Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Santa’s reindeer cleared to fly into Washington State on Christmas Eve

Dr. Amber Itle
Interim Washington State Veterinarian

Photo courtesy of Ed and Sonya Benhardt
Reindeer Express LLC, Reardan, Wash.
Not all elves make toys, some take care of Santa’s team of reindeer. Washington Interim State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle met with Santa’s elf herdsman that oversees reindeer husbandry and care at the North Pole. Santa’s biosecurity plan was reviewed in preparation for his big trip around the world and his paperwork was checked to make sure that all the reindeer met the Washington state animal health import requirements. 

The elves have all been preparing for the big day by taking special care to properly condition the team to ensure they can endure the long flight. The elves work hard to minimize stress by providing reindeer with optimal nutrition, fresh air, clean bedding, and lots of space. 

Santa’s Top 10 Biosecurity Tips 

1. No visitors to the North Pole.

2. Keep a closed reindeer herd.

3. Perform annual laboratory testing for diseases of concern.

4. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian and perform annual exams and vaccinations. 

5. Bring your own reindeer grain, hay, and water for the journey.

6. When traveling, never land on the ground; rooftops are cleaner. 

7. Avoid direct contact with wildlife and domestic animals.

8. Clean and disinfect your sleigh and boots between rooftops, states, and countries and when returning to the North Pole. 

9. Isolate all reindeer returning from toy delivery for 30 days.

10. Designate elves to care for reindeer who have traveled.  

All the reindeer that cross state lines must receive a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and a permit number to move between States for toy delivery. A CVI is a special animal health document that certifies that the animals listed “are not showing signs of infectious, contagious and/or communicable diseases” and have met all the required vaccinations and testing requirements. Santa’s reindeer tested negative for tuberculosis, brucellosis, and meningeal worms and have maintained “free” status in the CWD Herd Certification Program. 

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph all received clearance to fly into Washington state.  

Make sure to track Santa and the reindeer’s flight path on December 24 using NORAD’s Santa Tracker. 

Remember, if you are moving animals across state lines this holiday season to check interstatelivestock.com to meet the interstate animal movement requirements. 

Santa's certificate of veterinary inspection is all set for the big night. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Grant applications now open for Farm to Food Bank, a program to reduce food waste and feed Washingtonians


Nichole Garden
WSDA Food Assistance Program 

Photo Courtesy of Maddie Price,
Harvest Against Hunger.
A food bank client in Kitsap County visited a local restaurant to thank the chef, who made soup they received at a local food bank during the pandemic shutdown.

The soup the client’s family received—made from scratch using locally grown, donated produce—was just a fraction of the 680 quarts of soup processed and distributed in the area from September 2020 to March 2021 through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Farm to Food Bank grant. 

The soup project was run by Kitsap Conservation District with support from the Olympic Community Action Program. They worked with local chefs who processed more than one ton of gleaned and donated vegetables into 25 different types of soups, which were frozen before distribution to food pantry clients. 

The project provided access to healthy, ready-to-eat meals to food pantry clients, helped reduce on-farm food waste, and even kept a restaurant’s staff employed during the worst part of the shutdown.

TEFAP Farm to Food Bank projects, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the 2018 Farm Bill, helps capture food from agricultural producers to distribute to food pantry clients, while also reducing food waste through partnerships with farms, gleaning operations, and others. 

Another round of Farm to Food Bank grants opened on December 10 for public agencies, tribes, and nonprofit organizations for services provided from April 1 – October 31, 2022.

About the Farm to Food Bank program

With USDA’s TEFAP Farm to Food Bank funding, WSDA is able to support projects across the state that—like the one in Kitsap County—help with the harvest, processing, packaging, or transportation of unharvested, unprocessed, or unpackaged foods that are donated by agricultural producers, processors, or distributors. The food is then distributed by TEFAP emergency feeding organizations to food-insecure Washingtonians. These projects help build relationships between agricultural producers, processors, and distributors.

Year 1 results

In 2020, with little time to implement the program, WSDA prioritized projects with Farm to Food Pantry subcontractors who were already gleaning a tremendous amount of produce for food pantries and meal programs in rural areas, as well as areas identified as food deserts by the USDA. 

In addition to the production of ready-to-eat soups in Kitsap County, Farm to Food Bank funded these activities in its first year.


  • Gleaning: Harvest Against Hunger, our Farm to Food Pantry partner, purchased and distributed harvesting materials, including collapsible produce crates, compostable produce bags, twist-ties, and electronic scales, to aid gleaning organizations that provide food to TEFAP food pantries and meal programs across the state.
  • Refrigeration: Chelan Douglas Community Action Council purchased a refrigerated container and supported the installation of a walk-in refrigerator at Upper Valley MEND, a nonprofit that runs a food pantry and vibrant gleaning program in the heart of orchard country. These investments expanded access to freshly gleaned produce from just a few families to recipients across two counties. 
  • Weekly deliveries and centralized storage: The North East Washington Hunger Coalition made weekly produce deliveries to 15 food pantries across 260 miles. In partnership with Rural Resources Community Action Council they were able to purchase a refrigerated container along the delivery route to safely store donated produce between pickups or transfers to food pantries, reducing the time it takes to deliver perishable foods in this large service area. The funding also employed a dedicated gleaning coordinator. 

Together, these projects captured more than 82,000 pounds of donated produce and aided the production of 1,400 pounds of processed soups that were distributed through TEFAP food pantries. Investments in building refrigerated capacity will help reduce waste for years to come.

Year 2 projects

In the program’s second year, 2021, WSDA opened a grant application period that was open to all of our current contractors. Year 2 projects include:

  • Gleaning: WSDA continued to collaborate with Harvest Against Hunger to fund harvest supplies for qualified gleaning organizations. New items included produce washing stations, tree fruit harvesting bags, and more.
  • Value-added processing support: Chelan Douglas Community Action provided harvesting supplies and funded gleaning coordinator salaries for their subcontractor, Upper Valley MEND. Due to staffing shortages, they were unable to pursue value-added processing by restaurants to the extent they had hoped. Instead, they purchased equipment to support in-house processing in the future.
  • Pantry on the Go: Central Kitsap Conservation District was able to support a portion of their Pantry on the Go Program, a mobile food pantry that supplements TEFAP commodities with donated produce. The program provides food for seniors and people living in low-income housing in rural, underserved areas. They also partnered with Kitsap Conservation District to continue the soup project from Year 1.

Year 3 grant applications 

The application period for the next round of Farm to Food Bank grants are open until January 31 for services that will be provided between April 1 – October 31, 2022. Grants will be a minimum of $30,000 with the total amount allocated $140,000. 

The application is open to public agencies, tribes, and nonprofit organizations. For more details on qualifications and to apply, visit the TEFAP Farm to Food Bank Grants webpage. Email Nichole Garden at ngarden@agr.wa.gov for any questions about the TEFAP Farm to Food Bank grant.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Proposed beetle quarantine prompts survey of small businesses in the Grandview area

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

WSDA is working to eradicate Japanese
beetles in the Grandview, Washington area. 
If you have business in the Grandview area, WSDA wants to hear from you as it develops a Japanese beetle quarantine to control the spread of this pest.

Grandview has been dealing with an infestation of Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica). During adult flight season, between May and October, WSDA trappers caught more than 24,000 beetles. It’s a startling number given that only three beetles were caught in the area in 2020 and the kind of damage these invasive pests can do. 

In an effort to control and eradicate the pest, WSDA is planning a multi-faceted approach, including a proposal to quarantine soil and certain other items that could potentially spread the beetles if moved out of the area. 

Before doing that, we’d like to hear from businesses in and around Grandview who may be affected by the rule. The input of business owners and other stakeholders is vital to the rulemaking process. If you think your business might be impacted by the proposed quarantine, please take our survey

Proposed quarantine

WSDA is proposing to amend the quarantine for Japanese beetle by creating a quarantine area around a 49-square mile grid centered on Grandview, Washington. This proposed quarantine area is designed to prevent the spread of Japanese beetle from infested sites within Yakima and Benton counties. 

The proposed quarantine would regulate certain items and impose restrictions on their movement out of the quarantine area. Items for proposed regulation year-round include:

  • Soil (residential, agricultural, construction, and commercial)
  • Humus, compost, and growing media
  • Manure
  • Grass sod (turf)
  • Yard debris
  • Potted plants
  • Bulbs
  • Plant crowns

Items that would only be regulated during adult flight season (May 15 through October 15) include:  

  • Cut flowers
  • Hop bines
  • Corn stalks/harvest silage  

Information collected in the survey will aid in compiling a Small Businesses Economic Impact Statement, which assesses potential impacts the proposed quarantine might have on small and large businesses. The information received will only be used in our assessment of impacts to businesses.

If you do business in the proposed quarantine area and move any of the items listed above out of the quarantine area, please take the survey and help us understand the potential impacts to your business as we formulate a Japanese beetle quarantine for infested areas in the state.

Visit our website to learn more about the Japanese beetle quarantine


Friday, December 3, 2021

Small farms succeed with assistance from WSDA’s Regional Markets team

Laura Raymond
WSDA Regional Markets Program Manager 

If you run a small or midsize direct-marketing farm in Washington state, you know it takes a lot for your business to succeed.

You need to understand the local, state, and federal rules, regulations, and standards and know how to comply with them. You need an effective distribution infrastructure and relationships to ensure that the products you grow or raise can reach customers. If you want to sell in a different marketplace—such as wholesale instead of retail—you need information and guidance to decide whether that market is a good fit and how to be successful within it. You might even need to learn to farm differently. 

WSDA’s Regional Markets team helps small and mid-scale farms in Washington state with all of this—and much more. Their central objective is to help these farms succeed and strengthen local food systems. 

What Regional Markets does

Small farms, which make up 89% of the state’s 39,000 farms, have unique needs when it comes to selling their products on a local or regional scale. Planning, planting, tending, harvesting, storage, processing, and distribution all require different systems than those that are set up for larger producers. 

To help these farms succeed, Regional Markets offers wide range of support, including efforts to:

  • Increase small farm access to local markets.
  • Increase the availability of Washington-grown products in schools and institutions.
  • Encourage connections and infrastructure to boost regional food economies. 
  • Provide farms and food buyers with technical assistance.
  • Provide farms with marketing support and guidance.
  • Facilitate farmer-buyer connections.
  • Support and regulatory guidance for good food safety practices.
  • Advocate for small farms at the national and local levels.
  • Create resources and publications to help farms strengthen local market connections.
  • Provide opportunities to grow or strengthen their businesses through state grant programs. 

Regional Markets is often the first stop for farmers and local food businesses searching for information and resources to sell in their chosen markets. The program also helps buyers such as school districts that want to include local farm products in their menus. They might attend a Farm to School Institute, participate in a Farmer-Buyer Meeting, take part in regularly scheduled Community of Practice calls to connect with others in their sector, or download The Handbook for Small and Direct Marketing Farms (“The Green Book”), the Regional Market's complete guide to direct marketing strategies and regulations. 

By giving small and mid-scale farms the support they need, Regional Markets functions as a key program under the Focus on Food Initiative, which works to connect Washington farmers and food producers with buyers and to ensure that everyone in our state has access to good food.

Learn more about Regional Markets

To learn more about how this program supports small farms, visit the Regional Markets webpage or agr.wa.gov/FarmFoodBiz where you can find information about these grants, and more:

  • Small Meat Processor Capacity Grants
  • COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Grants
  • Farm to School Purchasing Grants
  • Profiting From Your Pivot Program
  • Local Food System Infrastructure Capacity Grants

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Soil Health Initiative and WSDA looking for samples, participants

Dani Gelardi
WSDA Soil Health Scientist

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 commodities grown in the state, healthy soil looks different from place to place and from crop to crop. 

Background

Soil sampling. 

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

WSDA looking for more soil samples

Researchers have already been collecting soil samples as part of this initiative. But as the program begins to launch, coordinators are looking for Washingtonians who may be interested in contributing soils data to the WaSHI State of the Soils Assessment

If you’re a grower, an agricultural professional, a graduate student, or a conservation district staff member who wants to soil sample, we want to hear from you. 

Beginning in March of 2022, WSDA will pay for a laboratory soil health analysis for eligible projects, in exchange for support in collecting soil samples and grower management surveys. WSDA will also provide training and individualized soil health reports for participating growers. 

Soils data will be used to measure soil health across different regions and crops in Washington. This information will help WSDA protect grower livelihoods, environmental sustainability, and food security in Washington.

The deadline to apply to participate is 5 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. For more information or to apply, visit the NRAS Partnerships in Soil Health webpage

WSDA will also be hosting a virtual Q&A on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 1 p.m.

Monday, November 29, 2021

The numbers are in: Farm to Food Pantry continues to make a big impact

Nichole Garden
WSDA Food Assistance Program

Washington onions are one of many crops bought
thanks to the Farm to Food Pantry initiative. 
Veterans Farm at Orting is a 160-acre swath of land nestled at the foot of Mount Rainier which serves as a farm incubator for beginning veteran farmers by leasing them parcels of land where they can learn to grow and raise food. This year, three of its farmers are growing food for Nourish, a Pierce County-based non-profit contracting with WSDA’s Farm to Food Pantry (F2FP) initiative. This initiative, established in 2014, is a partnership between WSDA and Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) that creates ways for Washingtonians in need to receive fresh food from local farmers and gives an economic boost to the local farms. 

Because of the initiative, Nourish is able to support the Orting farmers by purchasing their food directly. This partnership is mirrored across the state as F2FP continues to grow. 

Each of the Orting veteran farmers contributes a unique mix of products. Mark Jacobs of Jacobs Agro supplies hearty greens, such as collards and kale, as well as onions, potatoes, and tomatoes. Jillian Locascio of Dancing Sprouts Farm sells Nourish a bounty of greens, including spinach and bok choy. Terry and Regina Strong of Strong Roots Farm sent over summer squash, melons, cucumbers, and some of the 22 varieties of cherry tomatoes they grew.

Carrie Little, who manages the farm through the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, says it’s gratifying to “watch these amazing humans get excited about growing food” as they develop solid relationships with organizations that pay them for their products. And, she adds, the farmers love knowing that their food is feeding community members who need it. Nourish is also happy with the arrangement and has earmarked extra funds to buy even more from the Orting operation. 

New partnerships like these are making a significant impact. According to the Farm to Food Pantry Annual Report 2020, hunger relief organizations across the state combined grant funds with match dollars to purchase more than 105,000 pounds of produce from 97 farms to feed residents in need across 23 counties in Washington in 2020. Participating farms also donated a whopping 448,153 pounds of surplus produce through Farm to Food Pantry.

With even more funding available this year, thanks to a significant investment from the state legislature, WSDA expects those numbers to continue to grow.

Grant applications

The 2022-2023 Farm to Food Pantry grant application is now open. In addition to produce, the initiative will allow purchases of grains, dairy, eggs, and meat during this grant round. Grants will also provide administrative funding to support the coordination of these efforts.

Applications are now being accepted from prospective Farm to Food Pantry regional agencies through November 30. Recipients will receive a biennial allocation, with between $3,500 and $20,000 available from January 1 through June 30, 2022 and between $3,500 and $30,000 from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. 

Washington grown spinach.
Organizations that receive a grant to build new relationships with their local farmer through procurement, or enhance their current relationships, will not do s
o in a vacuum. WSDA and Harvest Against Hunger provide ongoing support, including monthly cohort meetings for participating organizations as well as technical support and resources, such as the Grower’s Roundtable Kit, a contracting guide and farm contract templates, purchasing calendar template, and fundraising guidance.

By connecting farmers and hunger relief organizations and encouraging community investment, Farm to Food Pantry is meeting key goals of WSDA’s Focus on Food initiative: increasing access to fresh, nutrient-dense foods for people experiencing food insecurity; supporting Washington agriculture; and facilitating connections between food providers and producers at the regional level. 

People, no matter what their income, want to know that food grown in their community is feeding the people that live there. This initiative helps make that possible by giving emergency food providers across the state greater flexibility to buy food grown and raised by local farmers. WSDA and HAH are proud to help facilitate these connections.

Apply now to become a regional agency through 2023. Access the grant materials here and contact Maddie Price by email or calling 206-236-0408 x105 with questions about the grant or the Farm to Food Pantry initiative. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

WSDA Works – Plant services team keeps plants safe and healthy

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

A nursery. 

Have you ever wondered why we don’t see more plants with disease and pests in our nurseries? It’s in large part thanks to the folks in the WSDA Plant Services Program (to name a few).

Early Beginnings

The work of the Plant Services Program began in the 1890s, well before WSDA formed in 1913. Back then, there were about 250 licensees that needed inspection to ensure plants offered for sale were free of harmful pests and plant diseases. Now, there are more than 5,600 licensed nurseries and 11 environmental specialists (also known as nursery and export inspectors) statewide. 

The daily life of plant services inspectors

WSDA inspectors like Sherry and Sue monitor nursery plants for diseases, pests, and overall health. Sherry inspects nurseries, monitors areas like Grandview for Japanese beetles, and assists local nurseries and other plant-related businesses with licensing requirements.

Sherry checks a trap for
Japanese beetle at outside
of a local nursery.

Sherry completes export inspections for hay, straw, hops, fruit trees, pollen, irises, lumber, potatoes, and logs. She says she loves learning more about agriculture in Washington State.

Since the outbreak of Japanese beetle in Grandview, Washington last year, Sherry has been busy keeping an eye out when inspecting the local nurseries. She also sets traps in the surrounding area, regularly checking and reporting her findings. In 2021, she found no Japanese beetles in her traps that surround all the nurseries in the Sunnyside and Grandview areas. Pest program coworkers set traps within city limits, and their catch totaled more than 24,000, but Sherry focused on nurseries, and making sure we weren’t transporting these pesky beetles across county or state lines with the sale of plants.  

Right now teams at WSDA are considering expanding the current quarantine to include moving soil and plants outside of the infestation. Sherry and her team will be a big part of that work, too. The variety of work she does is what keeps her job exciting and enjoyable.

“Coming from Illinois, the land of corn and soybeans, it’s amazing to see the variety of crops in the Yakima Valley and the whole state,” she said.

Poinsettias in a greenhouse. 

During nursery inspections, our plant services inspectors perform quarantine enforcement, ensuring protocols are being followed to ensure plants aren’t carrying pests when they travel, and when new pests arrive, they assist with the detection and subsequent quarantine steps.

The division’s mission statement says it all:

“The Plant Services Program is committed to facilitating agricultural trade and ensuring consumer protection by providing accurate and reliable inspection, testing and certification of agricultural plant products, and serving on the front line of defense against the introduction and spread of pests.”

Between our 11 inspectors, we certify more than $2 billion in agricultural products for export annually, and conduct hundreds of inspections. They inspect thousands of bare-root fruit trees for export to Canada each spring, they certify log and lumber exports, hay exports from Kittitas County, and provide planting stock, tree fruit, and grapevine certification. 

Sue inspects the ground where the trees are
shaken to rid them of pests before export.

Right now, our inspector Sue is making the rounds to inspect and certify Christmas trees pest-free for export. In order to prevent spreading pests, Sue and other inspectors visit tree farms during harvest. The trees are mechanically shaken to rid the tree of any potential pest. Then the trees are baled and shipped. Sue closely looks at a percentage of the trees during the process, and even inspects the needles that fall in the shaking process. If there are no pests found, the trees are certified and ready to ship.

Sue also inspects the many varieties of poinsettias growing in greenhouses in Mossyrock, set to hit holiday centerpieces next month.

Washington is fourth in the nation for Christmas tree production, and produces holiday greens used for a variety of celebrations at this time of the year.

There are nearly 400 Christmas tree farms statewide, the top-producing counties are Lewis, Mason, Clark, Pierce, and Thurston for cut trees. Noble and Douglas fir trees are the most popular Christmas trees sold in Washington, accounting for 90 percent of all sales.

Many of Washington's Christmas trees are exported to Hawaii, California, Canada, Mexico, Asia and U.S. military bases worldwide.

What the future holds

Close-up inspection of
Christmas tree needles. 

The Plant Services Program has some exciting plans for the future. They are currently exploring whether they can employ drones to inspect remote sites or utilize dog teams to sniff out plant viruses and fungal pathogens. They also plan to increase online enforcement efforts, facilitate the movement of hemp plant products, and build a planting stock certification center in Prosser, including labs, offices, and meeting space.


Ensuring that Washington plants are exported pest free will require an ongoing partnership between our Plant Services inspectors and those in the plant industry continuing to follow best practices and quarantine rules. Visit our website agr.wa.gov to learn more about Plant Services.



Thursday, November 18, 2021

WSDA Pest Program trapping season wraps up

Karla Salp
Communications

Each year, WSDA’s Pest Program sets thousands of traps throughout the state to catch invasive species that could threaten agriculture. The program surveys for over 130 pests – most of which have not yet been detected in the state.

Japanese beetles

Dozens of Japanese beetles in a ziplock bag
Dozens of Japanese beetles collected from a single trap

It was a record year for Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) catches - unwelcome news to farmers and homeowners alike. There was one catch in Washington across the river from Portland, a few as usual near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but more than 24,000 in the Grandview area. Catching so many in Grandview this year was surprising considering that only three were caught in 2020 between Grandview and Sunnyside combined.

Japanese beetles on rose bud
Japanese beetles devour a 
Grandview resident's roses
The overwhelming number of catches in the Grandview area has many implications. First, WSDA has proposed a 49-square-mile Japanese beetle quarantine to restrict the movement of soil, yard debris, and plant materials that could spread the beetles. Second, WSDA is planning an extensive, multi-year eradication program to try to eradicate the pest – no easy task given the number of beetles already in the area. Finally, WSDA will conduct extensive outreach and trapping in Yakima and Benton counties in 2022. 

Japanese beetles attack over 300 different types of plants including roses, hops, grapes, corn, lawns, and many other crops grown in area gardens and farms.

If there is a silver lining to this beetle infestation, it is that the city, businesses, schools, and people in the vicinity have been open and willing to do what they can to help with WSDA’s response to this invasive pest. Another positive: although nearly 100 traps were placed around area plant nurseries, no beetles were found at the nurseries.

Invasive moths

Male Lymantria dispar
Our trappers set nearly 23,000 traps statewide this year looking for Lymantria dispar – the moth formerly known as the gypsy moth (a new common name has not yet been established.) This moth has devastated forests in the Eastern U.S. where it is established – eating over 300 different types of trees and plants. When there are cycles of large populations, they can strip entire forests from the canopy to the ground, leaving an eerie winter-like scene at the beginning of summer.

This year was a low year for Lymantria dispar catches – only six were found in the entire state. Unfortunately, one of those moths was caught in Eastern Washington just north of Kettle Falls - which is unusual in itself as most moths are normally trapped in Western Washington – and it was also a more concerning variety – Lymantria dispar asiatica, formerly known as the Asian gypsy moth. Lymantria dispar asiatica eats a wider variety of trees (including evergreens) and the females can fly, allowing them to spread more easily.

Apple maggot

apple maggot fly
Apple maggot fly
Our apple maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella) program continued its work of safeguarding Washington’s global reputation for delicious – and pest-free – apples. The program’s work consists of trapping pest-free areas to ensure they remain pest-free as well as trapping around threatened orchards that are near known apple maggot detection sites.

The good news this year is that many of our main apple-growing regions had no catches at all this year: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Douglas, Franklin, Grant, Lincoln, and Stevens counties. Less encouraging was catching 120 apple maggots in Kittitas County and 843 in Okanogan County.

In areas where apple maggots have been detected outside of the apple maggot quarantine area, the county pest boards are responsible for taking aggressive action. WSDA and the Apple Maggot Working Group (an advisory council composed of state and local government, industry representatives, and researchers) began working last year to examine how best to address the growing apple maggot problem in the unquarantined area of Okanogan County. That effort will continue over the coming months.

Asian giant hornet

Asian giant hornet queen trapped by chopsticks against tree with combs capped with white silk from the nest in the tree showing
Asian giant hornet queen from the
third nest with part of her nest
Our Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) team had a busy season – finding and eradicating three hornet nests in August and September. Every nest was in a tree cavity, each demanding a creative approach to remove the nest. The most challenging nest was about 15 feet up a tree.

Public trapping and reporting again played a major role in locating the nests – two of the three were located after reports from area residents. Despite existing research indicating that the hornets predominately nest in the ground in their native range, all four nests eradicated in Washington over the last two years have been in tree cavities.

Our hornet program will continue for at least three more years. In order for the hornets to be considered eradicated, we must have three consecutive years with no detections. The biggest challenge to success is the lack of a highly-effective trap. While the traps we use catch hornets, they do not appear to be irresistible to them. USDA continues to work on a lure that will be more attractive to the hornets and we wish them much success!

Exotic wood-boring insects

velvet longhorn beetle
Velvet longhorn beetle
Many of the pests we look for are never found. Such is usually the case with our exotic wood-boring insect survey. Imagine trapping for years and never finding what you are looking for. As disappointing as it may be not to find anything, that’s exactly what we hope the results will be as we look for potentially harmful new pests.

This year, WSDA put out over 400 exotic wood-boring insect traps at high-risk sites such as ports, shipping distribution sites, and transfer stations. Trapped areas and other high-risk areas are visually surveyed for signs of wood boring insect activity. One day, they found one.

“This is the first time in all of these years I have trapped a target species,” Don Kitchen, one of the members of the beetle survey team, said.

This past summer, the velvet longhorn beetle (Trichoferus campestris) was detected for the first time in the state in King County near Kent. WSDA responded by setting more traps and conducting visual surveys of the area, although no additional beetles were found. WSDA will continue to put out additional traps, conduct visual surveys of the area, and conduct outreach about the beetle in 2022.

The work continues

WSDA’s Pest Program has had a busy year – and this roundup covers just a handful of the pests they monitor. With their continued work and the help of the public looking for and reporting suspected invasive species, our state should be protected from harmful pests for years to come. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Business accelerator for women class of 2022 announced


Amber Betts
WSDA Communications  

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation announced the 2022 class of the Women’s Farm2Food Accelerator last week. Of the 50 women chosen to participate from Oregon, Nevada, and Washington, 16 were selected from Washington state.

The online accelerator, funded with Specialty Crop Block Grant funds from the three states, will help women farmers and entrepreneurs with food and beverage products explore expanding into new markets. Participants will receive training in marketing, product development, food safety, packaging and knowing your costs. Training will help women farmers and entrepreneurs launch new products or enhance existing products.

The 15-week Women’s Farm2Food Accelerator is grouped into four course areas:

    • Launching Your Product
    • Understanding Customers and Product Value
    • Product Development
    • Pricing and Pitching to Buyers

“This program exemplifies the mission of WSDA to increase the economic viability of farmers and food businesses, with resources prioritized for historically underrepresented farmers and ranchers, including women, minority, and small business owners,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said.

Washington women selected for this program include:

    • Abbey T. Masciarotte, of Duck or Bump, LLC
    • Ariel Dorantes or Dorantes Orchards
    • Danielle Bock of Coco Churro
    • Emily Asmus, of Dovetail Enterprises
    • Erica Hernandez, Colibri Farm
    • Hayley Trageser of Fruitful Designs 
    • Karen Puyleart of April Joy Farm     
    • Kristina Kelly
    • Kristine Robinson
    • Mia Devine of Small Acres, LLC
    • Michelle Alger of Fable Farms LLC  
    • Natalie Evans of We Be Jamin' LLC.
    • Rebecca Frances Minna of Prospore              
    • Renee Kalsbeek  of Mamas Garden LLC         
    • Sharon Kaplan of Fruit Forest Farm, Meermaid's Treasures      
    • Stephanie Schlitz

In addition to the online training, the program will provide opportunities for one-on-one consulting with product development, pricing strategies and providing access to marketing specialists for the participants. Thanks to support from WSDA, the women will be able to display their products at the upcoming Good Food Mercantile in Portland, Oregon in April 2022.

NASDA Foundation collaborates with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Nevada Department of Agriculture, Oregon State University Food Innovation Center, and Union Kitchen to develop and administer the 15-week training program.  

Visit F2FAcelerator.org to learn more about the Women’s Farm2Food Accelerator.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Students, get your forks ready – WSDA hosts farm to school institutes

Laura Raymond and Annette Slonim
WSDA Farm to School program

As school districts across the state establish farm to school connections, they are buying more and more Washington-grown foods to incorporate into new and growing farm to school meal programs. Successful farm to school efforts are nurturing relationships with local farms and other food producers, transitioning to scratch-cooked foods, successfully introducing new menu items, and much more. It’s an exciting opportunity for farmers and students in our state. 

Salad prep at a pre-pandemic workshop on
Farm to School food preparation.
But launching a farm to school program isn’t easy. It requires creativity, dedication, and new ways of working for cafeterias and districts to source seasonally, develop new recipes, and work with fresh and whole ingredients. 

Transitioning to more scratch cooking is a key component of success and this can be a challenging shift; many school districts don’t have the equipment, staff, or training they need to clean, peel, and chop freshly harvested vegetables or to handle large quantities of fresh dairy, poultry, and meats. 

Sourcing seasonally and locally can mean working with ingredients that are uncommon in the conventional school lunchroom, like whole grains and dried legumes, that are plentiful in Washington. These districts need resources and support.

USDA grant kick starts farm to school institutes

To help school districts get started or strengthen their existing farm to school and scratch-cooking efforts, WSDA was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service to develop a series of Farm to School Institutes. 

These institutes offered presentations that covered topics such as developing relationships with producers, procurement options and requirements, delivery and storage, hiring and training kitchen staff, earning student trust, serving culturally relevant foods, menu planning, and planning promotional events. 

During the three virtual events this summer, teams of school nutrition directors, nutritionists, cooks, board members, educators, and others learned from chefs, WSDA staff, and other school nutrition professionals in Washington who run successful farm to school meal programs. 

Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Members of the teams from the more than 20 districts attending said the presentations provided a goldmine of information, resources, and inspiration.

WSDA held three institutes: one for districts in Western Washington, one for those in Eastern Washington, and one focused on tribal and traditional foods.

A trolley of fresh produce celebrating
Farm to School on Taste Washington Day
.
The institutes, run by a team composed of WSDA Farm to School staff, culinary professionals, and tribal and traditional foods educators, drew on the knowledge and experiences of school food professionals from programs of different sizes and styles: districts deep in our state’s agricultural regions, big-city school districts, districts serving a handful of schools, and tribes serving students in their communities. All left with an action plan to advance their own farm to school goals. Presenters also came from districts in various stages of farm to school implementation.
 
Here are just a few of the insights shared by the presenters:
  • The Muckleshoot Cooks Project emphasized the importance of on-the-job training for busy nutrition workers, serving traditional foods weekly, and striving for food sovereignty over time.
  • West Valley School District in Yakima plans meals using a seasonality guide and emphasizes the importance of having a central kitchen to the success of their project.
  • Coupeville School District Connected Food Program uses food from its on-site farm and local farmers. They offer just one hot meal option each day, made in part from foods they prepared in bulk.
  • Seattle Public Schools procures produce from about five local farms for certain meals since no single local farmer can meet the needs of the whole district.
  • Youth leaders from Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team (FEEST) emphasized the importance of meals that are culturally relevant for students and the value of engaging students in menu development. 
As energized participants apply the skills and knowledge they gained through the Institutes, WSDA anticipates that even more students—in more regions of Washington—will be eating foods from Washington farms and food producers at school.

If you would like to buy food from local farms for your school food program, you can apply for a WSDA Farm to School purchasing grant. Visit agr.wa.gov/FarmToSchool or email farmtoschool@agr.wa.gov for more information about the purchase grants.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Taste Washington Day 2021 – celebrating the farm to school connection

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

All across the state this month, students tasted fruit and veggies grown right in their backyards by local farms as part of National Farm to School month. Many also participated in annual Taste Washington Day activities as a way to promote both the farm-to-school movement and Washington agriculture by serving local foods in school meals.

Coupeville schools, along with
many others across the state,
celebrated Farm to School Month
and Taste Washington Da
y. 
The activities to celebrate the month were as diverse as our schools and our farms.

WSDA Farm to School Purchasing Grant Specialist Annette Slonim saw this firsthand on Oct. 6, when she visited the Coupeville School District for Taste Washington Day.

More students there began eating school lunches when the Coupeville School District implemented the Connected Food program, focusing on scratch cooking and fresh, local ingredients. Student participation in the meal program increased from about 30 to 70 percent.

As part of the activities, Coupeville students enjoyed lamb from Bell’s Farm on Whidbey Island.

“It’s an incredible way to show our commitment to expanding economic opportunities for farmers while educating students about the connections between food, farming, health, and the environment,” Slonim said.

But Coupeville wasn’t the only district participating.

The Bellevue School District celebrated Taste Washington Day by adding kiwiberries, grown in Whatcom County, to the day’s selection of fruit. Kiwiberries look like kiwi fruit without the fuzzy hair on the skin and are the size of grapes.

The Dayton School District featured Honeycrisp apples and Bosc pears from Warren Orchards. And, in Bellingham, students were served a vegan chickpea masala, featuring garbanzo beans from Palouse, Washington. Middle and high school students ate salmon chowder featuring wild salmon from Lummi Island.

Schools across the state joined in on
integrating locally grown produce in their
school meals, including foods grown in their
veryown school garden. 
These are just a few of the many locally grown and raised food students enjoyed across the state.

Another feature of the month-long celebration was the Washington Apple Crunch, also held on Oct. 6. The aim is for participants around the state to crunch into their apples at the same moment as a way to highlight local growers and fresh fruit. Grandview School District in south central Washington gave out fresh apples from MagaƱa Farms to every student and staff member to take a big, crunchy bite! Pullman School District in eastern Washington also participated, crunching into organic Jonagold or Gala apples from Whitestone Mountain Orchard.  

Visit www.agr.wa.gov/FarmToSchool to learn more about how WSDA is incorporating local agriculture in the everyday lives of schoolchildren, one lunch at a time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

State entomologists call for public help after possible spotted lanternfly detection

Karla Salp
Communications

Photo submitted with suspected spotted lanternfly report
UPDATE: After this blog was initially posted, WSDA was alerted that the photo submitted with the report was a previously published online photo. Public reports are critical to detecting invasive species in Washington. However, if you are submitting a report and were unable to obtain your own photo of the specimen, please indicate in the report that you are including an online photo that represents what you saw and that the photo is not yours.

WSDA is asking the public to keep a watch for spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), a potentially destructive pest that may have been observed in the Omak region.

Spotted lanternfly (SLF), a native to Asia, attacks primarily grapes, but also has been sighted in other crops such as hops, apples, peach, and other fruit trees. Should it become established in Washington, spotted lanternfly could threaten many Washington iconic crops and result in costly quarantines and increased pesticide use to manage the pest.

Last week, the Washington Invasive Species Council (WISC) received a possible sighting of the pest in the Omak area and informed WSDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The possible sighting included a photograph and also mentioned seeing five live specimens. Despite a search of the area, WSDA entomologists could not confirm the report. WSDA is asking the public, especially those in Okanogan County, to examine their trees and other outdoor surfaces for spotted lanternfly adults and egg masses.

“Our search revealed abundant host material in the area,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist said. “For the next several weeks, we ask people to look for both adults and egg masses. If they think they found any suspected life stage of the pest, they should report it.”   

The unconfirmed report comes during a month when WISC, WSDA, and other state agencies have been requesting that the public report tree-of-heaven locations as part of an effort to proactively locate and remove this preferred host of the spotted lanternfly. The outreach also encouraged the public to look for and report possible SLF sightings, although SLF populations are not known to be in the state at this time. SLF poses no threat to human or animal health.

“This is another example of the important role everyone plays in stopping invasive species,” said Justin Bush, the council’s executive coordinator. “If you spot a suspected invasive species, immediately notify the council through our website or phone app called Washington Invasives. You may be reporting a new invasive species and help prevent millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage and loss.”

Although the unconfirmed report does not indicate that an SLF population exists in Washington at this time, WSDA plans to survey the area for the pest in 2022. Because it is too late to survey this year, public aid in looking for and reporting possible sightings now could provide critical information about the pest’s whereabouts. A rapid response is required to successfully eradicate SLF if a population exists.

When reporting possible SLF sightings, include a photograph, date, and location of the sighting and most importantly – collect the specimens. Reports can be made using WISC’s online reporting form or mobile app or by emailing WSDA at pestprogram@agr.wa.gov or calling 1-800-443-6684. After reporting, suspect specimens and egg masses can be taken to WSU Extension offices. More information about spotted lanternfly can be found on WSDA’s website. Report tree-of-heaven locations to WISC.

Spotted lanternfly first arrived in the U.S. in 2014 in Pennsylvania. Since then, it has been spreading through several eastern states while popping up in other places throughout the country. When established in an area, it can cause potential problems for growers as well as homeowners. 

Additional photos

This blog was updated on November 1, 2020 to provide updated information about the origins of the photograph submitted with the report. 


Monday, October 18, 2021

Own an electric vehicle? WSDA wants to hear from you

Hector Castro
WSDA Communications 

The same team at WSDA that inspects gas stations and fuel pumps for accuracy and quality, is now working on regulations for the charging stations where electric vehicle drivers refuel their batteries - and they want to hear from electric car owners.

In August, WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program began work to develop the new regulations for the charging stations, both Level 2 charging stations, which take about 8 hours to fully charge a vehicle, and the direct current, or DC fast chargers, that can fully charge a vehicle in 90 minutes or less. In most cases, drivers pay a fee for the charging service.

A bill passed in the last legislative session directed WSDA to develop rules that include requiring charging stations to offer multiple payment options. The new rules are meant to allow any driver of an electric vehicle the ability to use a charging station, including drivers who would fall in the low to moderate income bracket and those who don’t have a bank account. 

In initial public meetings this past summer to develop the rules, WSDA heard from representatives of electric vehicle manufacturers and companies that produce the charging equipment, but not much from electric vehicle drivers.

“Not only do we have little input directly from those who use the charging stations, we don’t have any from drivers who don’t have an EV charging membership, or those who fall in the low or moderate income levels,” said Tim Elliott, Motor Fuel Quality and Enforcement Manager for WSDA. 

As electric vehicles become more prevalent, it is expected that they will also become more accessible to a wider range of consumers, including those on a tighter budget, he said. 

“We would like to hear not just from those who drive electric vehicles today, but people who would like to own one in the future,” Elliott said. 

You can visit agr.wa.gov to learn more about the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment rulemaking. You can also email TElliott@agr.wa.gov to reach the Weights and Measures Program for more information or to provide input on electric vehicle charging stations and the current rulemaking effort. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

WSDA considers taking field work to new heights

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

WSDA Staff watch as DFW officers
demonstrate how to operate a drone. 
Peeling back the wrapping paper revealing what was inside, my little brother’s eyes lit up as he realized his gift. He wasted little time taking his brand new mini drone outside to give it a try, he launched the inaugural flight, and everyone had a fun time watching has he ran the mini aircraft into trees and onto the roof of my garage.

I felt that same excitement last month and may have done a little dance after flying a giant and much more sophisticated version of my brother’s gift. I met a group of my colleagues in an open field in Prosser, Washington, to watch a demonstration led by officers of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). As WSDA considers whether drones would make some field work easier to accomplish, we learned about the various types of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) drones, what it takes to implement a drone program at a state agency, and what qualifications drone pilots may need.

The Matrice 300, one of
the drones demonstrated,
waits to take flight. 

Every head turned to the sky as the DFW officer launched the Matrice 300, one of the types of drones used by the officers. As we watched what the aircraft could do, WSDA staff discussed the possible ways we could use a drone. From our dairy inspectors, to our safety officers, and our pesticide inspectors all of my coworkers had ideas on how this aircraft could make their job more efficient.  

For dairy nutrient inspectors, a drone’s birds-eye view could give a bigger picture of pasture conditions, potentially cutting inspection time significantly.

A drone could help entomologists follow a pest or invasive species like the Asian giant hornet to its nest with thermal sensors. Drones could also be fitted with chemical sensors that could detect evidence of pesticide drift.

A staff member operating
the drone controls. 

As a professional communicator, I can see countless uses for video footage and photos to better highlight the work we do.

In addition to learning what the drones could offer our agency, we also learned some of the regulations and licenses our staff would have to abide by and obtain in order to operate the drones as part of agency business. Those operating the aircraft must have a pilot’s license, and maintain a number of flight hours each year in order to keep that license. While flying, the aircraft must stay under 400 feet above the ground and all flight plans must be logged.

Some state agencies are already using drones for their work, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Labor & Industries, and the Department of Ecology.

At WSDA, the recent demo was a first step in a longer process to consider whether drones are right for our agency. Next, an internal group will consider the policies or training that use of drones would require.

A final decision could still be some months away. Stay tuned to our blog to see what’s next. 

Staff looks to the skies as the first drone takes flight.