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

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 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 to learn more about NRAS and the Soil Health Initiative.