Washington Friends of Farms & Forests educates the public and decision makers about the science and technology necessary to produce safe, abundant, economical food, fiber and landscaping and to maintain a healthy, productive and safe environment for our agricultural and urban communities.
The latest news…
March 12, 2013
Governor Jay Inslee today announced his latest round of cabinet appointments, naming directors for the state departments of Agriculture, Early Learning and Health.
Okanogan rancher Bud Hover will become the director of the Department of Agriculture. Hover is a former Okanogan County Commissioner and current chair of the state Salmon Recovery Board. His family runs a 2,300-acre hay and cattle ranch in Winthrop.
“Agriculture is one of Washington’s most significant cultural and economic cornerstones,” said Inslee. “Bud’s experience as a rancher and his work on issues from water to wildlife will be invaluable in further growing this vital industry.”
Inslee also praised the outgoing director of Agriculture, Dan Newhouse.
“Dan is held in high regard for his adept leadership, and deservedly so,” said Inslee. “He’s helped steer this department and this industry through some challenging times. I thank him for all his service.”
Bud Hover was raised in Issaquah but has been an Okanogan County resident for 37 years. He graduated from Washington State University, was a middle linebacker for the Washington Redskins for two years and has been co-owner and manager of Sunny M Ranch in Winthrop since 1980. Mr. Hover has a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Education / Forestry and Range Management from Washington State University. He has served on the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest Provincial Advisory Committee.
The WA State Department of Agriculture recently released its most current report from the Surface Water Monitoring Program for Pesticides in Salmonid-Bearing Streams. The full report, as well as past reports, are here: http://agr.wa.gov/FP/Pubs/docs/378-SWMFactSheet2009-11.pdf
The fact sheet explaining the report is here: http://agr.wa.gov/PestFert/natresources/SWM/
The report shows good news and no so good news. Detections of the following products show a steady downward trend: Atrazine, Azinphos-methyl, Bentazon, Chlorpyrifos, Clopyralid, Diazinon, Eptam Diuron, Mecoprop (MCPP), Norflurazon Metalaxyl, Picloram, Simazine, Tebuthiuron, Total-Endosulfan, Triclopyr
However, detections of these products are increasing: chlorpropham, DCPA, Dicamba-I, Ethoprop, Hexazinone, MCPA, Metolachlor, Terbacil, Trifluralin
Pesticide levels measured at most study sites were rarely found at concentrations above aquatic life criteria or water quality standards. For 2009-2011, pesticides that were detected at concentrations above an aquatic life criterion or water quality standard include the herbicide metolachlor; the insecticides bifenthrin, chlorpyrifos, DDVP, diazinon, endosulfan, ethoprop, malathion, methiocarb, methomyl, and an endosulfan breakdown product (endosulfan sulfate).
Out of the 10 pesticides that were associated with increasing trends, WSDA will add five (dicamba I, hexazinone, metolachlor, terbacil, and trifluralin) to its “pesticides of interest” list. WSDA will also elevate 3 of the 10 pesticides: MCPA, pendimethalin, and dacthal (DCPA) from its “pesticides of interest” list to its “pesticides of concern” list. In contrast to a “pesticides of interest”, a “pesticides of concern” simply indicates that a more in-depth evaluation of potential environmental problems is needed.
In the last 10 years, this monitoring program has observed a consistent decline in both the presence and levels of pesticides in salmon bearing streams as shown by:
- Fewer exceedances per sample observed in 2009-2011 then in the previous 6 years (2003-2005 and 2006-2008) for all four of the agricultural watersheds.
- Fewer pesticides were associated with increasing trends (10) then were associated with decreasing trends (16).
- Mixtures of pesticides in surface waters do not signal a cause for concern at this time.
Olympia, WA – Washington Friends of Farms & Forests is a non-profit trade association serving agriculture, timber, vegetation management, and lawn and tree care. New officers and directors were recently elected.
Mike Warjone, Forestry Manager for Port Blakely Tree Farms, Olympia, WA was elected President. Port Blakely is a privately held timber company with land in Washington, Oregon, and New Zealand.
Director Valarie Eckloff was elected Vice President. Ms. Eckloff owns and operates Washington Vegetation Management Services in Chehalis, Washington. Ms. Eckloff joined the board as a director in 2011.
Jeff Blackner, the Tacoma branch manager for Washington Tree Service has served as a director of Washington Friends of Farms & Forests for many years. Mr. Blackner was re-elected Secretary/Treasurer.
Three new directors have also joined the board of Washington Friends of Farms & Forests:
Phil Madden, owner of PM Orchards and Consulting, LLC in Manson, Washington brings his expertise in cherry and apple production and export marketing to the board.
Chris Voigt, Executive Director of the Washington Potato Commission, Moses Lake, Washington, brings his marketing savvy to the board as a new director.
David Wasgatt, silviculture forester for Hancock Natural Resources, Glenwood, WA brings 30 years of expertise in private forest management.
The following directors were re-elected:
Bruce Alber, Wilbur Ellis Company; Vancouver, WA
Robin Parry, Great Salt Lake Minerals; Othello, WA
Mark Sheldahl, Weyerhaeuser Company; Castle Rock, WA
Bryan Stuart, Dow; Sacramento, CA
Don Wallace, Sedro Woolley, WA
Washington Friends of Farms & Forests has over two hundred members involved in natural resource management and food and fiber production. Washington Friends of Farms & Forests educates the public and decision makers about the science and technology necessary to produce safe, abundant, economical food, fiber and landscaping and to maintain a healthy, productive and safe environment for our agricultural and urban communities.
March 11, 2013
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Washington State University professor emeritus R. James Cook has created a website to address root and plant health management.
Cook envisions the site, Plant Health International, as a resource for farmers, students and researchers and wants to reach a wider audience than scientific publications.
Cook, 76, is a former dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences and USDA Agricutural Research Service scientist. He worked with USDA for 33 of his 40 years at WSU. WSU’s Cook Agronomy Farm is named for him. In 2011, he received the prestigious international Wolf Prize for Agriculture.
Research done in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s should not be forgotten, Cook said.
“I’m putting it right out there in front so people can read it as if it was done yesterday,” he said.
Cook’s two daughters, an artist and a writer, pushed Cook to develop the site as part of his efforts to write his fourth book, about “untold” stories that resurrect the research Cook began in 1965.
“I guess I’m just a little bit proud of the work that I did, that I don’t want it to be buried, lost or forgotten,” he said. “I even have a vision that this website might continue after I am no longer vertical on this earth.”
The stories help to give a better understanding of how crops grow and why they aren’t growing as they should. Cook said the cause is often root disease due to a planting monoculture, although many people still believe it’s only loss of soil fertility.
Cook conducted much of his research in the field, testing theories before taking them to greenhouses or the laboratory for refinement. Today, virtually all research is at the molecular level in labs, with little in the field, Cook said.
He believes this is a negative.
“The stories I’m going to be telling with this website are research done in the field that revealed fundamentally new information,” he said.
He expects to update the website once a month and invite other international researchers to write for the site.
Cook hopes to see a wider audience of agronomists and pathologists use the site for communication and sharing information.
“It’s very exciting for me to feel like I’ve still got a role to play in knowledge transfer,” he said. “I’m going to do it from a foundation of my own research and gradually morph into what others are doing that will follow the same ideas.”
OLYMPIA –Pesticide concentrations have declined over the past decade in several salmon-bearing streams in Washington, according to results of water quality monitoring conducted by the Washington state departments of Agriculture (WSDA) and Ecology. In addition, when detected, scientists found that most pesticides showed up at concentrations below levels of concern for aquatic species.
“This is certainly the direction we would have wanted to see,” WSDA Director Dan Newhouse said. “This monitoring program is unique in that it provides growers with real-world data on the potential impact pesticide use could have on local streams and creeks, which in turn allows farmers to apply pesticides wisely and continue these efforts to protect salmon and the environment.”
The Surface Water Monitoring program is one of the most intensive pesticide monitoring efforts in the country for streams and other surface waters. The program started in 2003 as a means of measuring how much of the pesticides used in agricultural and urban areas finds its way into surface waters. State and federal agencies use the data to evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations. Pesticide applicators and farmers use the information as they plan their pest control programs.
Initially, two watershed areas were monitored—one agriculture watershed and one urban. Later, four watershed areas were added to the program. Agricultural areas monitored for the 2009-2011 report include the Lower Skagit-Samish, Lower Yakima, Wenatchee and Entiat watershed areas. Urban areas include the Cedar-Sammamish and the Green-Duwamish watersheds.
From March through September, researchers collect weekly samples and test them for more than 170 different pesticides and related compounds, issuing brief annual reports and a longer, more comprehensive report every three years. This most recent report, “Surface Water Monitoring Program for Pesticides in Salmon-Bearing Streams, 2009-2011 Triennial Report. A Cooperative Study by the Washington State Departments of Ecology and Agriculture,” is the first which has allowed researchers to see trends in the data for several of the study areas.
In 10 years of monitoring, researchers have analyzed more than 2,600 samples. During the last three years 74 different types of pesticides and their break-down products were detected. Of those pesticides detected, most are present at concentrations that met state or federal water quality standards. Still, 10 pesticides were associated with increasing concentrations over a 5-9 year period, a finding that means WSDA will focus attention on the use of these pesticides to ensure that farmers and pesticide applicators are aware of the trend, and that the pesticides are being applied in a manner that will not negatively impact the environment.
Also a first—researchers used the data from this report to estimate the potential effects of pesticide mixtures—where even though the levels are low, several pesticides in combination could pose a problem. By using toxicity information and the concentrations found in the samples, researchers were able to calculate ‘toxic units’ for each pesticide found in a given sample. By adding these toxic units, researchers could estimate the cumulative effect of these mixtures on aquatic life. The researchers found that when mixtures of pesticide were of concern to aquatic life, it was generally due to a high concentration of a single pesticide in the mixture.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Here’s a reality check — and a suggestion — for the folks running the state-by-state campaigns to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
Currently before the Washington Legislature is an initiative that calls for mandatory labels on some food sold in that state. The initiative, which will likely be on the November ballot, is similar to one that California voters rejected last fall, but slightly “improved.”
The main “improvement” is that an ominous section of the California initiative has been dropped. It basically said that if the initiative passed, the state Legislature could never get rid of it or modify it unless it was made more stringent.
The Washington initiative also modified who can sue a farmer or processor. The California initiative basically said anyone could sue if he thought a farmer was selling genetically modified crops that weren’t labeled. In Washington, the initiative makes the state Department of Health the food police and equips the department with the power to fine any miscreants up to $1,000 a day.
Even with those improvements, the Washington initiative is a mess. It exempts food sold in restaurants, alcoholic beverages, most meat and food certified as organic. It also doesn’t say how the state, which is strapped for cash, will be able to afford all of the testing required on the many thousands of food products sold in Washington. And how will the state monitor every batch of food that’s produced? And who will pay for it? Here’s a hint: taxpayers.
Another flaw is that a food processor wrongly accused of mislabeling food has no recourse for recovering its court costs under the initiative. Only a successful plaintiff — the state — can be awarded court costs.
We have editorialized on this subject for more than a decade, ever since a biotech labeling initiative was first proposed in Oregon in 2002. Some folks called GMO-Free Oregon are planning another try, as is a group in Idaho, so we will no doubt get more opportunities to comment on these and other initiatives.
As an aside, it’s interesting that many of the groups use the phrase “GMO-free” in their names, not “we want to help consumers” or “we believe in the right to know.” It appears there’s more to the issue than slapping a label on a bottle of corn syrup. We suspect this is more about a national campaign targeting Monsanto, which develops biotech crops, than about food safety.
In fact, there is no evidence that genetically modified foods are in any way unhealthful. In fact, most have been in the marketplace for more than a decade. If any health consequences existed, we’re confident scientists would have discovered them long before now.
Beyond that, the main problem with these state initiative efforts is the hodgepodge of standards and laws they would create for farmers and companies that market food across state lines. Because of that, the only answer to the issue would be a federal standard, which we already have in the form of the National Organic Program. It provides a label that specifies that food certified as organic does not contain genetically modified ingredients. The California and Washington initiatives even recognize that to be true.
Which, as we understand it, is the main point of those and the other initiatives.
Beyond that analysis, we also have a suggestion. Instead of involving 50 state governments in efforts to label food that have genetically modified ingredients, why not develop a voluntary certification program that would label foods that don’t have genetically modified ingredients? If organic certification is in some way inadequate, food could be tested and certified as GMO-free by an independent group.
It wouldn’t take an initiative or an act of Congress to do it, only a group that believes such labels would be beneficial and important to consumers. It would also create market segmentation for farmers and processors and another option for consumers.
And best of all, the state and federal governments — and taxpayers — wouldn’t be saddled with yet another expensive, and unneeded, program.
A Pennsylvania family brings agriculture to the mainstream via their popular show, “Farm Kings.”
December 10, 2012
ByRebecca M. Bartels
Pop culture and produce aren’t generally considered two peas in the same pod. But, when a local publication featured the King brothers shirtless on the cover, Hollywood (or Nashville) took note for its new ag reality show concept. With a unique backstory, an array of personalities, and more muscles and glittery grins than the pages of GQ, Freedom Farms in Butler, PA, is making history in the form of the Great American Country channel’s new hit show, “Farm Kings.”
The show, which stars the 10 King siblings, ranging in age from 29 to 12, and their mother, Lisa, highlights the struggles and triumphs of the King family since they started the 150-acre operation in 2009 as a way to start fresh. “Freedom Farms means a lot of things,” explains Joe, the eldest brother, known as the, “idea guy,” and charged with much of the organization of the operation. “We as a family are free to do what we love. We’re not locked into being herded like sheep and cattle through universities and to desk jobs. We’re living our lives based on the land.” In addition to what it means to them, Freedom means something to their customers as well. “We want people to have the freedom to choose what they eat; we want them to have the freedom to know what’s in their food and where it came from.”
Joe explains that the culture of eating has changed so much in recent years. “People don’t sit down and eat together. They aren’t cooking meals as often, much less using fresh ingredients to do it. They buy in smaller amounts and don’t really plan ahead. We hope that our exposure on ‘Farm Kings’ will help turn that around.”
Watch “Farm Kings”
The Kings grow more than 40 different vegetable varieties as well as poultry, but, in addition to their produce and local businesses, they are known for their Great American Country channel hit, “Farm Kings,” which airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. (8 Central). The channel reels in the viewers, saying, “Join the King Family of Freedom Farms as they battle the elements and each other to provide the Pittsburgh region with the freshest produce possible.”
For more information, go to www.gactv.com.
When the family was approached by Stage 3 Productions with the show idea, the Kings had a few goals in mind. “We wanted to reach an audience we wouldn’t normally reach,” explains Pete, 24, known on the show as the “human harvester.”
In addition, Joe says that there is a more overarching theme. “The reputation of being a farmer isn’t a great one,” he says. “We want to change that. We want to make people proud of what they do.”
The youth aspect of the operation also is a unique one in the industry. Although Lisa, known to most as “Mama Bear,” owns most of the land, she has taken a decidedly hands-off role in the management aspects. “My sons are amazing,” she states proudly. “Their hearts just had farming in them.”
Although the brothers, who have various degrees ranging from engineering to special education, had left their former operation to pursue other careers, they all returned to their mother’s side to begin Freedom Farm. “They were really born to farm,” Lisa explains. “I take a backseat and make the pies and do the cooking and flowers. Youth is a good thing.”
Joe agrees, emphasizing the importance of the creativity and freshness young people bring to the table. In addition, he sees a paradigm shift in the culture of ag as a whole. “The older generation views other operations in the area as competition,” he says. “We work together with growers in the region to bring our customers fresh, local food as a group. The new generation, instead of working against each other, has been working together, viewing only the wholesalers as competition.”
Joe does express concern, however, for young people in other walks of life. “So many people nowadays have no passion.” he says. “They’ve never worked a hard job and they’ve never really known what they want. We hope our show will inspire people.” Tim, 27, known as the “plant doctor,” believes it has. With the exposure in the media, there have been a lot of inquiries for labor. “You’ve got to get the labor young,” he explains. Joe says that Tim takes pride in bringing youth into ag, but that they don’t expect people who weren’t raised on a farm to decide it’s the life for them. “It has to be in your blood,” he says. “If you get one out of 20 workers that make it through the season, that’s good. But we take satisfaction in their progression.”
In addition to the nitty-gritty work on the farm, the Kings have an array of businesses that use their produce. With Boldy’s Homemade Goodies, located down the road from the farm market, rolling out baked comfort foods like donuts and danishes as well as pies, to Freedom Farms Market, which has not only the fresh produce grown at Freedom Farms, but also Lisa’s made-to-order meals such as soups as well as meats and cheeses, the King family is covering all its bases. With so many businesses to supply, though, one wonders if 150 acres is enough.
“We do get produce from other operations,” explains Joe, emphasizing the family’s dedication to Pennsylvania growers due to the Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement. “But it’s all local and is only from growers who we have built a strong relationship with. When you buy produce from our market, it’s Freedom Farm quality.”
Taking Care Of Business
Freedom Farm quality is something all of the farm’s proprietors take pride in. With a weekly meeting for the stakeholders (the four older brothers) of the operation to discuss large-scale decisions, the family takes things like sustainability and crop choices into account.
“Taking care of the ground is very important,” explains Tim. “There’s more to ground care than your Ns, Ps, and Ks, we‘re using micronutrients to meet all of the needs of the plant.” In addition, the operation utilizes cover crops, compost, and manure, and regularly performs soil tests.
“It’s simple to tell if your land is good or not,” says Tim, “just look at the color of the soil.”
Joe also explains that their goal of producing quality fruits and vegetables could benefit from the “Farm Kings” TV show simply though feedback from the audience. Apparently, although many may be simply watching for the entertainment value of farm drama, others are taking note, contributing to the King brothers’ efforts. “We’ve received a few calls from people just wanting to give us advice,” says Joe.
In addition to callers, the family has had visitors from all over the country. They’ve come from Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. “Most people are just curious,” explains Lisa, “but we always welcome the visitors!” When questioned about their reactions to the fame the show has brought about, the family remained humble and seemingly unaffected. “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Lisa. Joe echoed her disbelief, saying, “although there has been an uptick in market visitors and labor applicants, things are pretty much the same.”
The cons of filming were pretty much unanimous across the board, though. “Having people follow you around with a camera all the time requires scheduling. When things are already so hectic around here, that was a little difficult,” explains Joe.
Summing up what he’s learned thus far pretty articulately, Tim says: “Mother Nature is cruel, but we’re getting through things together.” Like the family’s slogan says, splashed across t-shirts and totes available for curious fans, the boys really were, “born to farm.”
Bartels is assistant editor, horticulture group at Meister Media Worldwide.
Today the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals found for the plaintiffs in Dow, Makhteshim and Cheminova v. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The first biological opinion (BiOp) issued by NMFS following the Washington Toxics Coalition lawsuit over the potential effects of pesticides on salmon is arbitrary and capricious.
The BiOp covered three insecticides, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion. The appeals court reversed a lower court decision by concluding that the BiOp was not the product of reasoned decision making. According to the court, “NMFS failed to explain or support critical assumptions in its opinion.” The court vacated the BiOp and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to remand it to NMFS for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
A key factor in today’s decision was NMFS failure to consider the economic feasibility of its proposed one-size-fits-all buffer zones. According to the court, “NMFS relied on a selection of data, tests, and standards that did not always appear to be logical, obvious, or even rational.”
This decision is a huge step for sound science and reasoned decision-making. We are thankful that the court recognized the poor process NMFS used in compiling this BiOp. We are hopeful that that future actions will be guided by this decision.
Feb. 20 Daily News editorial
One of the more common three-letter acronyms currently being tossed around at the Washington State Legislature in Olympia is “GMO,” which is neither ABC News’ weekday morning show nor the talking device in your car that tells you where to turn to get back to Interstate 5.
GMO is shorthand for Genetically Modified Organisms, which are the target of Initiative 522, which would impose extra labeling requirements on foods that contain them. While the list of exempt foods — meats, dairy products, restaurant meals and alcohol — is extensive, some very commonplace grocery items would be included.
GMO technology has been around since the mid 1990s and is currently used most frequently in production of corn, sugar beets and soybeans, all of which work their way into our diets in cereals, snacks and a variety of other foods. Shoppers wishing to avoid GMO content can almost always do so by purchasing foods (and seeds) identified as “organic.”
The terms of I-522 give Washington legislators three options — they can allow it to come before state voters in a referendum, they can pass it into law or they can amend the text of I-522 and place both versions in front of the electorate in November.
The first of these options is the only one we can support. We’d also recommend a “no” vote in the fall.
To our ears, and to the ears of many others, I-522 seems like more of an effort to scare consumers away from foods containing GMOs than to direct them toward healthier alternatives.
After almost two decades, proof has yet to surface that food containing GMOs presents any measurable health risk at all. We think it’s illustrative that major proponents of I-522 include the Whole Foods chain of organic grocery stores and producers of organic meats and produce. Larger grocery chains and organizations representing state farmers and food wholesalers have either taken no position or are opposed.
Some other drawbacks:
• The initiative contains no funding mechanism to allow the state department of health to implement or enforce compliance. It’s another of those “unfunded mandates,” specifying action without specifying who gets and pays the bill.
• Any consumer seeking to avoid GMO content can seek out foods and seeds with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Organic” label, which can’t be attached unless a product is certified as being free of GMOs.
• When more than 1 million Americans signed a petition urging the federal Food and Drug Administration to pass a national requirement that GMO content be noted on labels, the FDA chose not to act. A labeling bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also went nowhere in 2012.
• Several European Union countries mandate the use of GMO warning labels, which has appeared to contribute to an across-the-board rise in continental food prices as growers and manufacturers turn to more expensive ingredients and processes to avoid the unwarranted stigma attached to a “Contains GMO” label.
• Backers of I-522 have not, as yet, contended that foods containing GMOs are in any way harmful, only that the public has a “right to know” whether GMOs are present. We think the large majority of customers in search of such foods already know where and how to find them and we have yet to be convinced any warning labels are either advisable or necessary.