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WSU extension Q&A: Feb. 13, 2010

Q. Who certifies organic farms and what are some of the standards that must be met in order for a farm to be certified as organic in Washington?

A. In Washington, the Washington State Department of Agriculture is responsible for certifying organic farms in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program Standards.

In order to qualify as organic, a farm must start with a three year transition period from conventional to organic production. Application forms must be filed each year to continue organic certification, and site inspections are conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture to assure that organic farms are adhering to the National Organic Standards.

Q. Why are the 4-H colors green and white, and where did that come from?

A. Green represents life, springtime and youth. It often is connected to learning and growing. White was chosen because it is fresh and clean. The 4-H colors have been around since 1914, when Congress passed an act that established Cooperative Extension (now called solely Extension) and the 4-H program. Extension is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Washington State University because of the Land Grant University program. Through Extension, WSU reaches out to all communities throughout the state.

Q. Is it too early to apply dormant oil sprays to my fruit trees?

A. Yes, dormant oils are most effective in killing overwintering insects and their eggs if applied to your fruit trees in early spring, about one week before bud break. Applied earlier, the oil sprays will be ineffective. Dormant oil can even damage a tree, if applied when the temperatures go below 32 degrees soon after application or if the weather is wet and delays the spray from drying. Dormant fungicides are different. Depending on the disease, dormant fungicides are applied in the fall, in late winter when the buds begin to swell, or just as the buds start to open in the spring.

-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 509-735-3551 or Pasco at 509-545-3511.

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