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$5.3 million awarded to 7 Oregon water projects

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 05:24

Seven Oregon water infrastructure projects have won $5.3 million in grant funding from the Oregon Water Resources Commission, which postponed deciding on an eighth project until next year.

Most of the projects focus on improving water conveyance systems, such as replacing open canals with pipes, as well as improving the function of water storage and diversion structures.

One of the grant proposals that state water regulators recommended for approval — $1 million for replacing a municipal pipeline used the City of The Dalles — will be reconsidered by the commission in 2019 due to objections from tribes and an environmental group.

The commission also turned down 11 grant proposals for nearly $10 million at the recommendation of the Oregon Water Resources Department.

The decisions were made during the commission’s final quarterly meeting of 2018, held on Nov. 15-16 in Salem, Ore.

A portion of one of the rejected proposals — drilling two deep water supply wells in Mosier, Ore. — did win funding under a previous grant cycle, but the remaining phase did not rank high enough under a scoring system intended to measure social, environmental and economic value.

Money from the previous water supply development grant proved insufficient to drill both Mosier wells, so a farmer and local soil and water conservation district asked for $670,000 in funding to complete the second well.

Members of the commission discussed the project’s value to learning more about Columbia basin basalt aquifers, but ultimately decided to allow supporters to re-apply with more information during a future grant cycle.

“There will always be grants on the bubble,” said commissioner Joe Moll, executive director of the McKenzie River Trust in Eugene, Ore. “We can’t change that, it’s always going to be that way.”

Tom Byler, OWRD’s director, noted that Oregon’s water supply development grant program is relatively new, and more established grant programs also wrestle with tough decisions.

“We have a lot to learn,” Byler said. “Grant-making is a messy process.”

Following are descriptions of the projects that did win funding this year:

• Conversion of 300 acres in Wallowa County from flood irrigation to a center pivot irrigation system, with the conserved water dedicated to in-stream flows that will benefit federally protected fish. The grant will pay for about $600,000 of the projects total cost of $800,000.

• Replacing 6 miles of open canals and aging pipe used by the Dee Irrigation District in Hood River County with a new pipeline, with the conserved water dedicates to in-stream flows. The grant will pay for $1.6 million of the total project cost of $2.7 million.

• Installing 6 miles of pipe to replace an open canal used by the Tumalo Irrigation District in Deschutes County, with conserved water to be dedicated to in-stream flows. The grant will pay for $1.3 million of the total $6.7 million project cost.

• Raising the capacity of the Painted Hills reservoir in Wheeler County from 800 acre-feet to 1,300 acre-feet, along with upgraded irrigation equipment that will conserve water, contributing to in-stream flows. The grant will pay for $580,000 of the project’s total $1 million price tag.

• Storing and treating stormwater from Beaverton, Ore., with the water then recharging an aquifer through an existing well. The grant will pay for $860,000 of the project’s total $1.15 million cost.

• Replacing equipment and moving the point of diversion for irrigation water from Galls Creek in Jackson County, restoring fish habitat due to dam removal and conserving water through improved efficiency. The grant will pay for roughly $150,000 of the $200,000 cost.

• Excavating the Pinchot reservoir in Grant County to return it to full storage capacity. As part of the project, converting the irrigation system from wheel lines to a center pivot is expected to conserve water, and a new delivery headgate will include a fish screen. The $200,000 grant will pay for roughly half the project’s cost.

The City of The Dalles project that was tabled by the commission would replace 3.5 miles of wooden pipeline with a new iron pipe for $8 million, of which the grant would pay for $1 million.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Waterwatch of Oregon had several problems with the proposal, but a central point of contention was the pipeline’s increased capacity, which could potentially allow it to draw more water from the Dog River.

The 2018 grant approvals mark the third cycle of disbursements from Oregon’s water supply development fund, which lawmakers created in 2013 but did not become operational until three years later.

About $8.5 million will remain left in the fund after the most recent grant approvals, though it’s likely lawmakers will be asked to allocate more money to it during the 2019 legislative session.

Judge hears challenge to grazing in Hells Canyon area

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 12:45

PENDLETON, Ore. — Cattle grazing on public land in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was challenged in U.S. district court last week when an environmental group argued that it threatens a wildflower.

The U.S. Forest Service and Greater Hells Canyon Council of La Grande argued in front of Judge Patricia Sullivan regarding the perceived harm, or lack thereof, caused by cattle to the threatened wildflower Spalding’s catchfly, a forb found only in the inland Northwest.

The council filed suit in January claiming the Forest Service violated federal laws when it developed the Lower Imnaha Range Analysis. Jennifer Schwartz, representing the council, claimed cattle grazing is the number one threat to catchfly recovery.

“Most of the damage is ongoing, especially on slopes, the plant’s niche habitat,” Schwartz said.

For almost 100 years the McClaran family has winter-grazed cattle in Hells Canyon. Rancher Scott McClaran said catchfly doesn’t have a niche habitat and is found throughout much of Wallowa County.

“We have the longest running permit in the national recreation area and it has the highest density of Spalding’s catchfly, but we aren’t even talking about 600,000 acres that hasn’t been inventoried or the 400,000 ungrazed acres,” McClaran said,

Department of Justice attorney Sean Martin, representing the Forest Service, told Sullivan the 2015 range analysis was designed to improve habitat for catchfly, a species first documented in 2004 that has survived more than 200 years of cattle and horse grazing in the canyon, first by the Nez Perce and later by white settlers.

Martin said a survey conducted this summer inventoried 800 more plants than documented at the time of the 2015 decision.

“A Forest Service botany expert said cattle grazing is not threatening the viability of the species,” Martin said. “After all these years, it is not likely to be extirpated any time soon.”

The council’s complaint alleged the agency did not “take a hard look at the action’s potential environmental consequences” and therefore its decision was arbitrary, capricious, not in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and “must be reversed and remanded.”

According to Darilyn Parry, the council’s executive director, her staff waited to see how the decision would be implemented before filing suit. The trigger was the result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed in August 2017. The complaint said the response did not include any current allotment management plans or botanical survey monitoring data.

“We monitored how the decision was implemented. For example, we wanted to see if the Forest Service would follow any Fish and Wildlife Service’s conservation recommendations for the project, or conduct addition monitoring of catchfly population, in order to get a sense of how the populations are doing over time.”

The McClarans and Wallowa County intervened in the case and were represented by Caroline Lobdell of the Western Resources Legal Center at Lewis and Clark Law School. She argued the plaintiff’s case was political and the Forest Service’s decision was neither capricious nor arbitrary.

“The plaintiffs say they are not asking for an injunction, but are blaming grazing for everything,” Lobdell said. “If they don’t like this decision then we are back to the prior management rule with less benefit.”

Sullivan said as she formed her opinion in the case she would be balancing interests.

“Getting rid of grazing in this particular area of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, I don’t see that happening. Now we have to figure out what to do. I have to applaud the McClarans — they are very careful, conscientious ranchers who want continued survival,” Sullivan said.

The judge concluded by recommending the Forest Service and the council get together while she is working on her opinion and settle the case.

“Nothing is written in stone,” Sullivan said. “There are a number of alternatives. Is there a better one?”

U.S. House passes bill to drop legal protections for gray wolves

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 07:17

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House passed a bill Friday to drop legal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48 states, reopening a lengthy battle over the predator species.

Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century. Since securing protection in the 1970s, wolves have bounced back in the western Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the wolf’s status and is expected to declare they’ve recovered sufficiently to be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The House bill would enshrine that policy in law and restrict judicial review of listing decisions. The measure was approved, 196-180, and now goes to the Senate, where prospects are murkier.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said farmers in Wisconsin and other states are “one step closer to having the legal means to defend their livestock from gray wolves.”

States should be responsible for managing wolf populations, “not Washington bureaucrats,” Duffy said.

Environmental groups and many Democrats slammed the bill as a last-ditch effort by Republicans to push a pro-rancher agenda after losing control of the House in this month’s midterm elections.

“This final, pathetic stab at wolves exemplifies House Republicans’ longstanding cruelty and contempt for our nation’s wildlife,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based environmental group.

“The American people overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act and the magnificent animals and plants it protects,” Hartl said. “We don’t expect to see these disgraceful anti-wildlife votes next year under Democratic control of the House.”

Livestock industry associations representing ranchers who have to contend with wolves scaring and attacking cattle and sheep, said in a letter to Congress that U.S. wolf populations have recovered in recent decades. The animal would have been removed from the endangered species list if not for “activist litigants” who “used the judicial system to circumvent sound science and restore full ESA protections to these predators,” the groups wrote.

Rogue pack kills another cow in Oregon

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 05:36

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying again to place a GPS collar on at least one wolf from the Rogue pack in Southern Oregon following a recent spate of attacks on livestock in Jackson and Klamath counties.

State wildlife officials confirmed the latest kill of an 11-month-old heifer at a ranch northeast of Medford on Nov. 10. It is the fifth depredation attributed to the Rogue pack over the last three weeks.

Gray wolves in Oregon west of highways 395, 78 and 95 are managed by the federal government. John Stephenson, USFWS wildlife biologist and wolf coordinator, said he is working to collar a wolf from the Rogue pack to keep closer tabs on their location and movements.

“They move around a lot at this time of year,” Stephenson said. “You just have to put (traps) in one area and wait them out.”

The Rogue pack was designated in 2014 when Oregon’s famous wandering wolf, OR-7, settled in the area with a mate and had their first litter of pups. Today, the pack is estimated at seven or eight members.

A collar on OR-7 has not worked since 2015. Agencies successfully collared another female wolf from the pack, OR-54, last fall, though it later dispersed into Northern California.

Veril Nelson, wolf committee co-chairman for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said collaring wolves is a top priority for ranchers.

“We’d like to have a collar on a wolf in every pack in Oregon, so that ranchers can be prepared when they’re in the neighborhood,” Nelson said. “That’s one of the things we’d like to see in the next five-year wolf plan.”

The Rogue pack has certainly been keeping ranchers on their toes.

On Nov. 10, a producer near Butte Falls reported three dead cows in the same 50-acre private pasture. A biologist from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife examined each carcass, determining that one of the heifers was killed by wolves within the past three days.

A second carcass had been mostly eaten, leaving the cause of death as “unknown,” while the third showed no signs of trauma or tooth scrapes usually associated with a predator attack. It was ruled as “other.”

Just three weeks earlier, the Rogue pack was responsible for killing four cows in rapid succession near Fort Klamath in the Wood River Valley at the eastern end of the wolves’ territory. The pack also killed three more calves and a guard dog earlier this year at Mill-Mar Ranch, about 10 miles north of where the most recent attack took place in Jackson County.

Stephenson said it is difficult to know why livestock predations are on the rise, though it could be due in part to the Rogue pack growing in size. OR-7 is also nine years old now, he said, and it is possible that as wolves get older they spend more time around ranches instead of up in the woods where they should be — as was the case with OR-7’s father, OR-4, the alpha male of the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon.

“There definitely is a relationship with bigger packs tending to be involved with depredations more frequently,” Stephenson said.

Wolves are a federally endangered species in western Oregon, and Stephenson said there are no plans to kill wolves to curb livestock attacks. Instead, he is helping ranchers to put up non-lethal deterrents like fladry fencing and foxlights.

“We’re trying to solve the problem with non-lethal deterrents,” Stephenson said. “They can be very effective.”

Nelson said he feels ranchers are doing everything they can with non-lethal tools to protect livestock from wolves. Having collars in every pack would at least give ranchers a heads-up when they are nearby, he said, though he doubts whether they can get that assurance from ODFW in the next Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

“At the same time, they don’t want us to go to lethal take on these wolves,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what the heck they expect ranchers to do. I guess just suffer the losses.”

Peterson Trucks acquires Brattain International

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 05:33

Western Oregon has a new authorized dealer for International Trucks and IC Bus after Peterson Trucks, based in San Leandro, Calif., acquired Brattain International earlier this month.

The deal includes five locations in Portland, Salem, Eugene, Bend and Albany which were re-branded as Peterson dealerships on Nov. 5.

Brattain International was the longtime dealer for International Trucks and IC Bus — a manufacturer of both commercial buses and school buses — throughout the region. Peterson Trucks now assumes the mantle, expanding its territory from Northern California.

Tom Bagwell, executive vice president of Peterson Trucks, said the company is investing heavily in parts inventory at each new location. Terms of the deal with Brattain International were not disclosed.

“We know how important this is,” Bagwell said in a statement. “Anywhere we provide truck or bus service we will have an impressive parts inventory, dedicated to turning equipment around fast.”

Peterson Trucks is also the authorized dealer for Idealease commercial trucks and TrailMax trailers.

The Peterson family of companies is no stranger to the Pacific Northwest. Peterson Cat, the authorized dealer for Caterpillar equipment, has been in Oregon since 2003, and its territory stretches from Longview, Wash., to San Martin, Calif.

Daniel Williams, the company’s marketing manager, said that when Peterson Trucks saw a chance to expand into Oregon and better match the footprint of Peterson Cat, they were eager to make the move.

“From the customer’s perspective, this should be good news,” Williams said. “We have a big territory and a lot of resources that we can bring to help them with their business.”

All former employees of Brattain International were given the chance to apply for jobs at Peterson Trucks, Williams said.

I think the goal was to keep things very seamless, which would include employees,” he said.

In addition to Cat parts and equipment, Williams said the company is an authorized dealer for Agco and Klaus farm equipment, and they are dedicated to continue serving agricultural customers.


Oregon Cranberry News via Google - Fri, 11/16/2018 - 00:00

By Judith Yamada, The Kitchen Maven I recently wrote an article, about Thanksgiving, for the Tillamook County Pioneer. It was basically a myth buster ...

Tillamook County Pioneer - Tillamook County Pioneer

Oregon Cranberry News via Google - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 09:19

Tillamook County Pioneer

Tillamook County Pioneer
Tillamook County Pioneer
Try this original recipe for spiced scalloped apples and yams with toasted walnuts and Oregon cranberries. It takes about 10 minutes to prep and bakes without any checking and fussing. Generously grease a 9” x 13” oven safe glass or ceramic baking pan ...

Funding requested to improve soft white wheat in saltine crackers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 05:41

Jayne Bock may be just 10 days into her new job as technical director at the Portland-based Wheat Marketing Center, but she is already looking to build upon research to strengthen markets for Northwest growers.

Specifically, Bock has proposed to continue studying characteristics of saltine crackers made with soft white wheat — a signature variety grown across the Pacific Northwest with low protein content that makes it perfect for products such as pastries, cookies and cakes.

Bock laid out her proposal Wednesday to members of the Oregon Wheat Commission, Washington Grain Commission and Idaho Wheat Commission during a meeting at the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention in Portland, requesting $20,000 from the groups to pay for lab testing.

The project started last year as customers in Latin America began switching from soft red winter wheat to soft white wheat for making saltines, but were uncertain about what protein levels they needed.

At the time, researchers identified protein levels between 10.5 and 11.5 percent for replacement of soft red winter wheat, but Bock said their study was limited in the test kitchen. According to her proposal, it did not include products like malted barley flour, which are added commercially to maintain consistency and can have a significant effect on quality.

“That will affect how the dough spreads and how it will fit packaging,” Bock said.

Bock said she would like to re-run the study with added malted barley flour to better replicate what buyers and consumers are seeing. Grower funding would cover costs such as samples and milling.

Though commission members did not take a vote, Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, said it was a “no-brainer.” Each group committed to discussing the request further at their next meetings.

In addition to Bock, the Wheat Marketing Center recently hired a new research scientist, Lingzhu Deng, and lab technologist, Tina Tran, while the board of directors also voted to grow from 13 to 15 members, welcoming the Oklahoma Wheat Commission to the table.

Managing Director Janice Cooper said it is the first time a new state has joined in 33 years.

“We are open to other states that are interested in joining the effort,” Cooper said.

In other presentations, the Tri-State Grain Commission heard from Mike Spier, a merchandiser with Columbia Grain, who discussed market trends in the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s latest export sales report.

According to figures, world production is down 29 million metric tons in 2018, including 14 million metric tons in Europe and 17 million metric tons from Black Sea producers including Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Production is actually up 4 million metric tons in the U.S., though sales are down 16 percent year-over-year, including 10 percent among soft white wheat.

Retaliatory tariffs in China have some effect, Spier said, though the biggest trade war casualty is U.S. soybeans. By this time last year, there were 54 soybean vessels bound for China carrying nearly 3 million metric tons of product, and none this November.

“Soybeans are the biggest impact,” Spier said.

Kristin Meira, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, addressed some outstanding issues on the Columbia River system, including a newly energized argument for breaching Snake River dams in order to boost salmon populations which act as an important food source for struggling orcas.

But Meira, whose organization represents ports and businesses that depend on river navigation, said the answer is not that easy.

“Everybody’s focus seems to be on the Snake River dams,” she said. “It’s just been a whole lot of mischief.”

Western Innovator: Variety makes irises irresistible

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 15:20

SALEM, Ore. — A hobby discovered late in life has provided the Schreiner family with a thriving niche business for the better part of a century.

F.X. Schreiner was a “gentlemen farmer” in Minnesota when in 1925 he began hybridizing irises for fun.

Shortly before his death six years later, he’d offer his three children some practical advice: “This would be a good business.”

Bob, Connie and Gus took the guidance to heart, and nearly nine decades later, their father’s words continue to ring true.

Schreiner’s Iris Gardens, now operated by the third and fourth generations of the family, produces roughly 1,200 selections of iris on about 100 acres north of Salem, Ore., that are sold around the U.S. and the world.

The company also makes about 20,000 crosses a year to hybridize new varieties, resulting in about 15 to 18 marketable new selections a year offered to customers.

“Most of them will be thrown away because they’re not that much different,” said Ray Schreiner, the founder’s grandson. “People are going for bigger flowers, beards, bud counts and any new color break.”

Flowers are hand-pollinated, the seeds are later harvested from cucumber-like pods and planted in November, then germinate the following year and have their flowers evaluated during the spring bloom.

Those handful of plants judged to be superior or unique have their rhizomes replanted to begin commercial production — each rhizome will produce three or four more, so scaling up takes time.

The Schreiners considered using tissue culture propagation, in which tiny plants are split up and regrown over a relatively short period of time in a lab.

While the technique does exponentially increase the numbers of a new selection, they found that those descendants didn’t stay true to type compared conventional vegetative propagation.

“They didn’t stay stable,” Ray said.

Brand new selections tend to fetch the highest prices — $60 to $65 per rhizome — but the volume tends to be low, said Liz Schmidt, Ray’s sister.

“We don’t have a lot, so we don’t sell a lot,” she said.

Most people will not fork over $60 or more per rhizome, but collectors, breeders and farmers often will, said Ray. These new varieties can generally be freely cultivated, as irises haven’t traditionally been subject to plant patents.

That would likely change if anyone eventually manages to produce a red iris, which has so far proven elusive, he said. “It’s almost the colors of the rainbow, except red.”

Some traits, such as irises that bloom more than once a year, take a longer time to breed. Weather fluctuations can affect this particular characteristic, but it’s getting more consistent, Ray said.

“The trouble with re-bloomers is they don’t always rebloom,” he said.

The contributions of Schreiner’s Iris Gardens to iris breeding have been repeatedly recognized with prestigious awards, such as winning the Dykes Memorial Award — considered the industry’s top honor — 11 times since 1958.

Growing irises on a commercial scale is particularly labor-intensive during the summer. The company begins digging up rhizomes to fill orders in July, which often overlaps with planting rhizomes in August for the next year’s crop.

“When the weather is nice, you have to go like crazy,” said Ray.

Labor shortages are nothing new in agriculture and the problem is growing worse, which has the company looking for ways to improve efficiency.

Currently, iris rhizomes are harvested mechanically with an implement attached to the back of a tractor. As the harvested plants fall out the back, four workers scurry to throw them into bins on top of it.

In the heat and the dust, it’s hardly the most desirable task on the farm, and those four workers would be happy to be assigned other duties.

“It’s a horrible job,” said Ray.

“Nobody wants to do it,” Liz added.

To improve the process, the company is modifying a combine harvester that would dig up the iris rhizomes on the front end.

Dirt would be shaken from them while tumbling across rods under the machine, then they’d be directly deposited into bins out the back without human intervention.

“It’s not like any other crop, where you can just buy the machinery,” said Ben Schreiner, Ray’s son and the family’s fourth generation to grow irises.

Schreiner’s Iris Gardens

Founded: 1925

Location: Salem, Ore., after relocating from St. Paul, Minn., in 1946.

Family: Founded in Minnesota by R.X. Schreiner, relocated to Oregon by his children, Bob, Connie and Gus. Now run by Gus’s children, Ray Schreiner, Steve Schreiner and Liz Schmidt, as well as Ray’s son, Ben.

Size: 100 acres

Crops: 1,200 selections of irises, as well as day lilies

Employees: 21 year-round, roughly 100 seasonal

Sales channels: Online, print catalog, wholesale and direct-marketing from 10-acre display garden

Trump right and wrong on ‘French’ wine tariffs

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 08:26

PARIS (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump is partly right but far from completely correct when he says that France’s “big tariffs” make it hard for American vintners to sell their wines to the French.

Wrong because customs duties on imported wines are applied not by France but by the European Union. Right because American tariffs are “globally” less than what Europe charges, the French customs authority says.

Prices aside, wine made in the U.S. is apparently appreciated in the European Union — the world’s premier importer — and in France, where the value of wine imported has risen 200 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the French Federation of Wines and Spirits Exporters.

Trump went after France on several fronts in tweets Tuesday, including blasting tariffs on its emblematic wine.

“On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S.,” Trump tweeted. “The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”

French tariffs as such don’t exist. Tariffs are set by the European Union “in the same conditions” as wines imported from most countries and are applied by all EU countries, the French exporter group said in an email.

“This tariff has not evolved in 20 years,” it said.

The alcohol level helps determine tariffs on non-EU wine imported into European countries, with a higher duty as the alcoholic volume rises, Lionel Briand, communications chief for the French Customs office, said in an email. Alcoholic content is also factored into U.S. tariffs, along with the size of the wine’s container.

“American products are not submitted to a distinct duty but to the same duties as all third countries,” those outside the EU, Briand added.

As an example, a bottle of white American wine with 13 percent alcohol content imported into the European Union carries a customs duty of 10 euro cents (a bit over 11 U.S. cents). A bottle of white wine from the EU exported to the United States has a customs duty of 5 U.S. cents.

The gap in duties is narrower for red wine with an alcohol content of 14.5 percent.

Bulk wines are another story — the U.S. tariff is double the EU one, a break for American producers since bulk wine represents 25 percent of the volume of U.S. wine coming into the EU, according to the French exporter federation.

Still, “the level of customs duties applied by the United States to (imported) wine is globally weaker than EU duties for the same products,” Briand of the Customs office said.

And Americans clearly like French wine. The United States is the leading importer of French wines by value, taking in 1.67 billion euros worth of French wines between Aug. 2017 and July 2018, according to FranceAgriMer, which works under the French Agriculture Ministry. That is up 30 percent compared to five years ago.

Oregon company provides ‘cutting-edge’ bovine IFV treatments

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 07:52

HERMISTON, Ore. — An international company pioneering new techniques of in-vitro fertilization for cows has its headquarters in Hermiston.

The company has been operating in Hermiston since 2015 but in August re-branded from Cogent IVF to Vytelle. The company provides services to the region from its Hermiston headquarters but also has sites in Idaho, California, Texas, Paraguay, Uruguay and South Africa.

Business director Luciano Bonilla said Vytelle is unique in several ways, including its “cutting-edge” hormone-free collection process for unfertilized eggs. The lack of stimulating hormones is easier on the animals, allows for weekly collection and requires no shot schedule.

Farmers and dairies using in-vitro fertilization can benefit from multiple calves born per year that are the biological offspring off their highest-producing milk cows, or animals that are superior in other ways.

“Naturally, one cow can give one calf per year,” Bonilla said. “If they use this technique, they can get hundreds.”

Farmers and dairies using Vytelle’s services choose their best cows for harvest of unfertilized eggs, known as oocytes, which can be done by Vytelle technicians on the farm or at a collection location they have on GT Land & Cattle property. The process takes 10 to 15 minutes, after which the oocytes are taken to the Vytelle lab at 80383 N. Highway 395 and combined with sperm from a bull of the farmer’s choosing, using human-grade IVF equipment.

Vytelle technicians then grow the embryos in special incubators and a rotation serums over a seven-day period before freezing the embryos using a process unique to the company, or immediately impregnating the desired number of cows.

Eight people total work out of the Hermiston office. Aline Bonilla, the research and development laboratory manager, said clients of the Hermiston lab come from all over Oregon, but they serve an especially high number of dairies from the Tillamook area.

Aline and Luciano are originally from Brazil and came to the United States for Ph.D. study and work. While they previously worked in Wisconsin for Vytelle’s parent company WheatSheaf Group, Aline said there were partnerships the company had in the Columbia Basin area that made sense for them to start what was then Cogent IVF in Hermiston instead of Wisconsin.

She said while most bovine IVF companies use a complicated pricing structure that charges at different junctures, Vytelle’s production rate is so high that it only charges farms and dairies for the number of embryos it successfully creates.

“They pay for what they get,” she said.

For more information about Vytelle, visit vitelle.com or call 866-689-3477.

Less reservoir carry-over water, El Nino could challenge irrigators next year

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 06:24

Capital Press

Idaho reservoirs will need more runoff in 2019 than they did this year for irrigation water supplies to be adequate. The goal is within reach but could be challenged by warmer- and dryer-than-normal conditions expected for winter and spring.

“We will need more runoff this year to have adequate supply for the 2019 season,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise. He spoke at the Idaho Water Supply Outlook conference in Boise Nov. 8.

A year ago, water carried over in reservoirs from the 2017 irrigation season, thanks to the heavy preceding winter, was plentiful and “made for easier planting decisions.” Minimal runoff was needed to ensure adequate irrigation supplies.

The Boise River Basin in 2019 will need 64 percent of average runoff to have a marginally adequate supply for irrigation, Abramovich said. A year earlier, the basin needed 51 percent. Water stored in the basin’s three reservoirs is at 101 percent of the long-term average compared to 136 percent a year ago.

Water volume in Owyhee Reservoir in southeastern Oregon is 84 percent of average compared to 159 percent a year ago. Runoff this year was about 34 percent of average. The Owyhee River Basin in 2019 will need 44 percent of average runoff to have a marginally adequate supply for irrigation, he said.

The Upper Snake River Basin in southeast Idaho and Wyoming in 2019 will need runoff that’s 69 percent of average to produce adequate water supplies for irrigation, Abramovich said. Runoff was 127 percent of average this past year. Current reservoir levels are 124 percent of normal.

The snow line usually is about 500 feet higher during El Nino years, he said.

Troy Lindquist, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Boise, said a majority of models predict an El Nino to develop over the last quarter of 2018. He said there is a 70 to 75 percent chance — some scientists peg an even higher likelihood — that a weak El Nino will develop.

An El Nino weather pattern is associated with warmer sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, a southward shift of the Pacific jet stream and increased potential for warmer temperatures in the northern half of the U.S.

U.S. potato exports down in opening quarter of marketing year

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 05:12

Capital Press

U.S. potato exports fell in the first quarter of the July 2018-June 2019 marketing year, dragged down by retaliatory tariffs, Potatoes USA reported.

The marketing group in a Nov. 12 news release said frozen-potato exports fell 6 percent in volume and 5 percent in value from the year-earlier period. U.S. exports of dehydrated potatoes fell by 7 percent each in volume and value. Fresh-potato exports dropped by 12 percent in volume and 10 percent in value.

The declines reflect the impact of retaliatory tariffs from Mexico and China while competing products from the European Union continue to reflect low prices from the 2017 crop, Potatoes USA said. The group said the U.S. industry hopes the roughly 18 percent shortfall in the European crop this fall and resulting higher prices will help to improve U.S. exports through the marketing year.

Frozen-potato exports to Mexico face a 20 percent retaliatory tariff in response to tariffs the U.S. placed on imports of steel and aluminum from that country. Potatoes USA said this led to a 21 percent decline in U.S. exports to Mexico in the quarter as Canada and the EU gained significant market share. To Japan, its largest market for frozen potatoes, U.S. exports dropped by 3 percent from a year ago as the EU continued to gain market share. U.S. frozen-potato exports were off in Malaysia and Thailand by 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively, but were 6.4 percent higher in China.

Oregon Potato Commission President and CEO Bill Brewer said Mexico’s tariff on frozen potatoes reduced demand for the U.S. product.w

A recent trade agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada appears to be a good replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, though there are still tariffs in place and related issues to resolve, he said.

“We know what the possibility is, and we have seen a little bit of a shift in demand now. Whether it creates that much, we don’t know,” Brewer said.

U.S. exports of dehydrated potatoes in the quarter dropped by 29 percent to Japan, by 51 percent to China and by 62 percent to the Philippines, Potatoes USA said. China plans additional tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. dehydrated potatoes and 10 percent on frozen potatoes.

Fresh-potato exports in the quarter were dragged by a 20 percent drop to top U.S. export market Canada — which created the overall drop in exports despite increases of 39 percent to Mexico, 46 percent to Central America and 114 percent to South Korea, Potatoes USA said. Significant declines of fresh exports to the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand also contributed to the overall reduction.

Brewer participated in a trade mission to South Korea in early November. Oregon, Washington and Idaho have access to the South Korea market for fresh, table-stock potatoes starting with the 2018 crop year, he said.

It’s an additional export market for the Pacific Northwest and “a positive message to the potato growers that our international trade program is working,” he said.

Hazelnut yields fall short of expectations

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 10:23

Oregon hazelnut growers were anticipating a record-high crop in 2018, though it appears the harvest is coming in short of expectations.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service predicted 52,000 tons of hazelnuts in August, which would have beaten the previous record of 49,500 tons in 2001. Instead, local processors say they are looking at between 46,000 to 48,000 tons, which is higher than last year’s total of 32,000 tons but still not on par with increases in handling capacity.

Larry George, president and CEO of George Packing Company in Newberg, Ore., said he does not know exactly why hazelnut yields did not meet record forecasts. He said it looks like one of the primary new nut varieties, named Jefferson, did not perform as well as previously thought when the orchards were planted in 2007.

“I think the new varieties, for whatever reason, we just overestimated what their production would be,” George said.

George said it is also possible growers harvested fewer early season orchards due to low prices caused by economic turmoil overseas, including Chinese tariffs and currency devaluation in Turkey, the world’s leading producer of hazelnuts.

“We’ll know in a few weeks,” he said.

Whatever the reason, a less-than-expected hazelnut crop does not bode well for processors such as George Packing Company, which has invested millions of dollars to increase capacity. Hazelnut acreage has roughly doubled in Oregon over the past decade, up to 72,353 acres, spurred by new varieties such as Jefferson, Yamhill and McDonald that are resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight.

With the growth in acreage, George said there was a rush to expand alongside the orchards. Nearly all U.S. commercial hazelnuts are grown in Oregon, and George Packing Company is the industry’s largest processor and marketer.

But the volume simply has not arrived yet, George said, creating an overcapacity on production lines.

“You have this massive excess capacity and no huge volume to run,” he said. “We were excited about a record crop. We’re not the only ones who made significant investments, but it just never materialized.”

Patrick Gabrish, vice president of sales and marketing for Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, a member-owned co-op representing 150 local hazelnut farmers, said he is not overly concerned about lower yields. He is quick to point out that 33,000 acres of orchards still have not reached nut-bearing age. When they do, he said the spike in volume may help to stabilize prices and develop new markets.

“There’s going to be plenty of crop to work with over the next few years,” Gabrish said.

Both Gabrish and George raved about this year’s crop quality, aided by a dry harvest season that minimized mud and mold. Months of drought, however, also emphasized the need for growers to adopt irrigation and nutrient programs to maximize yields through difficult summers.

Nik Wiman, orchard specialist for Oregon State University, said growers with dryland hazelnut orchards should consider adding drip irrigation if they can. Meanwhile, the university continues to research nutrient requirements for new trees, as well as how best to defend against emerging pests and diseases, such as bacterial blight and the Pacific flatheaded borer.

“Everything we have is based on the old (nut) cultivars,” Wiman said. “We’ve been doing everything we can to update the nutrient requirements for the new trees.”

This year was already challenging for the hazelnut industry as a perfect storm of global factors combined to drive down prices for growers. First, China slapped a 15 percent and 25 percent retaliatory tariffs on the product from the U.S. in response to the Trump administration’s escalating trade war. Then, the Turkish lira plummeted in value, allowing the country to flood the market with cheap hazelnuts.

For the first time, growers accepted a three-tier price system at 62 cents per pound for in-shell hazelnut varieties, and between 81 and 91 cents per pound for “shell-out” varieties, which command more value for larger kernels.

That is lower than last year’s price of 96.5 cents per pound for all hazelnuts, and $1.18 per pound in 2016.

Terry Ross, executive director of the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association, said they system was meant to encourage growers to plant more shell-out varieties to tap into newer and potentially more lucrative markets.

“There is a lot of potential,” Ross said. “The future is bright.”

Dairy Goat Day challenges beginners, experts

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 22:38

PLEASANT HILL, Ore. — For newer goat owner Marit Vike, Dairy Goat Day was an opportunity for her and her husband to learn more information about their animals — and celebrate their anniversary.

Vike has had goats for four years, after her goat enthusiast friends inspired the couple to get their own. Although they consider the goats as pets and do little milking, Vike said she was most looking forward to health and pasture management seminars.

Vike was one of more than 50 attendees at Dairy Goat Day, which was sponsored by Oregon State University Small Farmers Extension Program and Emerald Dairy Goat Association (EDGA) in Cottage Grove. Attendees traveled from around the Willamette Valley, as well as from Central and Southern Oregon and Washington.

“We are so happy to be paired with OSU this year,” Laura Lounsbury, EDGA president, said. “They have been a big asset to us in putting everything together.”

Last year, Lounsbury suggested to the association that they should host an educational day to “ramp up numbers for our nonprofit group and encourage 4-H kids.” She was inspired by the Northwest Oregon Dairy Goat Associations’ annual conference, and attended OSU’s goat education event.

“It made sense to combine our efforts,” Melisa Fery, OSU Small Farms Extension Program agent, said. “(The program) is all about community education and helping landowners or small acreage owners meet their goals.”

She said that the program puts out needs assessments and workshops to ask farmers what they need to know to work more efficiently. The seminar topics were chosen by EDGA and Small Farms Extension, and were geared toward both beginners and life long learners.

“Our hope is that everyone, beginner or expert, can take away a few new pointers,” Lounsbury said.

Seminars included: Adventures with Pack Goats, Common Diseases of Goats, Getting Started with Milk Certification, Cheese Making for the Home Dairy, Managing Internal Parasites, Livestock Guardian Animals, Raising Goats for Meat, Pasture Management, Finessing Freshening: The 123s of Milking, Herbal Goat Foundations and Handling Goat Emergencies the Herbal Way.

During lunch, a demonstration by Becky Gee with EDGA showed attendees “how to build an inexpensive milk stand from PVC.”

Fery taught the general pasture management class. She said that “many Oregon pastures are overgrazed” and there are simple strategies to change that. She liked that it was applicable to people with goats as well as other livestock.

Katherine Drovdahl, with Fir Meadow LLC, was another instructor. She taught both Herbal Goat Foundations and Handling Goat Emergencies the Herbal Way. She said she wanted attendees to start “thinking like a vitalist” and learn ways to handle simple and scary emergencies with herbal remedies.

“I hope they leave more educated and encouraged to try new methods,” she said. “This information saves money and they learn to be independent. If there’s an emergency at midnight, it’s easier to find some dandelions than it is to go to the vet.”

Lounsbury said she was excited about this year’s growth — double the attendance from last year — as well as the variety of different topics.

“The Emerald Dairy Goat Association is committed to sharing knowledge of goats with others,” she said. “It is also a fundraiser for our nonprofit to keep our group alive, as well as encourage 4-H kids in the goat project.”

Teagan Moran, OSU educational program assistant, said these collaborations happen when a need is identified. She said people have reached out to her before who have experience in milking but wanted to branch out to meat goats, and events like these connect the community to skill share and network.

For Fery, after all the planning, she enjoyed watching attendees network and learn from each other.

“Knowing they’re getting some quality educational seminars today,” she said. “Anything they glean and apply to their farms is good for everyone. Good for water quality, soil and (the) animals.”

BLM Says It Plans To Pull Back On Controversial Plan To Spay Wild Mares In Oregon

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 08:32

The Bureau of Land Management says it intends to roll back plans to spay wild mares in Oregon.

In a motion filed in federal court Wednesday, the BLM said it doesn’t have the authority to “unilaterally reverse” an official record of those plans, but that it intends to file a motion to redact the language with the Interior Board of Land Appeals in the coming days. 

Animal rights groups celebrated the latest move by the BLM, which planned this month to move forward with a controversial plan to surgically remove the ovaries of wild mares to deal with unhealthy populations of wild horses on public land in Oregon. Animal rights groups have criticized the procedure, calling it inhumane.

“The BLM made the right decision to abandon these barbaric experiments and instead listen to the strong interest the public has in seeing our wild horses protected and treated humanely,” said Brieanah Schwartz, government relations and policy counsel with the American Wild Horse Campaign, a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the BLM.

“We now hope that the agency will reconsider all plans to conduct this inhumane research and focus instead on humane, scientifically recommended forms of population management, including PZP fertility control.”

At least one animal rights group remains cautious about the BLM’s latest move in court, saying it doesn’t go far enough in stopping the BLM from moving forward with sterilizations in the future.

At issue in the lawsuit, filed by animal rights groups including the American Wild Horse Campaign and the Animal Welfare Institute, is the groups’ right to observe and document the BLM’s treatment of wild horses during the procedures.

“The BLM’s sharp limitation on public observation of this government activity thwarts the important newsgathering objectives that Plaintiffs aim to achieve by observing and documenting the BLM’s treatment of federally protected wild horses,” the lawsuit states. “And thus violates Plaintiffs’ rights under the First Amendment of the U.S.”

While the BLM’s latest move may signal a shift, Theresa Barbour, research and legal consultant with the nonprofit Citizens Against Equine Slaughter, said the real issue is over the legality of the sterilizations.

“Even if they won, it would not stop these experiments from happening,” Barbour said. “It would only force BLM to provide better viewing opportunities for the public.”

Barbour said she’s concerned that any legal win in this case would not set a legal precedent barring the BLM from attempting to move forward with similar plans later.

“It never feels like a complete victory because they’re not saying ‘we’re never going to try this again,’” she said. “It’s a victory this time for the horses. Not necessarily for the future.”

Are Oregon’s cougars being overhunted? Experts disagree

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 08:16

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A fatal cougar attack has reignited debates over hound hunting and cougar management in Oregon. Groups of Oregonians, particularly hound hunters, say that Oregon’s cougar population is growing out of control. Cougar advocates, on the other hand, say that Oregon is over-hunting cougars, which research suggests can lead to an increase in problem encounters.

But before you can figure out if Oregon’s cougars are being over-hunted or under-hunted, you need to know how many cougars there are in the state.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates there about 6,600 cougars here, and possibly as many as 7,600. That’s three times higher than the numbers reported in Washington or Idaho. It’s even slightly higher than the estimate for California: 4,000 to 6,000 cougars are thought to roam the massive state.

But hunting groups, ranchers and Oregonians who live in cougar country say the Oregon’s cougar count severely underestimates the state’s actual population. Conservationists argue it’s too high. Biologists and wildlife officials from other states say it’s a lot more complicated, and more than just a question of numbers.

One of the big reasons Oregon’s number is so much higher than its neighbors’: Oregon’s estimate includes kittens, which rarely survive to adulthood, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Oregon does not count the juveniles of any other game species, like elk or bighorn sheep.

“The fact that they don’t clarify themselves every time says that they want people to assume there are 6,600 big cats running around the state,” said John Laundré, a predator ecologist at Western Oregon University. “They don’t include babies for other ephemeral species, like ducks or deer.” And only adult animals can be hunted.

Derek Broman, ODFW’s state carnivore biologist, said whenever he gives a presentation he makes it clear that all ages are included in official population estimates. But there’s no mention of that on the department’s cougar webpage, and you have to look deep into the cougar management plan find adult cat estimates. A brochure specifies that the population includes all age classes, but never offers adult numbers.

Even if you exclude kittens and juvenile cougars from population estimates, Oregon still reports some of the highest densities of adult cougars in the country.

Washington’s research into cougar densities dates back nearly two decades and includes seven study areas. Across those areas, the state has documented consistent findings: Roughly two cougars for every 100 square kilometers, said Rich Beausoleil, the bear and cougar specialist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said Washington’s cougar-density numbers are consistent with what other studies — except Oregon’s — report.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s surveys found adult densities twice that, depending on the ecosystem.

“I’ve not seen such high densities anywhere in the world,” said Rob Wielgus, former director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, commenting on a controversial density survey conducted by Oregon.

Beausoleil has spoken to ODFW about the state’s population estimates before, and has criticized the design of Oregon’s studies, which he says will naturally overestimate regional populations. Derek Broman says ODFW controlled for overestimation and stands by their data.

It’s not unusual for cougar surveys to arrive at different conclusions, said David Stoner, a cougar biologist at Utah State University. Cougars are extremely hard to study because they’re so hard to find.

ODFW says these surveys confirm their statewide population estimates, which they calculate using a model. They estimate statewide density by mapping cougar deaths, and then add expected birth rates. They also tweak the numbers depending on food availability in the region.

Laundré said the growth estimate used in the study is an optimistic “best-case scenario” one: “A model is only as good as what you put into it. I could make their model show that there were only 3,000 total animals or 10,000 total animals.”

All of this might seem like an internal debate about the best way to count cougars. Everyone agrees that at one point in the 1960s there were only 200 or so cougars in the state, and today there are several thousand. The cats are in no danger of going extinct.

But a lot rides on accurate population estimates. Not only do these numbers tell management officials if populations are growing or shrinking, they’re used to help set hunting quotas for each region. Some scientists found that when cougars are over-hunted, problem encounters with humans and livestock increase.

Wielgus, who has left Washington for the Bend area, was one of the first to identify such a link.

“In the 20 years of research I did with WDFW, we conducted the largest study of cougars ever done anywhere. We found that heavy retaliatory killing or preventive killing actually causes increased problems,” he said.

It works like this: Female cougars have smallish overlapping territories that seem to fluctuate with prey abundance. Male cougars have larger, non-overlapping territories that encompass multiple female ones.

Only large, older males are capable of holding down these territories, “and you don’t get to be a 10-year-old male by attacking humans or livestock or pets.”

But Wielgus found that those 10-year-old males were far more likely to be killed by hunters. “And we found that when you remove an older male, you have two or three teenage males come in to take their place. And those are the ones that are responsible for most bad encounters between cougars and people, as well as the majority of livestock and pet depredations.”

This movement of younger animals also means it can be difficult to tell if a population is declining due to overhunting or staying the same.

Wielgus is a controversial figure in the predator management community, in part for research indicating that hunting wolves can increase attacks on livestock. He says he was silenced and forced out of his position at Washington State University because of his work.

A smattering of papers have attempted to debunk his cougar research, but even more have supported it. One of the most recent was a massive, 30-year look at hunting and problem cougars in British Columbia. For their part, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stands by Wielgus’ research and their own: Today, they manage cougars specifically to avoid the consequences of over-hunting.

“Our management philosophy is to manage for the social stability of the animal. We want to promote territoriality,” Beausoleil said.

WDFW’s data shows that when more than 14 percent of a cougar population is harvested in a given region, the population starts to skew young, territories dissolve, and problem encounters increase. To avoid this, they split the state into 49 game management units, and each unit allows 12 percent to 16 percent of cougars to be taken. When one of those units reaches that quota, it closes, and hunters can go to an adjacent unit. It’s not a perfect system: Sometimes, it can take a while to close a unit, and more cougars are killed.

At first glance, Oregon seems to be following Washington’s no-conflict guidelines: On average, Oregon’s hunters take less than 14 percent of the state’s big cats each year. But unlike Washington and Montana, where there are dozens of game management units used to set cougar quotas, Oregon’s cats are divided into just six large regions, which makes it more difficult to track regional densities.

The statewide quota for 2018 is 970 human-caused deaths — a whopping 27 percent of the state’s estimated 3,500 adults. Per the cougar management plan, the quota serves as a mortality cap, and not a target. The statewide quota has never been filled, but some of the game management units regularly approach theirs.

Zone A, which includes the region where the hiker was attacked, covers the North Cascades and the coast. As of Nov. 6, its humans have killed 167 of the 180 allowed cougars. ODFW estimates there were 989 cougars of all ages in Zone A in 2015. If half of those were adults, then roughly one third of adult cougars in the region were killed: Research suggests that’s a number high enough to cause conflicts with humans.

Overhunting cougars can have impacts on cougars’ societies, too. Once thought of as loners, recent research has revealed cougars’ social lives to be much more complex than previously thought.

Mark Elbroch, the director of the puma program at wildcat conservation organization Panthera, studies cougar communities. He’s found that the mountain lions within one male’s territory function like a society: They interact non-aggressively and seem to frequently share food, a favor that’s apparently returned in the future.

“You can imagine that overhunting will have huge impacts on these social networks and organizations, on the glue that holds them together as functioning groups,” Elbroch said.

And anecdotally, he’s seen the impacts of removing one large male from that society. After one of his study males was killed by hunters, he noticed a nearby male start to encroach on the old territory, just enough so that it crossed paths with a female and her two cubs. The female charged the strange male, and died. Her cubs lasted a little while, but eventually both died.

“One could argue that one bullet killed four mountain lions,” Elbroch said.

ODFW’s Derek Broman is dismissive of the “social chaos” hypothesis. He says the department has conducted its own research, and “there’s no information to suggest chaos and turmoil. Death and mortality is a common occurrence, even outside of human influence.”

Oregon officials may dispute the idea that their management practices lead to more problem cougars. But the state does remove more such animals than neighboring states. In 2017 there were 462 such complaints, and 175 cougars were killed. Those numbers remain fairly stable from year to year, though they’ve risen dramatically in the Willamette Valley.

In comparison, about 100 cougars are killed in California each year for attacking livestock. In 2016, 46 nuisance cougars were killed in Washington.

Hunters say that the best way to combat these problem cats is to increase hunting. But unless a large number of cougars are removed over a large area, more will just move in to take their place. That’s why some are calling for a return to hound hunting.

The theory is this: Hound hunters, unlike normal hunters, can be selective. If their dogs tree a cougar, the hunter can choose if it’s going to be a worthwhile trophy. If the animal is small or female, the hunter can pull their dogs off the tree, and the cougar can live.

This, say hound hunting advocates, creates a population of scared cougars, who will run away as soon as they hear a human in the forest.

Laundré and Elbroch are skeptical that hound hunting leads to scared cougars, but other biologists think it’s not impossible.

“Hound hunting doesn’t have to be a lethal pursuit,” Stoner noted. “You have the ability to pursue multiple animals over the course of a season, and can in theory select a nice tom.”

Unfortunately, that selectivity targets large toms, the exact animals many biologists say are necessary for maintaining cougar social stability. Indeed, when hound hunting was banned in Oregon, the average age of cats killed dropped.

In the end, biologists say it’s important to remember that the only way most people will ever interact with a cougar is through their livestock or pets.

“Cougars aren’t fearsome,” said Laundré, who has tracked and collared more than 250 cougars. “I’ve never had a cat behave aggressively.”

As Teddy Roosevelt noted after chasing a cougar with hounds and stabbing it to death, “He was more afraid of us than the dogs.”

Dairy, berry producers scream for ice cream

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 06:05

Jeff Heartley and Doug Wells took their time Tuesday at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, tasting nine different vanilla ice cream samples and evaluating each based on criteria including appearance, flavor and texture.

It’s a tough job, but hey, somebody has got to do it.

“The texture on this one is nice and creamy,” remarked Wells, who along with Heartley works in ice cream production at Umpqua Dairy Products in Roseburg, Ore. “The first one I tried was a little icy.”

Wells is just six months into the job at Umpqua Dairy, and was one of 63 participants who registered for the first Ice Cream Science, Technology and Supply course hosted by OSU at the Food Innovation Center Nov. 6-7.

Sarah Masoni, product and process development director at the Food Innovation Center, said she hopes the program will lead to more high-quality ice cream made in Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest, which in turn would provide more opportunities for local dairy farmers and berry growers to sell their ingredients to market.

“Whenever we can create value-added food products, that means we’re bolstering the economy and creating jobs,” Masoni said.

In fact, the class was funded by a $17,775 grant awarded by the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association to the OSU Agricultural Research Foundation in 2017. Association Director Tami Kerr said the proposal for an ice cream lab and educational workshop was outside the box, though the board agreed it was something that would ultimately benefit producers.

“If processors can produce new and improved ice cream, ultimately that should help with sales, consumption and milk prices,” Kerr said.

Oregon has about 210 dairy producers statewide. Milk was the fourth-most valuable agricultural commodity in 2017, at $469.3 million.

The milk needed to make ice cream is one thing. New flavors are another potential agricultural market, and that is where Oregon berry growers are seeking to bolster sales of their own.

Darcy Kochis, marketing director for the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, said the OSU class was a chance to build connections between farmers and producers looking to buy more local fruit, or add flavors.

“This is a great opportunity to hit a market that is already buying some fruit, but would maybe do some more,” Kochis said. “If we’re spreading the word, hopefully there will be a buzz around Oregon blackberries and raspberries, and they’ll catch on to that.”

Oregon is the top producer of frozen blackberries, black raspberries and boysenberries in the country. The commission represents approximately 300 growers, located predominately in the Willamette Valley.

Kochis said they are especially excited about Columbia Star, a new thornless blackberry variety introduced in 2014.

“The fruit looks beautiful,” Kochis said. “A lot of people are growing it.”

Day one of the two-day workshop was led by Bruce Tharp, of Tharp’s Food Technology, an international training and technical consulting business based in Pennsylvania that specializes in the ice cream industry. Tharp discussed the basic science and principles of making ice cream, such as how to reduce air bubbles and ice crystals in the final product to enhance smoothness and quality.

“Frozen desserts are the only food intended to be consumed frozen.” Tharp said. “That makes it complicated.”

After a short series of lectures, Tharp had the group evaluate nine vanilla ice cream samples in a blind taste test, with containers covered by tinfoil to conceal the brand. In quality assurance, he said the key to ice cream is consistency.

“If we follow all the rules that we’ve been talking about, we get happy consumers,” he said.

Northwest pushing large pear crop

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 05:41

WENATCHEE, Wash. — August through October pear harvest is over and now the Pacific Northwest pear industry is about three months into packing and shipping a near record crop of 20.4 million, 44-pound boxes.

The crop is 29 percent larger than a year ago and 5.5 percent behind the record 21.6-million-box crop of 2013.

“Prices are good compared to last year while movement is not,” said Brian Focht, manager of the Washington and Mid-Columbia Pear Marketing Associations, in Wenatchee.

The Nov. 2 average of industry asking prices, in Wenatchee and Yakima, was $23 to $28.90 per box for size 70s and 80s of U.S. No. 1 Bartlett and $22 to $26.90 for 90s, according to USDA.

The price for d’ Anjou U.S. No. 1 was $24 to $30.90 for 70s and 80s and $24 to $28.90 for 90s. Bosc U.S. No. 1 was $26 to $30.90 for 70s and 80s and $24 to $28.90 for 90s.

“Those are good ranges. That’s very similar to this time last year. Most likely a little lower because of the size of the crop, but prices are good,” Focht said.

“Movement started out slower than we would like but has been picking up,” said Kevin Moffitt, president of The Pear Bureau Northwest in Portland.

As of Nov. 2, 20.6 percent of the crop had been shipped versus 25.7 percent a year earlier with a much smaller crop, Moffitt said.

Movement has been slow because California, always in the market before Washington and Oregon, had a large crop with slow movement causing retailers to take their time switching over to buy Northwest Bartlett, Moffitt said.

California had 2.75 million, 36-pound boxes of pears versus 3 million a year ago, he said.

Warm weather in the Midwest, New England and Canada slowed fall pear sales and a lot of grapes and summer fruit stayed in the market longer, Moffitt said.

The table grape crop was huge and that delayed up front sales displays of pears in grocery stores, Focht said.

Given this year’s pear crop is so much larger than last year’s movement comparisons “don’t tell us much,” Focht said.

This year’s d’ Anjou pear crop in the Wenatchee Valley was larger which contributed to it being better quality than recent seasons, said Greg Rains, horticulturalist and fieldman for Blue Star Growers Inc., in Cashmere.

Quality also was improved by cooler temperatures caused by summer wildfire smoke, he said.

Heat and a light crop load increases odds of cork, a fruit decay also driven by calcium deficiencies, Rains said. Grower were more aggressive this year on pear psylla control, he said.

Wenatchee Valley monitoring stations showed a 20 percent reduction in sunlight due to smoke from summer wildfires, said Lee Kalcsits, tree fruit physiologist at the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.

That reduced light stress on pear trees, he said.

Oregon ranchers volunteer to test new wolf deterrence strategy

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 12:31

Two Eastern Oregon ranchers have volunteered to test a new strategy aimed at preventing further conflicts between wolves and livestock.

Rodger Huffman, president of the Union County Cattlemen’s Association, and Cynthia Warnock, president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association, will work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop site-specific wolf plans at their respective ranches, emphasizing the use of non-lethal deterrents up front to minimize predation.

The proposal was outlined by a group of stakeholders tasked with finding common ground on a five-year update of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which is now three years past due. Participants in the work group include a mix of farming, ranching, hunting and environmental interests, led by Deb Nudelman, a professional mediator hired from Portland.

ODFW staff wrote a draft seven-step strategy, which they presented back to the group during a conference call Nov. 5. It essentially calls for wildlife biologists to meet with farmers and ranchers on the ground, selecting non-lethal wolf deterrents such as range riders, alarm boxes and electrified fencing based on individual operations and geography.

If wolves continue to attack livestock — what the state terms “chronic depredation” — then ranchers could ask ODFW to kill the offending predators. Producers would not be eligible for a kill order if they do not have a conflict deterrence plan in place, though they could still apply for state compensation for lost or dead animals.

Wolf advocates say the site-specific plans will prioritize and make the best use of non-lethal tools, while ranchers hope the proposal gives them a quicker and clearer path to dealing with problem wolves.

“I think we all want to make sure that whatever end product we have is as clear and transparent as possible for everybody,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Questions, however, continued to loom among the group about whether ODFW has the money or manpower to implement such a program. That is where Huffman and Warnock come in, agreeing to test the strategy at their own ranches in the heart of Oregon’s wolf country.

Huffman, who ranches in Union, Ore., where wolves from the Catherine pack are active, said it remains to be seen who will pay for non-lethal tools and whether ranchers themselves would bear the added cost.

“I think it comes down to (ODFW) staff, and where they are at the time,” Huffman said. “It may be a whole new program within the agency, when it’s all said and done with.”

Before wolves returned to Oregon, Huffman said he checked on cattle once every few weeks. Now, he checks on cattle at least three times per week, and sometimes even that is not enough. ODFW has investigated one dead calf on Huffman’s property, in 2016, though by the time they found the animal after five days it was too late to confirm it as a wolf kill.

“There really wasn’t much left of it,” Huffman said.

Warnock’s ranch near Imnaha, Ore. is also frequented by wolves in far northeast Wallowa County.

Apart from funding, the group also disagrees about the timeline for chronic depredation, which ODFW is proposing at three confirmed kills within a 12-month period under Phase III of the wolf plan. Environmentalists also say ODFW should not automatically default to killing wolves if the threshold for chronic depredation is met.

The next work group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27 in Pendleton.