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 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 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 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