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Public Lands Grazing Helps Ranchers, Sage Grouse, Study Says

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 07:35

Grazing restrictions on public lands may have unintended consequences for greater sage grouse, according to a recent study. The imperiled birds depend on habitat on both public and private lands, and much of that habitat can be lost when ranching operations go under.

“We found that as the restrictions to public lands increased, (private) landowners have historically made decisions to alter their land use. Then there’s trigger points where they may sell those lands to higher intensity uses that would be bad for sage grouse,” said David Naugle, study co-author and professor at the University of Montana.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, found that curbing public land grazing by 50 percent could lead to more than 429,000 acres of lost habitat for sage grouse. While that might not sound like a lot, often private ranches provide important habitat for sage grouse to rear their young.

“(Private lands often) have these mesic, or wet, habitats. After the birds have nested in the dry uplands, the little puff balls come out of the eggs, and mama takes them down to these wet habitats. That’s where they find forbs and bugs. That’s how they put on meat and bones and feathers,” Naugle said.

One big threat to sage grouse is habitat fragmentation. That comes in many ways across the 11 western states where the birds roam. Cutting the birds off from prime rearing areas, by selling off ranches, could be a big blow to birds, Naugle said.

“Private lands are our interstitial tissue that connects our bigger public lands together — and of course wildlife doesn’t see fence lines,” Naugle said.

Protecting sage grouse has come down to a wide range of partnerships between conservationists, ranchers, politicians and state governments. In 2015, the federal government decided not to add sage grouse to the Endangered Species List, mostly because these partnerships were seen as a new way forward for species conservation.

It’s an idea many conservation groups have signed onto, as is the oft-used phrase, “What’s good for the bird is good for the herd.”

“Supporting ranchers as stewards of (sage grouse) habitat is an important thing for conservationists to focus on,” said Joe Fargione, science director for the Nature Conservancy’s North American region. The group also helped fund this study.

Sage grouse numbers have dwindled from a series of threats. In Oregon and Washington, their habitat has been fragmented by overgrazing. Juniper trees crowd out good mating grounds and serve as perches for birds of prey. Invasive species make the threat of wildfire more real. Elsewhere across the West, resource extraction — like oil and gas drilling and mining — have cut off habitat.

For ranchers, working to protect sage grouse now helps safeguard against potential strict land use regulations in the future, if the birds are ever listed as threatened.

One of the ranchers at the forefront of sage grouse conservation on Oregon’s private land is Tom Sharp. He’s removed juniper trees from his property, dealt with invasive weeds, added water troughs for cattle and wildlife. (He’s said a trail camera even caught a sage grouse jump on the trough and take a sip.)

“I think history will look back and say the sage grouse was really a good thing for ranching — both on public lands and on private lands,” Sharp said.

Sustainable ranching is important, he said, both for the land and to make sure the business is around for generations to come. “Ranching is one of those things that gets into the blood for generation after generation of families,” he said.

And the business is made more difficult when there are grazing restrictions — on public or private land. Often those restrictions come because plants and wildlife have been placed on the Endangered Species List.

“Revenue as a rancher is pretty much a numbers game. The smaller the herd, the smaller the revenue. The larger the herd potential, the larger the income potential. It has a direct correlation between restrictions and economic opportunity here,” Sharp said.

That’s something the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has also seen. Executive Director Jerome Rosa said, over the years, they have seen more grazing restrictions throughout the American West. Profits are low, beef prices are low, which leads to more ranches turning into developments, he said.

“As more and more of that development happens, there will be less and less areas for the sage grouse to be out on the landscapes,” Rosa said.

Other research David Naugle has focused on shows that where there’s sustainable grazing, there’s often a stable sage grouse population.

“When grazing is done sustainably, it’s the most compatible land use for wildlife,” Naugle said. “It maintains shrub communities, facilitates maintenance and expansion of native bunch grasses — all of the habitat ingredients that critters like sage grouse that are of high conservation concern require.”

Sage grouse are considered an indicator species; their health is indicative of the ecosystem’s bigger picture and the health of the more than 350 other types of wildlife that live there.

One of the states researchers found that could lose the most sage grouse habitat because of grazing restrictions was Washington, which could lose up to 30 percent of its wet habitat with big increases in grazing restrictions. The state has a very low sage grouse population as it is — it’s also more profitable there to be a farmer than a rancher, Naugle said.

“Finding creative ways to put cropland back into sagebrush grazing lands is a top priority (in Washington),” Naugle said.

The other two states that could see the most wet habitat loss, according to the study, are Wyoming and Montana.

The study shows how linked decisions on public and private lands can be, Naugle said. He thinks the future of wildlife conservation is up to public-private partnerships.

“There’s this balancing act between public and private land. How do we do the best thing for wildlife while still maintaining rural communities that provide grazing, which then provide this big open space that all of our wildlife depend on?” Naugle said.

Western Innovator: Researcher establishes grazing as fire tool

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 06:41

Capital Press

Kirk Davies and his fellow rangeland scientists in southeastern Oregon for years produced studies showing earlier grazing reduces future fire risk while benefiting native plants.

Now they are working to figure out how to apply these lessons on the larger scale that the vast sagebrush steppe landscape often demands.

“With these findings established, now the challenge becomes prioritizing where to apply this in land management,” said Davies, lead rangeland scientist with USDA Agricultural Research Service in Burns, Ore.

Issues inherent in working on the usually large-scale range include coordinating and moving people, equipment and cattle; a limited number of cattle available; and some public opposition to public-lands grazing altogether, let alone as a management tool, he said.

“We are hoping to work with more landscape ecologists, looking at how it applies across the landscape,” Davies said. That would include investigating, long-term, how rangeland plant communities respond to fire whether they are grazed or not, and deriving a grazing approach to suit a location’s unique fire risk — deciding how much to graze and in which season, for example.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management Burns District has used targeted grazing to help reduce fine fuels, particularly annual grasses, District Manager Jeff Rose said. The effort is on a fairly small scale now, but the district is working with ARS to help scale it to a level that will be effective in larger landscapes, he said.

Fires haven’t yet materialized on treated, grazed, areas and it’s hard to predict where a fire will start, Rose said. “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it will work,” he said.

Davies and colleagues conducted research for years before publishing a 2009 paper documenting that grazing can help native plants.

“We saw that long-term ungrazed areas, when they were burned, were subsequently invaded by exotic annual grasses,” he said. “We found moderately grazed areas recovered to the native plant community. They didn’t have that invasion and were much better off.”

The 2009 study’s text said in part that even plant communities that aren’t accumulating fire fuels beyond historical levels may need low-severity, fuel-reducing disturbances to improve resilience to more severe disturbances.

Researchers in turn began looking into fire severity.

In ungrazed areas, “we found we had larger and hotter fires, and those fires caused higher mortality of desired native annual bunch grasses,” Davies said. “We also found ungrazed areas were much more likely to ignite with an ignition source and more likely to spread …with higher flame heights and faster-moving fire.”

Even areas that went ungrazed for just one or two years were found to have greater fire risk, he said. Moreover, grazing in the fall or spring ahead of peak summer fire season greatly reduced the risk of severe fire.

Findings from the researchers’ 2010 study included that moderate grazing reduces wildfire risk by decreasing fine fuels available for ignition, and limiting spread by reducing fuel continuity, the text said in part. While moderate grazing makes prescribed burning more difficult, it can help produce a mosaic burn effect that can reduce a fire’s speed and overall size.

Their other studies found that dormant-season grazing increased moisture levels to an extent that an area was at risk of fire some two months later into the summer season; and that winter grazing can reduce wildfire size, intensity and spread in shrub areas (both 2015); prefire grazing increases post-fire resistance to exotic annual grass invasion and dominance for decades (2016); and fall and spring grazing — especially spring — decreased ignition probability and a fire’s ability to spread by increasing fine-fuel moisture while decreasing fuel mass and height (2017).

“Essentially we are looking at the effects of grazing on fire risk, behavior and severity, and even post-fire recovery,” Davies said.

He researches rangeland comprehensively, from plants, soils, grazing and fire to weeds, encroaching vegetation — like Western Juniper — and various environmental conditions.

Name: Kirk Davies

Title: Lead rangeland scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Burns, Ore.

Age: 40

Hometown: Princeton, Ore.

Education: Ph.D., rangeland ecology, Oregon State University; dual B.S., rangeland resources, crop & soil science, OSU.

Family: Wife and three children

Napa Valley winery rejects 2,000 tons of S. Oregon wine grapes

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 09:21

Southern Oregon winegrowers may be on the hook for millions of dollars worth of unsold grapes after a California winery suddenly canceled contracts with at least 15 different suppliers in the Rogue Valley.

Copper Cane Wines & Provisions, based in the Napa Valley, notified growers as recently as Sept. 28 that it would not buy wine grapes purportedly contaminated by “smoke taint” from this year’s wildfires across the region.

John Pratt, president of the Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association and owner of Celestina Vineyard in Medford, said Copper Cane rejected approximately 2,000 tons of grapes valued at $4 million, leaving the fruit to rot on the vine.

“I think most everybody was stunned,” Pratt said. “It was devastating.”

While the cancellations were ostensibly due to smoke exposure, Pratt said vineyard owners did their own testing and found that the levels of guaiacol and methylguaiacol — compounds released by burning wood that indicate smoke taint in fruit — were below cause for concern.

Though smoky skies lingered over the Rogue Valley this season, Pratt said it was mostly higher up in the atmosphere, and not the dense ground smoke winegrowers normally associated with dangerous smoke taint.

“Everybody feels very strongly that’s just a bogus smokescreen scapegoat reason for rejecting the fruit,” Pratt said.

A representative for Copper Cane did not return messages for comment.

The affected vintners met Sept. 28 in Medford to share information and discuss their options moving forward. Because the cancellations came just before harvest, Pratt said that gives them virtually no time to find new buyers before the fruit becomes overripe.

“A few people said they had found a home for some of the fruit they hadn’t been able to pick for Copper Cane, but most everybody said it was worthless,” Pratt said.

Two wineries in the Willamette Valley are now reaching out to find homes for the stranded grapes. Willamette Valley Vineyards and King Estate Winery recently sent an SOS to see if any fellow wineries can take on extra volume.

Jim Bernau, founder and CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore., said the winery bought an extra 8 tons of Merlot at full contract price, and is willing to put up the money to help others do the same.

“This could break the backs of some of those Southern Oregon growers,” Bernau said.

Willamette Valley Vineyards already buys grapes from Southern Oregon for its Griffin Creek brand. Bernau said they tested this year’s grapes at an independent lab, ETS Laboratories in Newberg, Ore., to check for smoke taint, and results show the fruit is in good shape.

“It doesn’t concern us at all,” Bernau said.

Sam Tannahill, co-founder of A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, also buys 3,000 tons of wine grapes from the Rogue Valley. He said there does appear to be isolated pockets of smoke taint in the region, however the amount seems to be relatively low.

“Certainly, this year was definitely less intense than last year,” Tannahill said. “This is very isolated for us this year.”

Copper Cane is already gaining notoriety in Oregon over allegations of misleading labels that misrepresent the state’s valuable American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs. Industry leaders recently testified about the controversy during Legislative Days before the House Interim Committee on Economic Development and Trade.

Copper Cane denies it is doing anything wrong, and is quick to point out that all its labels have received approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The winery did provide bottling, transfer and production records for seven wines to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which is looking into whether the labels meet state law.

Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, serves as committee chairwoman, and said they are taking the allegations seriously.

“These appellations are really important to our marketing,” Marsh said. “The labeling issues are pretty critical, because we want to grow our region as a destination. To do that, a destination has to mean something.”

Pratt said the decision by Copper Cane to abruptly cancel its contracts with growers across the valley does seem suspicious. Meanwhile, he said growers are left to defend the quality of their 2018 vintage.

“That’s really important to us,” he said. “I think the main thing that I’m trying to do is to explain, very clearly, that this smoke taint issue is kind of a smokescreen for somebody who wants for other reasons to get out of a contract.”

Judge: Tillamook pollution lawsuit isn’t ‘time-barred’

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 08:40

Oregon’s environmental regulators never finalized a limit on fecal coliform bacteria in Tillamook Bay, which means an oysterman isn’t time-barred from challenging the decision, according to a judge.

Tillamook County Circuit Court Judge Mari Garric Trevino has found the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s director didn’t sign an “issuance memorandaum” for its 2001 “total maximum daily load” for fecal coliform bacteria in the bay or send it to the required people.

Those steps were required for “due process” under the state and federal constitutions, as well as administrative law, which means the TMDL “was never finalized and instead remains a draft order,” the judge said in an Oct. 2 ruling.

Trevino’s ruling is important because oysterman Jesse Hayes has filed a lawsuit challenging DEQ’s standard for fecal coliform bacteria in the bay as too lenient.

Hayes claims the bacterial contamination has restricted or prohibited harvest of oysters from his 600 acres of plats in Tillamook Bay and he seeks stricter controls over alleged dairy pollution in the Tillamook basin.

Last month, an attorney for DEQ argued that Hayes Oyster Co.’s lawsuit should be dismissed on multiple grounds, including because he allegedly missed the deadline to challenge the TMDL by roughly 17 years.

Trevino has decided that since the TMDL was a “draft order,” Hayes’ claim seeking damages for a public nuisance should be dismissed but his attack on the standard itself isn’t time-barred.

“What we’re down to is a direct action against the TMDL,” said Thomas Benke, attorney for the Hayes Oyster Co.

Hayes plans to review his options regarding an appeal of the judge’s dismissal of his damages claim but he respects the judge’s opinion, which effectively gives him the opportunity to modify his complaint and continue with the litigation, Benke said.

“It means we get process,” he said. “Now they have to defend that 17-year-old decision.”

It remains to be seen whether Trevino decides she has the jurisdiction to order DEQ to finalize or modify the TMDL for fecal coliform bacteria, he said.

Nonetheless, the judge’s ruling makes clear that DEQ can’t stand behind the statute of limitations to defend a 17-year-old “compromise” TMDL that Hayes believes is illegal, Benke said.

“This is a positive development for all users of the rivers in Tillamook Bay,” he said. “The big winner here is Tillamook Bay.

Sadie Forzley, a state attorney representing DEQ, said she can’t comment on pending litigation.

Federal officials planning expansion at Pocatello air base

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 08:40

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — Federal officials are expanding a firefighting air base in eastern Idaho.

Officials say the air base at the Pocatello Regional Airport has become busier than ever, as its traditional service area has spread further into surrounding states such as Wyoming, Oregon and Nevada.

Aviation Officer Robert Barnes says just this Monday, a pair of DC-10 air tankers launched from the air base to help contain a fire in Elko, Nevada.

The Idaho State Journal reports the air base’s increasing importance is prompting the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to build a third “pit” at the Pocatello air base, where aircraft will refuel and reload flame retardant, within the next couple of years.

Barnes says the third pit will make the base more efficient in the long run.

Gov. Kate Brown Wants Environmental Rules Upheld In Oregon When Feds Roll Them Back

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 08:37

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is pushing back against Trump administration rollbacks of environmental protections at the federal level. On Wednesday morning she announced legislation that would maintain Oregon’s water and air quality rules at the same level or higher than they were the day before the president took office.

One of the stated goals of the legislation is to protect public health welfare from the adverse effects of pollution and climate change.

With the new legislation, called the Oregon Environmental Protection Act, Brown said she is looking to inspire a national movement of states to oppose what she called the “unprecedented and aggressive attack” on clean air and water.

“If Oregon were to adopt these standards and several states were to follow, it would eliminate any perceived benefit of federal regulatory backsliding,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

The Trump administration has undertaken several actions to overturn or delay environmental laws from taking effect. This ranges from carbon-emissions goals in the Obama-era Clean Power Plan designed to help the United States meet international climate goals to protections for wildlife — and from regulations of pesticides, ozone and mercury to expanding fossil fuel development on public lands.

Brown’s proposed legislation focuses on the federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. Both are regulated and enforced at the state level by Oregon agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Health Authority and the Water Resources Department. In most instances, the federal laws allow states to establish more stringent environmental protections than required nationally.

“It basically is a clear legislative statement and directive to the relevant agencies and to the Environmental Quality Commission that you will maintain the current standards,” said Lewis and Clark law professor Craig Johnston.

Here, the regulatory agencies would maintain the status quo.

“And you will do whatever is necessary to implement what the Obama administration did at the very end that we have not yet implemented,” he said.

Several of the changes to clean water and air quality laws happened late in Obama’s presidency — so late that Oregon has not yet gone through the administrative processes needed to enforce the new rules. If passed, regulatory agencies would instruct the regulatory agencies to move forward.

The governor’s office said, if passed by the Legislature, the Oregon Environmental Protection Act would maintain Obama-era ozone emission standards, regulate methane and other pollutants from landfills, as well as mercury emissions from the state’s one remaining coal power plant and extend water quality protections to some to the state’s rivers and streams.

The proposed act would solidify a statewide policy opposing the national push towards environmental deregulation. 

Of course, it would have to pass the Democratic-controlled state Legislature first, which has balked at some new environmental legislation in recent years.

“The whole point of this initiative, is that if enough states say, ‘We’re not going to do it,’ then all the sudden the impetus for change at the federal level declines significantly,” Johnston said, pointing to the economic power of states like California and New York, which have opted for stronger environmental standards in the past.

While Brown has joined other West Coast leaders in opposing Trump administration policies on climate change and vehicle emission standards, this kind of legislative proposal could position her in a more prominent leadership role nationally.

Brown is up for re-election in November. Wednesday’s new policy push comes one day after the first gubernatorial debate between her and challengers Republican Knute Buehler and Independent Party candidate Patrick Starnes.

Hazelnut growers accept three-tiered initial prices

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 15:23

Minimum initial prices for Oregon hazelnuts will range from 62 cents to 91 cents per pound this year under a new tiered pricing system.

Those prices are all down from last year’s initial level of 96.5 cents per pound and the 2016 initial price of $1.18 per pound.

The downward pressure on prices in 2018 is due to significantly increased tariffs on hazelnuts in China — a major market for Oregon’s crop — as well as a devalued currency in Turkey, which has effectively reduced prices for hazelnuts from the world’s predominant producer.

The Oregon Hazelnut Bargaining Association, which negotiates prices with processors, agreed to the three-tiered system on Oct. 2 partly to encourage planting of high “shell-out” varieties, such as Casina, McDonald and Sacajawea, which have a higher proportion of kernel within the nut and will earn at least 91 cents per pound this year.

Mid-shell-out cultivars, including Lewis, Willamette, Santiam, Dorris, Yamhill, Clark and Wepster, will receive at least 81 cents per pound.

In-shell varieties such as Jefferson and Barcelona, which have a relatively low ratio of kernel to shell, will earn at least 62 cents per pound.

“We’ve been talking as an industry about separating out the kernel varieties and the in-shell varieties for a few years now,” said Terry Ross, executive director of the bargaining association.

Though in-shell hazelnuts headed to China will continue to be important to the industry, growers have enough of those cultivars planted to supply future needs, he said.

Meanwhile, more kernel varieties will need to go in the ground to meet kernel demand among candy producers and other food manufacturers, Ross said.

“The kernel markets are going to be a greater focus as the industry grows,” he said.

While the effect of Chinese retaliatory tariffs and the devalued Turkish lira were “devastating,” there’s still a possibility of an “upside” for growers when final prices are established next spring, he said.

“The markets were frozen and we needed to set a floor to thaw the markets,” Ross said.

Recent progress in trade deals with Canada and Mexico has made the industry optimistic about trade negotiations elsewhere, he said. “We’re hoping that will continue with China.”

Hay exporters worried about China

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 13:14

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Hay harvest is wrapping up in Washington’s Columbia Basin and in Oregon and while weather and quality have been generally good, the big deal in the export world is loss of sales to China because of higher tariffs.

China had an 8 percent tariff on U.S. hay but added another 25 percent for a total of 33 percent in retaliation to President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

“Volume has dropped significantly since July because of the tariff, down more than half,” said Jeff Calaway, president of Calaway Trading Inc., a major West Coast exporter in Ellensburg.

China buys about 1.2 million metric tons of U.S. hay per year, mainly for dairies. It’s the No. 1 export market for U.S. alfalfa and is barely No. 2 to Japan for all U.S. hay.

But another major West Coast exporter in Ellensburg, Mark Anderson, president of Anderson Hay & Grain Co., said there has not been a large impact in the China market yet because that nation uses a lot of its own hay in summer months. Any impact will be more evident when September through December numbers are compiled, he said.

“Our hope is that some kind of agreement comes together with China in the coming months,” Anderson said.

Calaway said traders he deals with in China are saying China’s summer production is almost gone.

“It’s lower quality and I think there’s a lot of pressure on them. They need hay and have dropped some of the tariffs they imposed (on other products),” he said.

New U.S. trade agreements with Mexico, Canada and South Korea and progress with Europe and Japan also pressures China, Calaway said.

“China will have to come around. It is more dependent on us than we are on them,” he said.

Saudi Arabia continues to be a growth market for U.S. hay, Calaway and Anderson said.

Second-cutting Timothy is done in Eastern Washington, limited third-cutting is finishing in the southern Columbia Basin and alfalfa will soon be done, Anderson said.

Oregon is wrapping up alfalfa in Christmas Valley and Klamath, the latter of which is sold mostly domestically, he said.

The Pacific Southwest will continue with a couple more fall cuttings mostly for domestic market, he said.

“Quality has been nice with a mix of grades produced in all areas,” Anderson said.

Inventory of feeder hay maybe tightening in the PNW as quality has been better from lack of rains, he said.

But quality and color has also been damaged from wildfire smoke preventing hay from drying in a timely fashion, Calaway said. The Pacific Southwest gained export market share over the PNW in recent years due to lower shipping costs. While PSW shipping costs remain lower its prices have increased due to Saudi Arabia demand and drought in New Mexico, Anderson said. That’s allowed the PNW to regain some market share, he said.

Exporters have generally recovered from market losses due to the 2014-2015 work slowdown at West Coast seaports, Anderson said.

Supply and demand are matching up well this season and generally hay prices have been good in the Pacific Northwest for growers and domestic and export markets, he said.

USDA Market News, Washington and Oregon, out of Moses Lake for Sept. 28 said demand from exporters was light with more interest from dairies and Canadian buyers. High test alfalfa was in short supply. Alfalfa mid-square Supreme averaging $200 per ton and Good $165 per ton. Alfalfa small square Premium $200 and Timothy small square Premium $260.

Oregon Bans Tree-Killing Herbicide Amid Sweeping Investigation

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 07:28

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is investigating potentially widespread tree damage because of the chemical.

“What we’re trying to get a handle on is, is this occurring in other areas? We are starting to hear about a situation in Eastern Washington,” said Rose Kachadoorian, pesticide program manager with ODA.

In Central Oregon, she said trees were poisoned in at least four locations. ODA has prohibited the use of products with aminocyclopyrachlor until April, and lasting regulation could be established.

Meanwhile, Kachadoorian said ODA will examine paperwork behind years of spraying in the state.

“And that will give us an opportunity to have an investigator go back to some of those areas and take a look — maybe they used it three years ago, are we seeing decline at this point?” Kachadoorian said.

Plans for this in-depth investigation come more than three years since a massive tree die off in Deschutes National Forest was first linked to ODOT spraying. Nearly 1,500 Ponderosa pines near Sisters are standing dead or dying. Some are hundreds of years old. The Forest Service plans to log those trees, rather than risk a dead tree falling on Highway 20.

The right of way around the pines was sprayed with a herbicide called Perspective at least four years in a row until 2015. The tree roots may have absorbed the herbicide and then they died slowly. Kachadoorian said a pesticide investigator looked into the site in 2014. 

“The damage at that point just wasn’t that noticeable, and as time went on the damage became more and more evident,” she said.

ODOT said it has already stopped spraying Perspective, a brand name made by Bayer. But it’s still approved for roadside weed control by federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The label for Perspective has long included a warning about tree exposure, and a list of species vulnerable to small amounts of the herbicide, including Ponderosa pines.

Company sticks to mid-market niche amid oversupply of alfalfa seed

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 06:57

ONTARIO, Ore. — Andrews Seed Co., a fixture in Ontario, Ore., for 95 years, has been successful so far in working through a recent oversupply in the alfalfa seed market.

Canadian alfalfa seed production in the past couple of years was high, pushing down prices, Andrews Seed owners Mike and Susan Kurth said. Some of the oversupply occurred in basic, near-generic varieties at lower price points while much of it materialized in genetically modified organism and hybrid categories on the high-priced end.

“We are positioned in the middle, and that is what keeps us relevant,” Mike Kurth said.

Andrews is sticking to its traditional mid-market, non-GMO sweet spot and growing as the alfalfa seed market works through the oversupply.

Meanwhile, a new online presence is boosting sales in various categories.

Andrews is an independent producer of non-GMO public alfalfa seed varieties as well as a line with its own proprietary genetics designed to meet multiple needs. The company sells at wholesale and retail. Customers include national farm supply and regional farm seed dealers, and farmers who buy seed at retail to grow alfalfa hay for their own livestock or to sell. Fertilizer companies, cooperatives and chemical companies — all getting more involved in the seed trade — are among competitors. Some source their products through Andrews.

Keeping production acreage stable has helped get Andrews through the market’s recent challenges, Mike Kurth said. He would not disclose the company’s alfalfa seed acreage but said Andrews is a mid-sized player. It has a stable, longtime group of about 30 contracted growers. A grower’s contract typically runs three years.

He said the company for the 2018 growing season dropped by 3 to 4 percent what it pays its contracted growers, who understood that would help the company competitively sell the seed they grow. This year’s net pricing, including the contract cost reduction, was stable and should remain so over the next two seasons, he said.

“We have achieved stability in the marketplace,” Kurth said. “That puts us in a good place. We are operating at a good level for sustainability.”

Market environments for alfalfa seed have been difficult for the past couple of years in several world regions, publicly traded S&W Seed Co. said in its Sept. 20 earnings report for the fiscal year ended June 30. S&W has major operations in nearby Nampa, Idaho,

Andrews Seed owners, to get through the oversupplied market, became more active. They met new industry contacts and this year increased their internet presence, including starting an online seed store that is increasing its contribution to total revenue, they said.

Much has been learned through connecting with like-minded seed producers, Susan Kurth said.

Non-GMO alfalfa seed advantages, she said, include that it is marketable worldwide — some countries still do not allow GMO seed — and that seeds can be saved for replanting, even by growers who supply Andrews. These growers’ contract is to bring to the company the production from the acres Andrews contracts with them.

“We are strong in our belief that the demand for non-GMO product is going to continue for the foreseeable future,” Mike Kurth said. Some 80 percent of potential customers report they’re pleased Andrews is a non-GMO seed producer, he said.

Industry partners, such as other independent seed producers and distributors, “indicate there is a niche market for non-GMO forage seed. It continues to thrive,” said the Kurths’ son, Joe Kurth, who started the Andrews electronic-commerce offering.

Mike and Susan Kurth in 2003 acquired the business and in 2016 became sole owners after buying out a partner.

The biggest change in the past couple of years was that “we started reaching out to contact as many new potential customers as we could,” Mike Kurth said. That effort helped drive a nearly 20 percent gain in the number of customers — who bought in small and large quantities, and helped Andrews maintain, and then grow, revenues.

Alfalfa and other types of seed sales tend to produce steady, gradual growth in contrast to wider swings in revenue from retail segments, he said.

Online sales continue to increase their contribution to total revenue and generate inquiries leading to future business. The Kurths expect the online segment to keep growing.

Andrews sees more growers incorporating double-cropping strategies and using cover crops to feed soil rather than letting it lie fallow post-harvest. Mike Kurth said the trend means the company sells more and different types of seeds at various times of year.

More growers are learning about and paying attention to soil science, Susan Kurth said. For example, they’re maintaining nitrogen levels in soil by planting legumes like alfalfa, clover and peas.

Andrews also sells various field seeds including grasses and perennials that land management agencies use for reclamation projects.

Andrews Seed, which employs around 20 people and frequently improves its facilities and operations, occupies two Ontario city blocks primarily for seed production, and a block for its garden center and nursery. Mike runs seed production and sales. Susan oversees nursery and retail garden center operations.

“We just continue to maintain a positive outlook for our production because it has been working for us on this level,” Mike Kurth said.

Separately, the popular Garden Answer online video offering is operated by the Kurths’ daughter and son-in-law.



Environmental groups oppose use of cyanide capsules

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 11:01

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Nearly 100 environmental groups are calling for a ban in Oregon on the use of cyanide capsules to control predators like coyotes, foxed and wild dogs that can attack and eat livestock animals, a newspaper reported.

The groups sent a letter this month to state and federal agencies calling the M-44 devices ineffective and dangerous to humans, pets and other animals that are not being targeted, The Bulletin reported on Monday.

M-44 devices are spring-loaded devices that contain a capsule filled with sodium cyanide that’s partially buried in the ground and coated with a substance that’s designed to attract canines.

When an animal triggers the device, a lethal dose of sodium cyanide is ejected.

“This is a no-brainer, and I still find it hard to believe that this is still going on,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of the Oregon conservation nonprofit Predator Defense, one of the groups leading the effort.

Idaho and Colorado have banned the devices, but federal wildlife managers say they’re critical to controlling predators.

Wildlife Services, a federal program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says coyotes killed more than 118,000 sheep and lambs nationwide in 2015, and livestock owners lost $32.5 million from attacks on sheep and lambs by all predators that year.

The petition notes that Wildlife Services reported 246,985 animals killed by M-44s from 2000 through 2016, ranging from grizzly bears to kangaroo rats to red-tailed hawks.

The devices killed 4,621 animals in Oregon during that time; last year a device killed OR-48, a collared gray wolf living in northeast Oregon.

“Any animal that is attracted to scents is at risk,” Fahy said. “What’s reported is a small fraction of what’s been done.”

Wildlife Services stopped using the devices in Idaho after a capsule killed a dog and sent a teenager to the hospital in Pocatello, Idaho.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says M-44s can’t be used in areas where federally endangered species may be affected or in national forests that are set aside for recreational use.

Oregon FFA, Les Schwab work together to ‘Drive Away Hunger’

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 10:56

Les Schwab Tire Centers of Oregon has partnered with Oregon FFA in a “Drive Away Hunger” Initiative to help raise as much food as possible for those in need.

The initiative will take place during October.

Many Oregonians today are suffering from food insecurity and worry about where their next meal may come from. Since 2008, the Oregon Food Bank has seen the demand for emergency food boxes increase by 44 percent. During October, while the Drive Away Hunger Initiative is happening you may see FFA members across the state doing a variety of service activities to raise as much food and funds as possible. Be on the lookout for activities and collections happening throughout your community.

You are encouraged to drop food donations at any Les Schwab Tire Center, Wilco Farm Store, Grange Co-op Store or your local FFA Chapter. Collection bags are being distributed to subscribers of the Capital Press, East Oregonian, Wallowa County Chieftain, Hermiston Herald, and Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper, or you may pick up a collection bag at your local Les Schwab Tire Center, Wilco Farm Store or Grange Co-op Store.

In addition to nonperishable food, the FFA is seeking farm and ranch crop donations. If you would be willing to donate a portion of your food crop, please contact your local FFA chapter or Christa Towery with the Oregon FFA Foundation, at ctowery@oregonffa.com.

All donations received will be given to the local food pantries in your community. If there is more food donated than can be used in your community, it will be distributed by the Oregon Food Bank to other pantries throughout the state.

Last year the Oregon FFA’s Drive Away Hunger initiative helped raise 510,150 pounds of food which was enough food to provide 382,612 meals. This is a special project for Oregon FFA members, because they are given the opportunity to live out their motto of “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve.” In this service initiative, FFA members can follow in the footsteps set by those at Les Schwab Tire Centers, as you see them giving back to their communities daily.

The Oregon FFA is part of the National FFA Organization and is a national youth organization of 653,359 student members — all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture. There are 8,568 FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Oregon FFA has more than 6,500 members in 107 chapters across the state. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. To learn more about FFA visit www.oregonffa.com or www.ffa.org.

Federal Money Flowing To Modernize Central Oregon Irrigation

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 07:47

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley took credit this week for securing nearly $30 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for piping in the Tumalo Irrigation District system. The pipes will replace about 70 miles of inefficient open-air canals.

“In some places, we can lose up to 50 percent of the water we put in the canal,” said Tumalo watermaster Chris Schull.

That’s due to evaporation, and because the geology of Central Oregon lends itself to leakage and seepage, Schull said. The district has been slowly piping its main line over the years, and the funding announced this week will help it finish the job. The USDA payments will be spread over 11 years, with about $13 million more coming from local water user groups.

So far, about $75 million in federal funding has been set aside to help conserve water diverted from the Deschutes River basin, where reservoirs are at historic lows. The Tumalo Irrigation District is the first water user group in the basin to get federal funding in response to a legal settlement between irrigators and environmental groups two years ago. The settlement requires leaving more water in the river to save the endangered Oregon spotted frog.

“This important project will not only improve irrigation conditions for Central Oregon farmers, it will also help ensure habitats are protected and water is conserved,” Merkley said in a press release.

Governor, senators request additional relief for Oregon ranchers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 06:35

Ranchers in north-central Oregon are just beginning to recover from a devastating wildfire season that saw hundreds of thousands of acres of dry grass and rangeland go up in flames.

To assist livestock producers who lost vital grazing pastures, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, land through Sept. 30 in Wasco, Sherman and Wheeler counties. CRP is a federal conservation program administered by the Farm Service Agency that pays farmers to take environmentally sensitive land out of agricultural production for 10-15 years.

Now, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are asking Perdue to extend the CRP deadline through Feb. 28, 2019, while also expanding emergency grazing and haying to neighboring Gilliam County, which recently sustained a 50,000-acre blaze.

Brown, Wyden and Merkley, all Democrats, sent a letter Wednesday to Perdue asking for additional relief, and to consider any other programs to address soil erosion that may affect both farmland and fish habitat.

“All told, it was a devastating year for rural agriculture communities in Oregon,” the letter reads. “Now, as these communities seek to recover, producers need support from the government to utilize appropriate resources.”

Perdue approved emergency CRP grazing for affected ranchers through Sept. 30 at the behest of Oregon officials, while at the same time directing the Risk Management Agency to allow wheat farmers who lost some or all of their crop to plant cover crops on burned acres, preventing soil erosion without causing any changes to their crop insurance.

The region was hit especially hard by fires over the summer, including the Boxcar, Substation, Long Hollow and South Valley blazes that scorched a combined 235,000 acres of cropland. In their letter, Brown, Wyden and Merkley thanked Perdue for the assistance ranchers have received so far, but urged more is needed to help them get back on their feet.

“The loss of grazing land in particular presents an ongoing concern for producers in the area, and the opening of CRP land in Wasco, Sherman and Wheeler counties has proven invaluable to producers in those counties,” they wrote, requesting an extension through February 2019. “We further ask that USDA extend the CRP haying and grazing authorization to Gilliam County for the same period.”

Gilliam County Judge Steve Shaffer said they are “forever grateful” to farmers and ranchers who helped to suppress fires over the summer, and authorizing CRP grazing will help relieve them of a huge concern caring for their animals through fall and into winter.

“When their grazing issues are solved, Gilliam County farmers and ranchers can begin to focus on soil erosion and bringing their land back to its natural state,” Shaffer said.

Jerome Rosa, executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said the group is “excited about the potential opportunity to see these grazing opportunities for ranchers in that part of the state who have been devastated by the effects of the wildfires, and hopes that these grazing and haying opportunities will be extended.”

Wolves kill guard dog at SW Oregon ranch

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 06:10

Ted Birdseye had already lost three calves to wolves from the Rogue pack in southwest Oregon back in January. On Sept. 24, wolves returned and killed one of the guard dogs Birdseye brought in to protect his herd.

Birdseye, who owns the Mill-Mar Ranch south of Prospect in Jackson County, said he was awakened early in the morning to the sound of his dog, an adult Tibetan Mastiff, being attacked in a fenced pasture 600 yards from the house.

By the time Birdseye got up, jumped into his boots, grabbed a headlamp and rifle and ran out onto the front porch, he said the wolves were gone, though he did find the dog limping along slowly with blood on its backside. It died later in the day.

Wildlife investigators shaved the dog, finding injuries consistent with wolf bites. Birdseye said the animal’s back end “was like grape jelly.” The investigation also turned up wolf tracks on the property, which together was enough for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to confirm the Rogue pack was responsible for the attack.

“There’s no escaping them,” Birdseye said. “It seems like they’re getting pretty brazen.”

Problems with the Rogue pack at Mill-Mar Ranch began in January, when wolves killed three calves in a span of eight days, prompting Birdseye and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ramp up non-lethal deterrents at the property.

As part of the effort, Birdseye was given two Tibetan Mastiffs from a family in Wimer, Ore., on the other side of the county.

“I do believe they’ve been a deterrent,” Birdseye said. “Any time the wolves have been in the vicinity, they just carry on like crazy.”

John Stephenson, wolf biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Oregon, said the ranch is within the Rogue pack’s territory, not far from where the wolves den.

It is common for wolves to act aggressively toward dogs, Stephenson added, viewing them as competition.

“If they have the number on the dogs, they can behave pretty aggressively,” Stephenson said.

The Rogue pack was started by Oregon’s famous wandering wolf, OR-7, and his mate in 2014. In 2017, the pack had seven known animals, including two new pups that survived through the end of the year.

Unlike wolves in Eastern Oregon, the species is still federally listed as endangered west of U.S. highways 395, 78 and 95. Birdseye said he is working with the USFWS to once again surround his 276-acre property with electrified fladry — lines of rope with flags that flap in the wind to spook wolves from entering the pasture — and set up additional flashing lights to scare away the predators.

Stephenson said the fladry was an effective tool earlier this year, and hopes it will be effective again. But Birdseye said he is becoming increasingly frustrated, dealing with the anxiety of wolf attacks at the ranch.

“I need to have some way to protect my livelihood and not have to stress out about this, day in and day out,” he said.

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill Sept. 26 by a vote of 19-15 that would remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list in the lower 48 states. The legislation has drawn sharp rebukes from environmental and conservation organizations, with Jason Rylander, senior staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, saying science — not politics — should decide when to delist species.

“Gray wolf recovery is well underway, but the work is not done,” Rylander said in a statement. “If Congress really is committed to preserving and protecting wildlife, they would spend their time finding the funding needed to recover species, not attacking the process.”

Oregon currently has at least 124 wolves living across the state, according to the 2017 ODFW annual wolf report.

The latest inventory report on the 2017 crop is stunning.

United Cranberry Blog - Fri, 09/28/2018 - 04:35

Read it Here

sorry all, the link wouldn’t post, so look in the uscranberries.com website, under industry reports.

New bill in Senate aims to thin forests, stem wildfires

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 09/27/2018 - 06:58

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — After a summer wildfire season that blanketed much of the West in smoke, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Wednesday that would reduce the severity of wildfire by thinning forests that are crowded with too many trees and have become fuel for megafires.

The bill would create a $1 billion fund to allow the Forest Service to increase the pace and scale of wildfire reduction projects, empower federal agencies to work with local communities to plan and prepare for wildfires, and permanently reauthorize a collaborative forest restoration program that brings stakeholders together to thin forests.

“I’m hoping it’ll become a bipartisan vision. Everybody who pays any attention to the forest sees these benefits,” Merkley said, speaking from Washington in a conference call with reporters.

As an example of how thinning can save communities, the Oregon Democrat cited a fire that was ignited by lightning one August afternoon in 2017 near the Oregon tourist town of Sisters. It spread fast. Residents in outlying areas fled as flames marched toward their homes.

Just a few months earlier, the U.S. Forest Service and a group of locals representing forest stakeholders arranged to thin part of the overgrown forest, creating a buffer zone around Sisters.

That effort saved homes, and perhaps the community of 2,500, by slowing the fire’s progress and allowing firefighters to corral it.

The work was done by the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, composed of loggers, environmentalists, local officials, recreation outfitters and others. It was one of 23 projects in the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, created in 2009 by Congress and that Merkley seeks permanent support for.

His bill would allow more projects to receive funding in a given fiscal year.

“It’s way past time to do a lot more on the front end to make our forests more fire resilient,” Merkley said.

He hopes the Senate will take up the bill after the November elections.

Last year, 71,500 wildfires burned 10 million acres nationwide, the second-largest figure on record.

OSU, retailer collaborate on provolone

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 09/27/2018 - 06:52

CORVALLIS, Ore. — For Christie Alexandre-Zeoli, who is in charge of cheese purchasing at Market of Choice, the collaboration between Oregon State University and the high-end regional grocery chain “scratches every itch.”

The collaboration involves utilizing the cheese created in the OSU dairy program to teaching the store’s cheese stewards how the cheese is made.

“I really feel like land grant universities with these programs have so much to give retail organizations,” she said. “There is so much knowledge and talent available.”

Although stewards understand what they are looking for with the cheese, Alexandre-Zeoli said it’s a completely different experience when making it, and she wanted to provide them with first-hand experience. A cheesemaker herself — formerly involved with Washington State University’s Cougar Gold cheese — she said it’s a connection between the head and the heart.

“The head knows it’s a great cheese, but the cheesemaker has a different depth about what it takes,” she said. “The sweat and cleaning, the science and technology, as well as the artisan knowledge. This collaboration not only educates my stewards to be the best cheese retailers in the state of Oregon, it also teaches them what it means to make cheese.”

Alexandre-Zeoli said she has known Robin Frojen, the OSU food pilot plant and creamery manager, for years, and has watched her bring Beaver Classic cheese back to the forefront. Through their partnership, Beaver Classic Provolone was born.

“This cheese that Robin has created is a traditional style provolone aged for three months,” she said. “Provolone in this country — in my opinion — has become, and has been in the past, a highly processed standardized product, one that has not showcased traditional provolone the way it’s made in Italy. Robin was inspired to make it an Old World-style aged provolone.”

Alexandre-Zeoli said it’s a snacking and ingredient cheese that is creamy, with a butter flavor and a little funk. She’s often asked about the choice of provolone, and she said that everyday cheeses “deserve as much exposure and appreciation as a triple-creme brie.”

The process starts with getting the milk from the OSU dairy herd. The students pasteurize, culture and ferment it until it coagulates. The curds are cut and cooked for a specific time and a set temperature and acidity. A special aspect to this provolone: Instead of the curds being manually stretched out, it goes through a cheddaring process that does it for them.

The specialty cheese is available at Market of Choice for $16.99 a pound, a standard price for most of the Beaver Classic cheeses.

“We’re not an affordable cheese, but we have no business being affordable,” Frojen said. “It’s an excess agricultural commodity as a result of education. We’re not making to production needs. We’re teaching students how to make cheese and run a processing plant.”

She said the job is 90 percent cleaning and 10 percent glory.

“The excitement is the passion,” she said. “A lot of people end up being stewards because they took a job at the grocery store, then they catch the passion. Watching them interact with my students is amazing. The learning on both sides is critical.”

Although the creamery has been part of the university since the beginning but in the 1950s it was shut down out of concerns it would compete with the private dairy sector. It reopened in 2010 with a donation, and came out with its first cheese in 2012.

At the time, the cheese was called Beaver Classic, but over the years that has expanded to be the brand. Now, they have eight lines of cheeses, from classics such as original cheddar and Swiss to Pinot-, cider- and porter-soaked cheddars.

The milk comes from the dairy herd of around 125 cows, and the program has 20 students.

“We could not be more excited about this opportunity,” Lyn Ryse, Market of Choice vice president of marketing, said. “I don’t know of any other retailer in Oregon, or anywhere in the country, that’s doing anything like this. There’s really nothing more rewarding than actually making the cheese, bringing it into our stores and offering it to people who will take it home and enjoy it, then have them come back and tell us how much they loved it. It really is satisfying.”

Beaver Classic provolone is sold exclusively at the 11 Market of Choice stores in Oregon.

“For Christie and me, the reason we match so well is the passion that this means to us,” Frojen said. “This is what students and stewards are catching and that surpasses anything else. I encourage people to eat and think outside the box. Do something that scares you, eat something that scares you. That’s how they’ll find if this is for them.”

Oregon winemakers worry about misleading labels from out-of-state producer

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 09/26/2018 - 09:28

Willamette Valley winemaker Ken Wright made his first sales trip to China in 2017 thinking he had his work cut out for him to educate international consumers about the region and its reputation for high-quality Pinot noir.

Instead, it was Wright who learned a surprising lesson while overseas.

“I was stunned to find out that in fact almost everyone I met, not only did they know where the Willamette Valley was, they knew how to say it correctly,” Wright said. “For them to have that connection in their minds of the Willamette Valley and Pinot noir, I came back from that trip so impressed with what decades of work for so many people had done to create this value.”

That hard-earned recognition is now at the heart of a dispute between the Oregon wine industry and one Napa Valley producer, Copper Cane Wines & Provisions of Rutherford, Calif., over allegedly deceptive and misleading labeling practices.

Case in point: earlier this year, Copper Cane released a new brand of Oregon Pinot noir named “The Willametter Journal,” which Oregon leaders worry may give the impression that the wine originates from the Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area, or AVA, a federally designated region noted for its distinctive winegrowing conditions.

The issue recently landed on the radar of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which requested Copper Cane provide production, transfer and bottling records for seven wines, including the Willametter. The company has until Sept. 28 to turn over the information.

State Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat representing the central Oregon coast, also testified about Copper Cane’s labels during a hearing before the House Interim Committee on Economic Development and Trade on Sept. 24, alongside Tom Danowski, CEO of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, and OLCC Director Steve Marks. The concern is whether Copper Cane is breaking the law by inferring Oregon’s distinguished AVAs on its labels to boost sales, without meeting the state’s rigorous standards.

“Labeling is important. So is truth in advertising,” Gomberg said. “We have seen our labeling laws being tested.”

Oregon adopted its wine labeling regulations in 1977, which are among the strictest in the country.

Under federal law, if a wine labels itself a particular variety — such as Pinot noir — then 75 percent of the grapes must be that variety. In Oregon, the rule is 90 percent. Likewise, federal law states that if a wine labels itself as being from a particular viticultural area — say, the Willamette Valley — then at least 85 percent of grapes must come from the AVA. Oregon requires 95 percent.

The law also prohibits making false, ambiguous or misleading statements on the label. That is where Danowski said the Oregon Winegrowers Association takes issue with a name like the Willametter, which may wrongly be associated with the Willamette Valley AVA.

“It raises questions about product integrity,” Danowski said. “When you are using Oregon AVAs,and commercializing Oregon products, you simply must follow the same rules that everyone else in Oregon is following.”

Both the Oregon Winegrowers Association and Willamette Valley Wineries Association met with Copper Cane’s owner, Joe Wagner, in August. Danowski said they had a productive conversation, and Copper Cane agreed to submit records to the OLCC.

Copper Cane denies any intentional wrongdoing. Jim Blumling, vice president of operations, said every wine it sells has received labeling approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

“We’re not bottling something that doesn’t have TBB approval,” Blumling said. “If they want us to tweak it because there is some new wisdom or there is some change of opinion, then we’ll certainly work with TBB to do the right thing.”

Blumling said Copper Cane buys wine grapes from roughly 50 growers in Oregon, including the Willamette, Rogue and Umpqua valleys, representing more than 90,000 cases worth of business. All Oregon wines are made with 100 percent Oregon grapes, he said, while the appellation of origin is listed as “Oregon,” and not any specific AVA.

As for the Willametter Journal, Blumling said it is a “fun, fanciful” name that is not intended to be misleading or disingenuous.

“We don’t think we’re doing anything wrong,” he said.

Jim Bernau, founder and winemaker at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore., disagrees. He said the labels and marketing used by Copper Cane are clear violations of the law, and exploit Oregon AVAs for profit.

“I’m astonished that any producer would misrepresent the origin of their wine,” Bernau said.

Wright, who owns Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton, Ore., has spent the last year working with David Adelsheim, founder of Adelsheim Winery in Newberg, Ore., on a pair of legislative proposals to protect the Willamette Valley AVA and, specifically, their pinot noir.

The first initiative, known as conjunctive labeling, would require wineries who label a nested AVA in the Willamette Valley — such as Ribbon Ridge or Yamhill-Carlton — to also include Willamette Valley AVA somewhere on the bottle.

The second, known as “exclusive wine content,” would require all Willamette Valley Pinot noir to contain 100 percent Pinot noir grapes and 100 percent from the valley, as opposed to the current standard of 90 percent variety and 95 percent AVA. Such a change would require OLCC rule-making to mitigate potential financial hardships on businesses. A work group would also be formed to consider other wine varieties for inclusion.

Adelsheim said they are working on two separate bills for the 2019 Legislature. They would apply only within the Willamette Valley AVA.

“What we’re really trying to do is to ensure that the long-term safety of what we’re about as a brand is preserved,” Adelsheim said.

Oregon considers more funding to address water problems

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 09/26/2018 - 09:08

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Legislature is considering allocating more than $1.2 million to better equip state agencies to respond to algal toxin contaminations.

The Statesman Journal reports the increased funding stems from Salem’s drinking water crisis earlier this year when city public works officials discovered elevated levels of cyanotoxins.

Water advisories were issued in May and June after toxins spiked above safe levels for vulnerable populations.

State lawmakers have recommended $160,000 for the Oregon Health Authority to fund a permanent and a temporary position in the state’s drinking water program.

The state is also recommending $750,000 for the state Department of Agriculture for laboratory equipment and a temporary position, and $380,000 for the state Department of Environmental Quality for four positions to continue cyanotoxin testing at 94 facilities.