Washington’s agricultural commissions effective, can do more, audit finds

Jan 17, 2023

OLYMPIA – Local agricultural industry producers believe they benefit from the state commissions that promote commodities from cranberries to beef, and Washington should consider a statewide brand for its homegrown goods, according to a new performance audit by the Office of the Washington State Auditor.

“Washington agriculture helps employ some 160,000 people in our state, producing incredible foods for our kitchens and for families worldwide,” said State Auditor Pat McCarthy. “This performance audit offers recommendations to make our commodity commissions more efficient, and we encourage the state to invest more in areas where it can do the most to support Washington jobs and businesses.”

The state Legislature first created the Apple Commission in 1937, and today similar commissions conduct research, marketing and other activities for 21 commodities produced here, including hops, potatoes and grain. Producers primarily fund the commissions through assessments, totaling $40 million a year.

Auditors reviewed the commissions' processes and, with assistance from Washington State University, surveyed producers of the commodities they promote. Among the findings, producers would like more information about commission priorities and activities. Commissions said they need more assistance navigating state regulations and requirements.

Both producers and commissions say Washington should increase demand for state products. Auditors noted most states engage in branding efforts, such as the “Fresh From Florida” or “New York State Grown & Certified” programs.

The Washington Department of Agriculture is well positioned to help the commissions in these areas, but would likely need more resources to do so, auditors concluded.

The full report can be found here, and summary online material here.

Media inquiries: Kathleen Cooper, Director of Communications – Kathleen.Cooper@sao.wa.gov | 564-999-0800