pollinating butterflies and moths, wasps, flies, beetles, and hummingbirds. Unfortunately, pollinators face increasing threats from habitat destruction and degradation, invasive species, pests and diseases, pesticides, and climate change.

A bee on a sunflower.
A bee pollinates a sunflower. 
But as we celebrate Pollinator Week, there is some good news on the pollinator health front.

In May, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law 2SSB 5253, a bill that adopts recommendations made by a pollinator health task force last fall, after the group had spent a year examining ways to help protect our precious pollinators.

Nearly all recommendations made by the task force were included in the bill, which was fully funded, and helps pollinators in a variety of ways, including:

  • Helping to create more habitat on state, public, and private lands. 
  • Increasing education around pollinators, pollinator habitat, and pesticide use.
  • Reviewing neonicotinoid (new nicotine-like insecticide) impacts on pollinators.
  • Restricting use of non-native bumble bees in open agricultural use.
  • Providing research on pollinator populations.

The pollinator health task force has now resumed meeting in order to come up with an implementation plan for all the projects the new bill encompasses. The task force is also scheduled to extend until at least 2024 to aid with actual implementation.

This has been a significant win for pollinators and pollinator health in Washington. With monarch butterflies and the Western bumble bee currently under consideration for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, it is becoming more critical that we all recognize the ways we can help pollinators. They are some of the few types of wildlife where backyard conservation can make a real difference.

Similarly, the growers that we work with can also be part of the solution. The grant program created by the Sustainable Farms and Fields Act will prioritize grants with pollinator habitat included. Farms can also take advantage of the Natural Resources Conversation Service, Conservation Stewardship Program to increase beneficial insect habitat on their property. Tree fruit growers are increasingly seeing that having a diversity of pollinators in their orchards leads to better yields.

Whether you’re in the agriculture industry, or not, everyone can help, one packet of wildflower seeds at a time.

For more ways to get involved, visit Pollinator Week. You can also visit our website to learn more about the pollinator health task force or contact our pollinator health coordinator Katie Buckley.

 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

WSDA offering free 840 RFID tags to new and renewing ECTR users

Jodi Jones
Animal Services Division

What is an inexpensive, electronic, and convenient alternative to in-person brand inspection?  The Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting System – otherwise known as ECTR.

WSDA offers Washington ranchers and dairy owners an alternative way to meet brand inspection requirements through self-reporting of cattle sales and out-of-state cattle movement through our ECTR system. ECTR meets the critical dual objectives of both livestock identification and animal disease traceability by electronically capturing proof of ownership, registered brand recordings, and official individual identification. 

To make this process even more affordable, WSDA is offering free official 840 RFID tags to both new registrants and current users that renew their license!

840 RFID tag
840 RFID tag

New ECTR users

Producers who register for ECTR are eligible for free official 840 RFID tags:

  • 40 tags and one RFID tag applicator for producers with herds of 50 head or less.
  • 100 tags and one RFID tag applicator for producers with herds of more than 50 head.

Current ECTR users

Current users that choose to renew their ECTR license will receive additional free official 840 RFID tags.

  • The number of tags awarded will be based on the volume of cattle they recorded in ECTR the year prior. For example, if you recorded 100 head of cattle last year in ECTR, you will receive 100 tags.
  • Current ECTR users that are already receiving free official RFID tags from our Animal Disease Traceability program will not be eligible for free tags.

Getting your free tags

To get your free tags, first register for or renew your ECTR license. If this is your first time registering, we will automatically send your tags. If you renewed, simply email ectr@agr.wa.gov and let us know you want the promotion tags.

For more information about ECTR, please visit our ECTR webpage at or call (360) 902-1855.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Washington Soil Health Initiative: Protecting the future of agriculture in Washington

Jadey Ryan
WSDA environmental specialist

One of our partners in the field taking soil samples.
Healthy soil is the key to success in farming. With healthy soil, farms are more successful, our environment is cleaner, and Washington can keep growing nutritious food for generations to come. With more than 300 different crops in the state, healthy soil looks different from place to place and from crop to crop. The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Assessment Section (NRAS) partnered with Washington State University (WSU) to launch a baseline assessment of soil health across Washington. This research will help us better understand the role of soil health in our diverse agricultural landscape.

The beginning of the Washington Soil Health Initiative

In the fall of 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA) awarded a $500,000 specialty crop block grant to NRAS that funded a soil health survey project in partnership with WSU. Then in the spring of 2020, the state Legislature passed Substitute Senate Bill 6306 that created the Washington Soil Health Initiative, which provided $200,000 of additional funding to NRAS for more soil health research and outreach. 

Partnerships are key

The Soil Health Initiative aims to identify and promote soil health stewardship practices that are grounded in sound science and promote economic prosperity for farmers. 

Soil sampling kits
prepared to send off.

This soil health research brings together many partners including NRAS, WSU, Washington State Conservation Commission, the non-profit Soil Health Institute, 11 conservation districts throughout Central and Eastern Washington, three soil health laboratories, and all of the participating farmers.

NRAS and WSU work with the conservation districts to find farmers who are willing to provide management histories and volunteer their fields for soil sampling. Once fields are identified, soil samples are collected and sent to SoilTest Farm Consultants, Inc., Dr. Deirdre Griffin LaHue’s lab at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center, or the Soil Health Lab at Oregon State University.

The original project: Focus on specialty crops

The project that was funded by the specialty crop block grant began in fall 2019 and continues through summer 2022. The goal is to understand the current soil health status and key soil challenges of major specialty crops in Washington. Specialty crops of interest include potato, wine grape, sweet corn, onion, tree fruit, hops, and pulses. 

The project uses a survey approach by sampling sites with similar soil types that farmers identify as their “best” and “worst” fields.  Farmers choose these fields based on their perception of yield, disease pressure, and the need for additional soil amendments such as fertilizer or lime. Samples taken from these sites are tested for a variety of chemical, physical, and biological soil health indicators, which collectively provide a snapshot of overall soil health. Farmers also provide data about their farming practices through a management survey, so that soil health status can be linked with management practices across soil types, crops, and regions.

Project expansion: More crops are included

A close look at the process of soil sampling. 
The Soil Health Initiative provided funding to expand upon the grant project to achieve a broader soil health monitoring program that includes more than just the major specialty crops. With this project expansion, NRAS and WSU can collect soil samples from all crop and grazing lands that currently have or plan to implement conservation management practices. By comparing soil sample results from similar locations that have or have not implemented conservation practices, NRAS and WSU can learn more about which practices are best at improving soil health for the many different crops across Washington.

Additionally, NRAS and WSU are working with the Soil Health Institute to sample from uncultivated sites such as native grasslands or rangeland. Data from these samples will be compared with those from conventionally farmed soil samples of similar soil types to understand how native and perennial grassland soil health differs from that of cultivated soils. 

Outcomes: More data, outreach, and improved soil health 

Participating farmers will receive a personalized soil health report with data and an interpretation of the results. NRAS, WSU, and conservation districts will share the findings from these projects with the agricultural community and the public. 

The Soil Health Initiative brings together stakeholders interested in practices that improve soil health without compromising farmers’ success. The outcomes from these projects are baseline soil health data specific to Washington, better tools to monitor and manage soil health, increased adoption of soil health stewardship practices, and continued engagement from stakeholders and participating farmers. 

Each outcome contributes to improved agricultural viability, farm profitability, nutrition, and environmental function across Washington. If you are interested in participating or have questions, please email our soil scientist for the project, Dani Gelardi, or call 360-791-3903. You can also visit agr.wa.gov/agscience to learn more about NRAS and the Soil Health Initiative. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Cherry season means cherry inspector jobs at WSDA

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

Washington state cherries are a worldwide favorite. The beautiful color, taste, size, and quality are widely known. With cherry season nearing, WSDA is looking for inspectors to join the force for the duration of cherry season (six to eight weeks), but with only a week before training begins, we are not seeing as many applicants as in year’s past.

“We usually get quite a bit more applicants, but this year we just aren’t seeing the numbers we usually do,” commodity inspection manager Robert Newell said.

WSDA typically hires more than 100 inspectors to visit the local warehouses in Brewster, Chelan, Wapato, Wenatchee, Pasco, and Yakima. But this year, several positions are still available with just a week to go before the start of the cherry inspection period.

What a cherry inspector does

Inspectors start training June 1, and over the course of cherry season they visit cherry packing warehouses and inspect the product for quality, color, and other facets.

If you’re a returning inspector, training is a one-day refresher course. For first-timers, this is a three-day endeavor where we will teach you grade and sampling procedures; how to identify defects, what the grade requirements are, how to sample the products, what the cherry crushing process looks like, and how to best communicate with the facility where you are inspecting.

Inspectors also learn  about our inspection documents, how to enter sample information into the computer program, create accurate documents, and issue shipping permits.

In an effort to fill all the needed spots, WSDA has increased wages from $15 an hour to $17.24 an hour.

Once hired, inspectors visit warehouses, sometimes perform a sanitation walkthrough looking for debris such as leaves that may need to be cleared out. But the primary work is to take samples of packed cherry boxes and look for color, grade, size, and condition. Inspectors perform a crush test, checking to see if the cherries are home to fruit flies. Once all the checks are balanced, inspectors record the information and issue shipping permits and other documents that allows our cherry packing facilities to ship the product all over the country and abroad.

Inspectors are expected to produce accurate and quality work, paying attention to detail as they inspect and certify fresh cherries at shipping points for domestic and foreign markets. Making sure the grade and condition of the cherries meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and WSDA.

“By working together with our industry partners, we continue to keep Washington state cherries a sought after product worldwide,” Newell said.

How to qualify

To qualify for this position, you must be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license and a GED or high school diploma. The best candidates also have the ability to work cooperatively in a fast-paced team environment and have reliable transportation. If you also have the ability to use good judgment, tact, and withstand stressful situations, this is the job for you.

Some years, there’s also opportunity for frequent overtime pay. Visit www.governmentjobs.com or agr.wa.gov to apply. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Answers to common questions about WSDA's proposed hornet quarantine

Amy Clow
WSDA Pest Program 

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is proposing to add all species in the genus Vespa (hornet) to the list of quarantined pests. The rule we are proposing would prohibit live life stages of hornet species from being sold, offered for sale, distributed, or knowingly moved throughout or received within Washington.

The proposal adds restrictions to “infested sites,” defined as all property within 20 meters of a nest containing any live life stage of hornet.

The Black Bellied hornet

WSDA will try to notify occupants or owners when their property is designated as an infested site. Until WSDA determines an area is not infested, people will need to get authorization to enter the area. This is to protect the public and prevent more infestation. The proposed rule would allow WSDA to grant access to an infested site to property owners, occupants, and others.

Some frequently asked questions

If a nest is detected on private property, will the owner or occupant be restricted from accessing or entering their property?

No. Access to property owners and occupants will not be restricted. Restricting access within a 20 meter area around the nest is a precaution to protect public health and safety, prevent further infestation, and ensure the nest is safely removed.

WSDA will remove the nest as soon as possible. Nest removal depends on the situation and factors such as weather, obstructions, and equipment availability. Generally, removal will take no longer than two weeks. 

Will yellowjackets or bald-faced hornets be included in the quarantine?

No. Yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets are not included in the proposed quarantine. Yellowjackets belong to the genus Vespula and Dolichovespula. Bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) are a type of yellowjacket and not a true hornet (Vespa).

Why are all hornets being quarantined rather than only Asian giant hornet?

No hornet species are native to Washington State. Any hornet introduced here could upset our state’s ecosystem, such as spreading new pathogens and parasites to native wasps, bees, and yellowjackets. Washington’s suitable habitat for certain hornet species make it more likely they will become established once introduced.

Asian giant hornets on a notebook.
The recent detection of Asian giant hornet caught the attention of Washington state residents, but that’s only one reason for the proposed rule. It’s also needed because other hornet species have been detected in Washington and neighboring British Columbia (Vespa orientalis, Vespa soror, and Vespa crabro).

What risk do hornets actually pose?

Hornets pose a direct and indirect risk to agricultural crops in Washington State. They have been known to feed on fruit such as pears, peaches, plums, grapes, berries, and apples, making the fruit unfit for human consumption. Hornets attack honey bees and native insect populations. Managed honey bees and native insects are important pollinators vital to agricultural production. If hornets were to become established in Washington, our economy and ecology could be severely affected.

Hornets can also pose a risk to human health. The venom in their sting can be toxic. And unlike bees, they can sting repeatedly. A hornet sting can cause substantial pain, as well as tissue damage. In some extremely rare cases, death can also occur. Although hornets don’t generally target people, they can attack when threatened.

Visit agr.wa.gov/hornets for more information on the Asian giant hornet, or the WSDA rulemaking page for information on the proposed hornet quarantine rule.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

All hands on deck: Changing roles around COVID Response

This past year brought challenges for everyone, and while it remains to be seen how COVID-19 and its impacts will continue to affect us, many have found themselves taking on new responsibilities. This was definitely true for the WSDA Rapid Response & Emergency Management Program, where the Washington Food/Feed Rapid Response Team (RRT) resides. 

In any year other than 2020-21, the Rapid Response Team earns its keep by coordinating multi-jurisdictional food and animal feed outbreak responses. For example, in the 2018-19 budget period, the team coordinated responses to nine separate incidents including E.coli illnesses associated with raw milk, detections of listeria and salmonella in raw pet food, and severe winter weather impacts on dairy cattle in central Washington. 

A 2019 training event led by
the Rapid Response Team.

In 2020, the Rapid Response Team assisted in coordinating with its food safety partners on 17 incident responses ranging from Listeria in canned fish, campylobacter illnesses associated with undercooked chicken liver, and assisting with tracing efforts on a national leafy green outbreak. These are all typical for our team, but after 2020, we can add infectious disease response to the running list of the program’s capabilities.

Although routine response work continued, we all had to adapt in 2020 to the needs brought on by the global pandemic, and Washington RRT was no different. 

One of the great opportunities of having a food/feed Rapid Response Team as part of WSDA’s Emergency Management Program is that each side brings its own extensive network of subject matter experts.

These networks overlapped in many ways when tasked with solving, or helping others solve, the various challenges that came with sharing COVID-19 public health guidance, obtaining and distributing personal protective equipment, tracking federal guidance and requirements, and educating and advising others on the state’s vaccine roll-out plan. 

For example, the same emergency managers we typically work with on radiation emergency preparedness or Incident Command System training became involved last year in helping with the statewide COVID-19 response. Despite different roles, we all knew how to reach each other and tap into one another’s resource network to share best practices, learn what had already been done, and coordinate our efforts. 

Knowing who to contact in food safety programs of other states through the national Rapid Response Team network helped expedite COVID-19 guidance for the food processing industry. Having all of these networks already established sped the agency’s public health response.

The Rapid Response Team was also able to help provide more tangible solutions, such as assisting the WSDA Food Safety Program purchase handheld radios so food safety inspectors could continue important inspections and investigations while maintaining social distance measures and following current statewide requirements.

Washington National Guard
helping at a food pantry.
Additionally, the program represents WSDA during all statewide responses where agricultural and natural resources are impacted.  We call this Emergency Support Function 11, or ESF 11, and we’ve been activated for over 13 months through the State Emergency Operations Center.  Add this ESF-11 piece to the program and you get a well-rounded balance of in the trenches work and big-picture coordination. 

The past year gave us the opportunity to work closely with others in the agency to coordinate National Guard placement in food banks, assist with face covering and hand sanitizer distribution to farm workers and food processors, and share expertise in food safety and quality considerations related to stockpiled food to supplement the state’s hunger relief network. 

The work needed to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak illustrated that programs with rapid response teams can not only be boots on the ground, but also effective at coordinating the flow of information and act as key facilitators for an effective public health response.

COVID-19 brought challenges, suffering, and heartache to many, but it provided the opportunity to identify what worked well in our response, and what could be improved. 

While COVID-19 changed a lot of things, the networks of dedicated public health and emergency management professionals continued to work effectively. The interlacing prompted by the challenges of this last year have only made these networks stronger.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Think twice before giving bunnies or chicks as gifts

Dr. Susan Kerr
WSDA Animal Health Program

Although it may be tempting to gift a small child with a fuzzy baby rabbit or chick on a glorious spring day or as an Easter gift in a basket, giving such animals as gifts should only be done after careful consideration for the health of the children and the well-being of the animal.

Rabbits and poultry carry a significant health risk for children and many new owners find themselves unprepared for the reality of raising a rabbit, hen, or rooster.

It is common for a child to nuzzle or even kiss a baby chick. However, poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria on or in their bodies, and some types of this bacteria can make people very ill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported an increase in salmonella cases associated with the increase in backyard poultry raising in response to COVID-19 pandemic food security issues.

Proper handwashing will go a long way to keeping yourself and your child safe, but small children are notoriously lax about handwashing; they put things in their mouths, have close contact with the ground, and sometimes interact very closely with animals. All these actions put children at greater risk of Salmonellosis, which can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and serious complications.

Another concern about gifting a chick is what becomes of the chick as it grows. Will you be prepared for a laying hen that can live 10 or more years, or a rooster who will let the neighborhood know when it is 5 a.m.?

Dumping birds somewhere after a child has lost interest is illegal, unethical, and cruel.

The same concern holds true for rabbits, also often given as a gift.

Once interest in the bunny wanes, many rabbits are dumped in parks or other remote areas. This is a tragedy on two fronts. First, freed domestic rabbits are not prepared for life in the wild and usually succumb to starvation or predators. Second, surviving rabbits wreak havoc on ecosystems by competing with native rabbit species, destroying desirable plants, and reproducing at alarming rates.

To make matters worse, in recent years a serious rabbit disease has been spreading more widely in the Washington and the U.S. – Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, or RHD. This virus is highly contagious among the European rabbits most commonly sold, and releasing them into the wild increases the risk of the disease spreading into native wild rabbits.

If, despite your best efforts and intentions, you are no longer able to care for any type of pet, it should be taken to an appropriate animal shelter and never set loose in the wild.

Bringing an animal of any kind into a household is a serious decision. Considerations include how to feed, house, and care for the animal for the duration of its life - which can be years – in order to keep both people and pets safe

If you are not prepared for such a commitment, consider sticking to a stuffed animal—there is no feeding or waste to worry about, and you can always throw them in the washer!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Mailing products temporarily allowed for Cottage Food operations

Hector Castro
Communications 

If you are thinking of getting into the cottage food business, but are worried about selling direct to customers, it might help to know that a temporary suspension of that policy remains in effect.

Normally, cottage food operations in Washington are required to sell direct to the consumer, and prohibited from shipping their food products. But as with so many other person-to-person interactions, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for cottage food operations to sell in this manner.

In late 2020, WSDA adopted the new policy, "Delivery of Cottage Foods products during the State of Emergency," to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus while still allowing market access for cottage food businesses.

Mailing cottage food products still has some requirements. The product must be packaged to prevent contamination while it’s in transit, and the cottage food operation must continue to meet record-keeping requirements required by state regulations.

Washington has nearly 400 permitted cottage food operations statewide covering about 30 counties. King County has the most, with about 100 permitted cottage food operations. Spokane County has 20 permitted cottage food operations.

WSDA continues to accept new Cottage Food permit applications. The permitting process requires an inspector to visit the location where the food will be prepared, but those inspections are currently being done remotely when possible.

Visit agr.wa.gov/cottagefood for more information on current policies and the WSDA Cottage Food program. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

More than hornets – WSDA trapping continues legacy of protecting agriculture and the environment

Karla Salp
Communications

While millions of people only became aware of the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s work last year thanks to the “murder hornets,” the Asian giant hornet program is just the newest in a long history of work that the WSDA Pest Program has engaged in to protect the state from harmful invasive pests. For decades, the Pest Program, with cooperation and participation from the public, has protected the quality of life for all Washingtonians by ensuring that crops and our environment remain free from new invasive pests.

Gypsy moth

Male Asian gypsy moth stuck on trap
Male Asian gypsy moth trapped near
Silver Lake in Cowlitz County
Since trapping started in 1974, gypsy moth has been WSDA’s longest-running and most successful pest program. Despite new introductions of European gypsy moths each year from where it is established in the Eastern U.S. and occasional introductions of Asian gypsy moths through the ports, there are still no established populations of gypsy moth in Washington. The success of the program is owed not only to the dedication of state entomologists over several decades, but also because of excellent tools that have been developed to detect and control gypsy moths when they try to establish in an area.

In 2020, over 20,000 gypsy moth traps were placed throughout the state. WSDA trappers caught only nine gypsy moths, but unluckily the last moth caught was found to be an Asian gypsy moth. Asian gypsy moths are worse than their European cousins because they eat a wider range of host materials (including evergreen trees) and the females can fly, allowing them to spread more easily.

Owing to their destructive nature and potential to spread easily, the federal standard recommendation is to treat for even one Asian gypsy moth. Therefore, WSDA has proposed to treat the area near Silver Lake in Cowlitz County where the Asian gypsy moth was detected.

How you can help: You can help by not disturbing gypsy moth traps that WSDA hangs throughout the state each summer and by allowing our traps on your property when necessary. This ensures a proper detection grid so no gypsy moths slip in undetected. If eradication is proposed in your area, learn all about it at agr.wa.gov/gypsymoth and help educate your neighbors. 

Japanese beetle

Japanese beetle on roses
Japanese beetles have a fondness for roses, 
but they can decimate hundreds of plant species
Japanese beetles are invasive pests that are already established in many eastern states. The adults eat many types of plants but have a particular fondness for roses. The larvae (aka grubs) like to overwinter in lawns.

WSDA issued a pest alert last fall after Japanese beetle was found in a surprising location – Grandview. While Japanese beetle has been trapped and detected at airports for years (where they sometimes hitch rides on planes) it was unusual to detect the pest so far from an airport. WSDA will be conducting intensive trapping in the area in 2021 and conducting outreach in the area to notify residents and encourage reporting of Japanese beetle sightings.

How you can help: Learn how to identify Japanese beetle and report it to WSDA's Pest Program at pestprogram@agr.wa.gov or to the Washington Invasive Species Council

Forest pest survey – no news is good news

One of the project
s the Pest Program conducts is a forest pest survey, looking for certain pests of agricultural concern that are not yet known to be in the state. This year the program looked for several pests, including such pests as summer fruit tortrix, oak splendour beetle, and spotted lanternfly. Thankfully, none of the pests were detected this year.

Woman hanging trap in large fruit tree
Sapp Dickerson hanging trap and lure in host tree.

How you can help: If you see an unusual plant, insect, or other animal that you think might be invasive, snap a photo and report it to the Washington Invasive Species Council.

Apple maggot

yellow apple with dark, uneven lines in the skin
Apple maggot tunneling through apple
Apple maggot is a pest that is a serious threat to Washington’s apple industry. The pest was first found in Western Washington in the 1980s and rapidly spread throughout the I-5 corridor. Luckily, much of Washington’s main apple-growing regions remain pest free.

WSDA conducts trapping in pest-free areas as well as in apple maggot quarantine areas that have commercial orchards. When our trappers detect apple maggot adults or larvae, they alert the county pest boards and the boards take action to address the issue. This collaborative approach has prevented apple maggots from ever having been detected in Washington grown commercial apples.

An unusual number of apple maggots were detected in Okanogan County in 2020, in part due to a new approach the program took to collect host fruit (including fruit from hawthorn bushes) in areas where adult apple maggot flies were trapped. The season netted a total of 471 apple maggot adult flies and 385 larvae/pupae (from collected fruit) in Okanogan County. Members of the Apple Maggot Working Group – which includes WSDA, apple industry representatives, county pest boards, and university researchers – are currently reviewing the trapping results and are considering a recommendation to quarantine all or part of the remaining pest-free area of Okanogan County.

How you can help: Leave your apples at home if you live in the quarantine area. Learn about the apple maggot quarantine, which prohibits the movement of homegrown fruit from quarantined areas (including all of Western Washington and some areas in Eastern Washington) into the pest-free areas of Washington. 

Last but not least - Asian giant hornets

2020 was the first year that we monitored for Asian giant hornets, after confirming the first detection in the country in December 2019. We had to rapidly develop plans for trapping, tracking, and eradication in the spring in collaboration with the U.S Department of Agriculture. 

Asian giant hornets garnered national attention when they were dubbed "murder hornets" by the media in May of 2020. Suddenly, the eyes of the world were on our staff and our work. But the notoriety also had a benefit - millions of people were educated about Asian giant hornets and thousands stepped up to help by either reporting suspected sightings or placing traps on their property and submitting their catches for 17 weeks or more. 

Thanks to the combined efforts of WSDA and citizen scientist trapping, we were able to trap, tag, and track an Asian giant hornet back to its nest last October - finding and eradicating the first-ever Asian giant hornet nest in the United States. Of the 31 specimens that were reported or trapped, half were detected by the public. We literally could not have done it without you. 

WSDA's pest program recently released a video summarizing the program's work in 2020 and is currently meeting with national and international partners to plan trapping for 2021. While the plans are still in development, we do know that citizen scientist trapping and reporting will continue to play a significant role in the work to prevent Asian giant hornets from establishing in the U.S. 


How you can help: Continue to report suspected Asian giant hornet sightings in Washington state using our online reporting form or by emailing hornets@agr.wa.gov or calling 1-800-443-6684. If you live in Washington - especially Whatcom, Skagit, Island, or San Juan counties - consider participating in citizen scientist trapping starting in July. You can also join our Asian Giant Hornet Watch Facebook Group to stay up-to-date on Asian giant hornet happenings in the Pacific Northwest.

Our work continues - together 

WSDA’s Pest Program monitors for over 130 pests each year, and that list only continues to grow with the addition of new invasive pests such as the Asian giant hornet. The work is always a collaborative effort between WSDA and the community. While we set and monitor traps, the public plays an important role in reporting new suspected pests, allowing traps to be placed on their property, and in some cases responding to pest detections. This collaboration between state and local organizations and private citizens has helped to keep pests in check in the state for decades, which protects not only our crops but the environment and even human health.