Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign a bill that includes a temporary memorandum of understanding between the state agriculture department and a third-party organization that certifies seed.
The Washington State Crop Improvement Association has a longstanding memorandum of agreement, or MOA, with WSDA to act as an agent of the department to certify certain crops within the state, including fall-planted and spring-planted grains and pulses. The MOA is renewed every five years.
During the renewal and updating of the MOA, according to the association, “a difference in opinion in the interpretation of a section of the Revised Code of Washington became a very large point of contention,” according to the association.
Jerry Robinson, WSCIA manager, said the state assistant attorney general expressed concerns about using funds collected during the certification process for working with certified foundation seed.
Language is being added to better explain the use of the funds, he said.
“It’s just been an arduous process, It’s not been an adversarial process,” Robinson said.
Until legislative changes can be made to accommodate the changing roles of foundation seed and certification in the state, the crop improvement association and WSDA drafted the short-term MOA.
SB 6278 was drafted with the WSDA to clarify current language and states “fees authorized under this subsection may be used for services involving breeder seed, foundation seed, registered seed and certified seed.” The House and Senate passed the bill and sent it to Inslee for his signature.
The temporary MOA will be good through the end of the year, Robinson said.
“I’m very hopeful we’ll have something in place for a new, long-term one in the near future,” he said. “I feel very positive. The department has been super supportive in this whole process.”
WSCIA and WSDA are working on language for a longer-term MOA, Robinson said.
Hector Castro, communications director for WSDA, said the interim agreement is meant to ensure the department’s services to the seed industry are allowed to continue uninterrupted.
“The MOA reflects past practice but clarifies that WSDA has flexibility in fund use to ensure it is able to serve the seed industry effectively,” Castro said. “Future rule making will be needed so state regulations include this clarifying language.”
WSCIA is a nonprofit group that works with WSDA, Washington State University and state seed growers and conditioners to develop, produce and distribute certified seed to improve crop yields.
Foundation class seed is the first generation of seed available to the public and the basis for the production of registered and certified seed. Northwest grain growers use between 90 and 95 percent certified seed, Robinson said.
Seeds are certified to maintain genetic purity and seed identity through all steps of production, harvesting, storage and conditioning.
Robinson provided an update to Washington Grain Commission board members during a meeting in Spokane March 8.