In an effort to console eastern Washington communities devastated by wildfires, Gov. Jay Inslee recently stopped for a public event in the town of Malden. During his remarks, Inslee offered words of encouragement and a seemingly benign gift – a box of apples picked from his own yard.
However, the token of solidarity ran afoul of state regulations, and now reports indicate has exposed eastern Washington’s already-fragile agricultural industry to the apple maggot. Although classified as a misdemeanor, the agency in charge of enforcing these agricultural rules rarely, if ever, prosecutes.
“I’m surprised and frankly disappointed,” said Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “It was a nice gesture, but not well thought through. As the state’s executive, he should have followed the law to keep our state’s agriculture safe, instead of putting it at risk. I think that the stiffest penalties are in order.”
In a video posted to YouTube by the Cheney Free Press, crowds can hear Inslee say, “My wife Trudi and I picked a bunch of good Washington Honeycrisp off the governor’s tree this morning…” at the 22-second mark. If true, produce from western Washington must undergo stringent safety measures to prevent the importation of the apple maggot into eastern Washington. Malden resides in a quarantine area where no such pests currently exist.
“The state requires strict protocols to be followed when transporting produce because we want to keep our industry safe,” Warnick added. “I think it’s a fairly serious gaffe by the state’s executive and warrants a strong penalty.”
Warnick is urging the state’s Department of Agriculture to investigate the matter and ensure compliance with state regulations.