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Democrats strengthen grip on Oregon Legislature

SALEM — Democrats gained key seats in the Oregon House and Senate Tuesday night, securing a long-coveted “super majority” in each chamber.

That means that Democrats will hold 60 percent of the seats in each chamber when the Legislature convenes in January.

That composition may make it easier for Democrats to pass legislation considered more partisan such as tax increases or restrictions on carbon emissions.

But it’s unclear whether moderate Democrats will get on board with more controversial or progressive priorities, but the development also erodes the political clout of Republicans in the Legislature.

All 60 seats in the House were up for election this year, while 17 Senate seats went before voters.

Democrats picked up three seats in the House, defeating Republican incumbents. They now hold 38 seats.

Courtney Neron beat Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, Rachel Prusak beat Rep. Julie Parrish, R-Tualatin, and Democrat Anna Williams beat Rep. Jeff Helfrich, R-Hood River.

Democrats also picked up at least one seat in the Senate, giving them 18 seats.

Democrat Jeff Golden defeated Republican Jessica Gomez in southern Oregon’s third Senate district in a race to replace retiring Republican Alan DeBoer.

After Tuesday’s election, where voters rejected two tax-related ballot measures, lawmakers also won’t be hemmed in by limitations on taxing groceries or by stricter voting requirements to change tax expenditures like credits, exemptions and deductions.

There were several competitive races in House this year, with some Democratic candidates raising and spending more than $800,000.

Cash flowed freely in contests in Happy Valley, Hood River and Polk County, where the major party candidates spent more than $1.3 million in each race.

A contest between incumbent Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, and Democratic challenger Chrissy Reitz, a former nurse and the chair of the Hood River School Board, proved competitive and expensive.

Together the candidates spent about $1.4 million in 2018, according to campaign finance records. As of 11 p.m., Reitz was ahead by less than 100 votes, according to Secretary of State records.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: or 503-385-4903. Withycombe is a reporter for the East Oregonian working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

With win, Brown looks ahead to four years

On Tuesday night, Kate Brown ended a record-breaking year for campaign spending and anticipating what could be her last four years in public office.

The Democrat defeated Republican Knute Buehler, a surgeon and state legislator from Bend, in a race that was decided quickly after balloting ended Tuesday night.

Her election means a continuing press on environmental issues and on education. With no election ahead of her, she faces a term with a firmer hold on the office and less of a need to grasp political advantage.

The two spent more than $30 million combined in their bids for Oregon’s top desk, noted especially by major donations to Buehler from Nike co-founder Phil Knight. By late Tuesday, elections officials had counted 1.4 million ballots.

Brown, from a lectern at the Hilton Portland Downtown, told supporters that voters showed how elections in Oregon aren’t all about who raises the most money.

“No one person should be able to buy the governor’s office,” Brown said to cheers.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. and, although first results trickled in around 8 p.m., Brown was declared winner by 8:20. Buehler conceded after 8:30, telling supporters at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland that he was as disappointed as they were.

“My voice will not be leading this state for the next four years and I certainly accept that decision,” he said. “But let’s also be very clear: the status quo in this state is not tolerable.”

Polls leading into November showed the two candidates virtually neck-and-neck. In her nearly 8-minute victory speech, Brown said her stances on education, affordable housing and health care won over Oregonians.

“This election shows that when Oregonians are given an opportunity to invest in our classrooms, to build affordable housing, to protect healthcare, it’s not a toss-up. It’s not even a close call,” she said.

But, afterward, Brown conceded she worried it could have been much closer.

“I knew the race was going to be close, and thought it would be close all along, but to take this solid of a lead made me really happy,” she said.

Victory secured Brown her second term as Oregon’s governor. She succeeded to the job in 2015 after the resignation of former Gov. John Kitzhaber. Brown, 58, then won a special election in 2016.

It also secured Brown a governance with a Democratic supermajority, as the party seized at least three seats in the Oregon House by Tuesday night.

“It’s just really cool to be able to pick up races in the state House and the Senate and really be able to make a huge difference over the next two years in Oregon, and keep Oregon moving forward,” Brown said.

Brown’s victory was lauded by environmental groups and some unions. Doug Moore, executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, said Brown’s re-election kept the climate in good hands.

“Climate change was on the ballot, and climate change won with Kate Brown,” he said.

Joe Baessler, political director for Oregon’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents government workers, said Brown’s leadership is better for affordable housing initiatives and public employees.

“She didn’t get enough credit for it, but she had a litany of great accomplishments,” Baessler said, noting that he hoped to see strong progressive policies in Brown’s next term. “We have agencies that are barely able to accomplish the tasks they’re mandated to because they don’t have the resources.”

Work to do

Brown appeared ready to get started on her next term during her victory speech. She said as much as she was flanked by two dozen schoolchildren and her husband.

“Make no mistake. The fight isn’t over. We’ve still got lots of work to do,” she said. “We’ve never had someone so divisive in the White House or someone with such less respect for the truth or for the people impacted by his decisions.”

In the weeks up to the election, Brown has outlined several directions she would take her second term — hoping to bolster education, combat climate change, reduce homelessness and more — and she may just have four years to do it.

Brown, who started her career in 1991 and has run for office eight times, said she does not plan to run again in 2022. She said she wants to spend more time with her husband, Dan Little, and do things that make her happy.

Governing will remain her focus until then. She aims to increase funding for initiatives to bring about more affordable housing and tamp homelessness.

“Every Oregonian deserves access to a warm, safe, dry, affordable and accessible place to call home,” she said before election night.

On climate change, Brown said Oregon needs to become a global leader to reduce carbon emissions. The issue has become more important as the Trump administration has cut back environmental regulations. She pointed to rising drought conditions and wildfires.

“Oregon has to step up — states have to step up — when you have a federal administration that is literally ignoring this problem and ignoring science and ignoring realities of what’s happening on the ground,” she said.

On health care, Brown said her goal is to get 99 percent of Oregon insured.

And, after the performance of Oregon’s public schools became a hotspot late in the campaign, Brown said she hopes to reinforce education and career training in the state.

Brown said specifically highlighted she has spent a lot of time with Colt Gill, director of the state Department of Education, and she plans to keep meeting with district superintendents throughout the state. She wants to understand and replicate successes in the state, like in Eagle Point, where she said schools lowered absenteeism and raised graduation rates.

When asked about legacy policy, Brown pointed to Future Ready Oregon and other programs that offer jobs training and technical skills.

“That means closing the skills gap between workforce that we have and the workforce that we need to fuel the economy of Oregon’s future,” she said.

Brown plans to tackle these goals with a team that resembles the team now. She told the Oregon Capital Bureau in an interview that she does not plan to shuffle staff, although it is common for people to leave after an election cycle. Chief of Staff Nik Blosser, who came on in January 2017, will remain.

On her upcoming budget, to be released in December, Brown wouldn’t disclose much. She said this budget will be easier to balance than last, when the state faced a deficit creeping toward $2 billion. This time around, she said, it’s a manageable $800 million, fully due to funding the Oregon Health Plan.

‘On the shoulders of giants’

During her victory speech, Brown gave special thanks to former governors Ted Kulongoski and Barbara Roberts.

“I’d like to say I’m standing on the shoulders of giants,” she said.

Roberts, who was Oregon’s first female governor, said she has been impressed with Brown’s time as governor. Brown said she did not have months to craft a budget or legislative agenda in her first term, rather inheriting one from Kitzhaber.

“It was very complex, very complicated, very demanding,” Roberts said.

Brown acknowledged she has a starkly different demeanor than Kitzhaber, who was known for a forceful style of leadership.

“I’m not a podium-pounder. That’s just not who I am,” she said. “I think public policy, that is built from the ground-up and not the top-down, is much more effective. It’s much more resilient, it’s much more respectful, it is much more reflective of our communities.”

When asked about her first term, Brown pointed to legislation such as motor voter, the Coal to Clean energy policy and women’s health care that is being used as a model in states around the country, she said. And her collaborative approach led to the passage of the largest transportation bill in state history.

Roberts said Brown has accomplished a lot, despite what some choose to see.

“People look at her and see this physically small woman, but her mind is not small,” Roberts said. “She is very bright.”

And while she doesn’t plan to slam her fist on a table until the Legislature passes her agenda, Brown said she has learned in her first three years about what it takes to be an effective governor.

Through it all, Brown said she has leaned on the advice of Roberts and Kulongoski. When she leaves Mahonia Hall for good, Brown said she would try to be a similar well of sage wisdom, especially for women politicians.

“They have given me really solid advice, and really helped me keep my chin up in what has been a really tough campaign cycle,” she said. “I hope I can provide that to folks in the future, if future elected leaders in Oregon are interested in my advice.”

Reporter Troy Brynelson: Reporters Aubrey Wieber, Paris Achen, Claire Withycombe, and Rachel Alexander, all operating as the Oregon Capital Bureau, contributed to this report.

Oregonians pick a governor, weigh in on initiatives

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon voters will be picking a governor and deciding the fate of several high-profile measures, including one that would repeal the first-in-the nation immigrant sanctuary law.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has faced a tough challenge from Republican Rep. Knute Buehler. Public polls show Buehler behind Brown by a slim margin.

Supporters of Measure 105, the sanctuary repeal measure, say the law shields people who have committed crimes from potential deportation. Those who back the sanctuary law say it was passed to address racial profiling.

Other measures include Measure 106, an initiative that would ban state funding for most abortions and Measure 103, which asks people in Oregon will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to ban future taxes on groceries.

Oregon is an all vote-by-mail state. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day

Bartels Packing auction set for Dec. 11

With no prospective buyers for its defunct beef slaughter and processing facilities, Bartels Packing of Eugene, Ore., will proceed with an auction of its assets on Dec. 11.

The company shut down earlier this year but a court-appointed receiver, Richard Hooper of Pivotal Solutions, met with several potential buyers who were interested in taking it over as an ongoing enterprise.

Bartels Packing was a common bidder on organic and grass-fed cattle in the region, so its exit from the market was seen as detrimental for local livestock producers.

Over the summer, one prospective buyer submitted a “letter of intent” to purchase the facilities but a final sale never materialized. Last month, Hooper obtained permission from a judge to auction off Bartels Packing’s assets, with the provision that the event could be called off if a buyer was found.

In his most recent account of activities submitted to the court, Hooper said there were no longer any prospective buyers and the auction would carried out as planned on Dec. 11 by the James G. Murphy Co.

When reached by phone, Hooper said he couldn’t speculate as to why no buyer ultimately decided to pursue the deal.

A preview of the equipment will be held at three Eugene locations on Dec. 10, and the actual auction will be conducted as a photo slide show the following day. More information is available on

At the time of its closure in March, Bartels Packing laid off more than 140 employees and owed $4.6 million to cattle suppliers and feedlots. The company expected to repay its total $8.3 million in debt because its assets were worth an estimated $14 million.

“We have experienced significant difficulties over the past several months which have caused our business to falter including, among other things, a continuing decline in sales, accumulation of finished goods inventory, the recent and unexpected loss of one of our largest customers, the coming due of our line of credit and a shortage of sufficient working capital necessary to operate as a viable business,” the company said.

Wild horse sterilization blocked by judge

An experiment aimed at sterilizing mares from a herd of wild horses rounded up in Eastern Oregon last month has now been blocked by a federal judge.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had gathered more than 800 horses from the Warm Springs herd management area in October, with plans to return about 200 to range after half the females had their ovaries removed.

Wild horse populations are a point of contention in the area, as ranchers say they cause resource damage that leads to cattle grazing restrictions.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman in Portland agreed to enter a preliminary injunction against the experiment on Nov. 2, though the court docket doesn’t explain his reasons for the ruling.

According to the plaintiffs — including the Animal Welfare Institute, American Wild Horse Campaign and the Cloud Foundation — the judge agreed that their free speech rights would be violated if BLM excluded them from watching the sterilization procedures.

Mosman also found it was “arbitrary and capricious” for BLM not to study the social acceptability of the experiment, as planned during an earlier study, the plaintiffs said.

“Hopefully, BLM will rethink their decision to move forward with the most inhumane and impractical management tool imaginable,” said Ginger Kathrens, the Cloud Foundation’s executive director, in a statement.

Tara Thissell, public affairs specialist for BLM, confirmed the injunction has prohibited the spaying portion of the study, which will be put on hold pending the outcome of the litigation.

Study shows crops, forage may benefit from solar panel shade

Researchers at Oregon State University may have accidentally stumbled upon a new use for solar panels on farms and ranches.

Not only can solar power lower energy bills and increase efficiency, but the shade afforded by photovoltaic panels might also boost agricultural production on non-irrigated farmland, retaining more moisture for crops and livestock forage.

The question now is whether solar panels can be situated to reap the benefits without hindering farm practices, such as spraying fertilizer, tilling fields, grazing or operating machinery during harvest.

Chad Higgins, associate professor in the Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering at OSU, said the study began serendipitously in 2015 after he noticed more lush, green grass growing underneath solar panels installed several years earlier by the university on a six-acre sheep pasture near campus in Corvallis.

“(The solar array) wasn’t designed as an experiment when it was put in,” Higgins said. “But we did notice that some changes were occurring underneath the solar panels with the pasture grass, in particular in the late autumn. We wanted to understand that.”

Higgins and his team divided the pasture into several test plots, and installed microclimate tools to measure the differences in air temperature, humidity, wind and soil moisture beneath the panels, versus areas exposed to direct sunlight. None of the grass received irrigation water.

Between May and August, data showed plots that were shaded by the solar panels maintained higher soil moisture and grew nearly double the amount of grass, especially toward the end of the season. That is because grass uses water more slowly and efficiently when it has less light to grow, Higgins explained.

“It’s like a tortoise and hare race,” Higgins said. “The plants that experience the full brunt of the sun use their water resources as quickly as possible. They grow to the extent they can, and then they die. On the other hand, the plants in the shade take sips of water because they are less stressed, and they keep chugging along.”

Higgins said the shaded plants were three times more efficient with water than the rest of the pasture. The findings were published Nov. 1 in the scientific journal PLOS One.

Higgins said he wants to expand the project moving forward to include more high-value crops, such as berries and vegetables. His next challenge is coming up with a design for installing solar panels on farms and ranches that would not burden traditional agricultural practices, or take farmable land out of production.

One possible solution, he said, is lifting panels up off the ground by installing them on posts, and tilting them at an angle that would allow farm equipment — such as tractors, sprayers and combines — to pass without damaging the machinery.

“There are classical engineering things that need to be done still,” Higgins said. “I see those as the practical challenges to make it viable as an agricultural practice.”

Higgins, who founded the Nexus of Energy, Water and Agriculture Laboratory at OSU, said this research could change the way farmers and ranchers think about managing light for agronomic benefit.

“Opening ourselves up to managing light in the same way we think about managing water or nutrients or soil gives us a heck of a lot of flexibility in what we do,” he said.

Capitol Tree ready for trip to D.C.

SWEET HOME, Ore — The Capitol Tree is ready to make its way to D.C.

An 80-foot tall Noble fir was cut and loaded onto cradles on a long trailer following ceremonies in the remote forest of the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District Nov. 2.

Despite what one person called a “very drippy, wet Oregon day,” more than 50 people selected to attend the tree cutting ceremonies joined Forest Service and others despite sometimes heavy rain.

The cutting ceremony was just the first of more than 30 events planned in coming weeks. Following at street fair and parade in Sweet Home this coming Friday, more special celebrations are planned in 10 other Oregon cities before the tree, only the second ever Capitol or “People’s Tree,” begins a 3,000-mile journey to the West Lawn of the Capitol, where tree lighting ceremonies are planned for Dec. 5.

“The Capitol Tree is truly the ‘People’s Tree,’ “ said Glenn Casamassa, the Forest Service’s Northwest Regional Forester. “There’s literally a long journey ahead.”

Casamassa said the tree represents the “connectivity” between the Forest Service and public, noting the Northwest region annually issues more than 56,000 Christmas tree permits annually.

Mo McElroy, a member of Choose Outdoors, a group that helps coordinate annual Capitol Christmas Tree celebrations, told of her experiences during community gatherings held when previous trees have made their way to Washington, D.C.

“It’s amazing,” McElroy said of the response by people in communities during previous trips. “The tree is greeted by thousands and when we get to D.C. its celebrated by thousands. This is the spirit of love.”

“This is really the beginning of Christmas,” echoed Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker.

Sweet Home Mayor Greg Mahler referred to his city’s historic reliance on the timber industry, saying, “This is really a tribute to our roots.”

Given special tribute was Nikki Swanson, the Sweet Home District Ranger credited with her lobbying efforts to have this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree harvested from her ranger district. She noted the noble fir, the first-ever selected as the Capitol tree, was selected from five possible trees by the Architect of Capitol earlier this year. According to Swanson, he deemed the tree “by far the most beautiful tree.”

During the caravan to D.C., Swanson will post a daily blog. Ongoing information will be posted on the Capitol Christmas Tree Facebook page and at

Forest Service officials noted the 80-foot tree was relatively young, an estimated 36 years. It was located on a Forest Service road eight miles up a dirt/gravel road.

Colorado jury’s pot verdict may discourage similar cases

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Colorado jury likely threw cold water on future legal challenges against cannabis companies by homeowners who consider filing racketeering lawsuits alleging proximity to pot operations hurts their property values, analysts and industry lawyers said Thursday.

A federal jury in Denver on Wednesday rejected claims involving the odor from a pot farm made in a case that was closely watched by the marijuana industry.

It was the first such lawsuit to reach a jury. Three others are pending in California, Massachusetts and Oregon.

“The big takeaway is that the verdict is likely to curb the enthusiasm for bringing these lawsuits in the future,” Vanderbilt University law professor Rob Mikos said.

He said it’s easy to show marijuana companies are violating federal laws against pot, but the Colorado verdict shows the difficulty In proving actual harm.

“There was a thought that this would be easy money,” Mikos said about such claims.

Congress created the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — better known as RICO — to target the Mafia in the 1970s. It allowed prosecutors to argue that leaders of a criminal enterprise should pay a price along with lower-level defendants.

The law also allows private parties to file lawsuits claiming their business or property has been damaged by a criminal enterprise. Those who can prove it can be financially compensated for damages plus attorneys’ expenses.

Scott Schlager, a lawyer who filed a similar lawsuit against a Cambridge, Massachusetts, dispensary agreed with Mikos, saying racketeering lawsuits are expensive to litigate.

“They shouldn’t be the next cottage industry,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty.”

Schlager said the Denver verdict will have no effect on his case because the two legal actions have important differences.

The Colorado plaintiffs complained that a farm’s odor lowered their property value by about $30,000.

Schlager’s clients in Harvard Square argue that the stigma of a marijuana dispensary in the upscale business district lowered property values by $29 million.

California attorney Ken Stratton, who represents a pot farmer being sued by eight homeowners near Petaluma, California, in the heart of wine country, said he was surprised the Denver case reached a jury.

“I think we’ll see more and more of these knocked out before they go to trial,” Stratton said. “The racketeering law wasn’t meant to litigate land disputes.”

He also predicted the Denver verdict will make other lawyers and disgruntled neighbors look elsewhere to settle their disputes with marijuana operations.

He said showing that cannabis operations impact land prices is difficult, especially if the homeowners are speculating rather than arguing they lost money in actual sales.

Emma Quinn-Judge, a Boston lawyer defending the Cambridge dispensary, agreed that showing harm is the biggest hurdle.

“If you know anything about Cambridge home prices then you know that arguing their value has dropped $29 million is laughable,” she said.

Malheur Siphon repairs under way

Capital Press

Major repairs to the Malheur Siphon, an above-ground irrigation pipe in southeastern Oregon, are under way and slated to be completed by March if not Christmas 2018, Owyhee Irrigation District general and project manager Jay Chamberlin said.

The siphon, a landmark in the valley, delivers up to 325 cubic feet per second of irrigation water from the Malheur Reservoir to farmers on the northern part of the OID system.

Crews recently finished repairing four bends in the 4.5-mile, 80-inch steel pipe that previously was held up by a support structure with concrete legs placed two feet into the bentonite clay soil. In the old system, wet conditions expanded soil and lifted supports — which dropped when the soil dried. “The problems were stress, wrinkle and misalignment” to the pipe, he said.

Improvements under way in the roughly half-mile affected area include placing the pipe on a beam-mounted slide plate that sits atop concrete, steel-reinforced piers drilled 22 feet underground — some 20 feet deeper than the old supports. Chamberlin said the plate is designed to allow the pipe to move independently of any soil shifting, such as when the pipe expands slightly due to heat.

“The support structure has not been supporting the pipe to allow thermal expansion and contraction of the pipe itself,” he said.

The siphon runs south to north, crossing U.S. 20-26 between Cairo Junction and Vale. Supplied by Owyhee Reservoir, it serves about 20,000 acres of irrigated farmland. The section under reconstruction is on the north end, starting at the Malheur River and running north.

So far in the project, groundwater has posed a challenge close to the Malheur River, Chamberlin said. Here, holes for concrete piers are encased in steel.

“And because it is so close to Malheur Butte, there are some challenges with land and slopes and terrain,” he said. A couple of repairs are slated where the siphon traverses a draw and sits on an elevated, trestle-like steel structure.

The approximately $1 million project, paid for by OID reserve funds, also involves JC Constructors of Meridian, Idaho, engineering firm Stantec’s Boise office and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Tillamook transmission line opponents resist eminent domain

Opponents of a proposed transmission line in Tillamook County want to prevent a power utility from obtaining the power to condemn farm and forest land.

During an evidentiary hearing on Nov. 1, project opponents tried to convince the Oregon Public Utility Commission against granting the power of eminent domain to the Tillamook Public Utility District, which would allow it to obtain property for the roughly 9-mile transmission line.

Many of the dairy farmers, timber operators and other owners of the 37 properties along the proposed line’s path fear the project will be disruptive to agriculture and forestry.

For example, critics have cited negative impacts to cattle from “stray voltage” — essentially electricity leaking into the ground — and limitations on aerial pesticide spraying.

However, members of the Oregon Public Utility Commission mostly probed how the local utility district analyzed different options of improving power transmission between Tillamook and the coastal community of Oceanside and whether the option they chose was justified.

Critics claim that reliability of power transmission to Oceanside could be improved by constructing an additional distribution line along existing roadside rights-of-way and that the anticipated growth in power demand doesn’t justify the much larger transmission line.

Todd Simmons, the utility district’s general manager, testified that he plans to first negotiate to with affected landowners to voluntarily sell easements.

“Eminent domain is the last thing we’d enter into,” he said.

Though the transmission line would cost $13 million, compared to $8 million for an added distribution line, it would solve more problems over the long term, such as adding electrical load capacity in anticipation of Oceanside’s growth, Simmons said.

“We’re at 96 percent capacity now, so we’re essentially at our maximum,” testified KC Fagan, the district’s engineering manager. “The need for the project is here today, even if the growth rate were zero.”

The growth rate of power demand in the area is a point of contention: The utility district now pegs it at 0.9 percent a year, while opponents believe an earlier estimate of 0.45 percent a year is more accurate.

With a new transformer that will soon be installed at one of the district’s substations, the current infrastructure would be able to accommodate 40 years of growth at a rate of 0.45 percent, said David Mast, an intervenor in the case and retired productivity manager from the Tillamook County Creamery Association.

Apart from the increase in power demand, the utility district also believes the transmission line will be less prone to outages.

“We just had an outage last week at Oceanside because a tree blew down,” said Fagan, noting that a transmission line is more robust. “The poles and wires are higher up from the ground.”

Opponents of the project were dealt a setback over the summer, when Tillamook County’s board of commissioners approved a conditional use permit for the transmission line.

However, critics are now challenging that decision before Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals.

2 Oregon women sentenced in neglect of more than 80 horses

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Two Oregon women convicted of failing to care for more than 80 horses on a ranch in Terrebonne have been sentenced to 30 days in jail.

The Bulletin reports 68-year-old Linda Stream and her 42-year-old daughter Christina Hart were sentenced Tuesday in Deschutes County after they pleaded no contest last month to 10 counts each of second-degree animal neglect.

They were also sentenced to five years of probation and are banned from owning horses and other livestock for 15 years.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to possible neglect at GreenGate Farms in March after a hunter reported seeing a horse with an eye hanging out of its socket.

Authorities say 18 horses had to be euthanized and all had health issues.

Wolves kill fourth calf in Fort Klamath area

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) — Wildlife officials say wolves killed a calf in southern Oregon, marking the fourth kill by the Rogue Pack in the Fort Klamath area.

The Herald and News reports state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed Tuesday that the dead calf found Friday on ranch lands in Wood River Valley was killed by wolves.

Three other dead calves were found over a three-day period last week.

Department wildlife biologist Tom Collum says personnel are taking turns camping in a field near the ranch, and they are using non-lethal methods to deter wolves, including sirens, bonfires, strobe lights and cracker shells.

Officials are also checking remote cameras daily to track movement. They have set up traps to capture wolves, so they can place tracking collars.

Colorado homeowners lose case against pot business neighbor

DENVER (AP) — A federal jury has ruled against a Colorado couple who claimed that a marijuana growing operation hurt the value of their property with sweeping mountain views in a case that was closely watched by the U.S. cannabis industry.

Jurors reached their verdict in Denver after deliberating for about half a day, The Colorado Sun reported Wednesday.

It was the first time a jury considered a lawsuit using federal anti-racketeering law to target a marijuana company.

“A loss in this case would have meant the loss of his business,” Matthew Buck, the lawyer for grow owner Parker Walton, told the Sun,

The marijuana industry has followed the case since 2015, when attorneys with a Washington, D.C.-based firm first filed their complaint on behalf of Hope and Michael Reilly over Walton’s operation in the rural southern Colorado town of Rye.

Vulnerability to similar lawsuits is among the many risks facing marijuana businesses licensed by states but still violating federal law. Lawsuits using the same strategy have been filed in California, Massachusetts and Oregon.

One the Reillys’ lawyers, Brian Barnes, said the couple bought their land for its views of Pikes Peak, built a house there and hike and ride horses on the property.

But they claimed “pungent, foul odors” from a neighboring indoor marijuana growing business have hurt the property’s value and the couple’s ability to use and enjoy it.

Congress created the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — better known as RICO — to target the Mafia in the 1970s, allowing prosecutors to argue leaders of a criminal enterprise should pay a price along with lower-level defendants.

The anti-racketeering law also allows private parties to file lawsuits claiming their business or property has been damaged by a criminal enterprise. Those who prove it can be financially compensated for damages plus attorneys’ expenses.

While growing recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2014, it remains illegal under federal laws that are not enforced in the state against growers who follow state laws.

Starting in 2015, opponents of the marijuana industry decided to use the anti-racketeering law against companies producing or selling marijuana products, along with investors, insurers, state regulators and other players. Cannabis companies immediately saw the danger of high legal fees or court-ordered payouts.

Their concern grew when a Denver-based federal appeals court ruled in 2017 that the Reillys could use anti-racketeering law to sue their neighbor, the licensed cannabis grower neighboring.

Insurance companies and other entities originally named in the Reillys’ suit have gradually been removed, some after reaching financial settlements out of court.

Running the farm, running for office

A large 18-wheeler idled outside the main office at Boshart Trucking in Tangent, Ore., on a gray October morning as Shelly Boshart Davis recounted another successful grass seed harvest in the Mid-Willamette Valley.

Boshart Trucking contracts with more than 40 local farmers to bale and haul grass straw, with Davis, 38, in charge of managing field crews, inventory and other logistics. The job involves a lot of paperwork, especially during harvest in July and August.

With the season now in the rear-view mirror, Davis is focused in earnest on her next big challenge: campaigning for election to the Oregon House of Representatives on Nov. 6.

“Oh my goodness, you should see the calendar,” Davis said. “It’s everything from meetings for endorsements to letters, events, knocking on doors, phone banking, putting up signs, and just being out in the community.”

Davis, a Republican, is hoping to represent District 15, which covers portions of Linn and Benton counties, including the city of Albany. Incumbent Rep. Andy Olson, a Republican, is retiring after 14 years in the Legislature. Democrat Jerred Taylor and Independent Cynthia Hyatt are also running for the seat.

According to the Oregon Farm Bureau, fewer than a dozen Oregon legislators are directly involved in agriculture, though others may be retired, semi-retired or do some farming and ranching on the side. The Legislature consists of 30 senators and 60 representatives from across the state.

For Davis, the office would add to her already busy schedule. She and her business partner, Macey Wessels, a farmer in Scio, Ore., purchased Boshart Trucking over the summer from Davis’ parents, Stan and Lori Boshart, taking over the company founded by Stan and his brother, Gene Boshart, in 1983.

And that is just one arm of the family business. Davis is also vice president of international sales and marketing for BOSSCO Trading, marketing grass straw for animal feed to customers in Japan and South Korea.

Yet when Olson, the incumbent, asked Davis if she would run to be his successor, Davis said she felt the pull of politics.

“We have just been so engrossed in what has been happening at the Legislature,” Davis said. “Our business and our farm seem to be affected by everything they’ve done in the legislative sessions over the last four years.”

Davis pointed to increases in the state’s minimum wage and a new proposal to cap greenhouse gas emissions as policies that wind up hurting small farms and businesses. She said she wanted to give a voice to rural interests at the statehouse in Salem.

But how to balance the demands of campaigning, while simultaneously keeping up with the rigors of farm life?

“I feel like I’m kind of in a whirlwind right now,” Davis said.

Chuck Thomsen knows the feeling. Thomsen, a Republican state senator from Hood River, is running for re-election against Democratic challenger Chrissy Reitz. At the same time, he owns a 168-acre pear orchard in the heart of the Hood River Valley.

Thomsen said he campaigns five days a week, except during harvest, when he cut back to three days a week.

“Sometimes I get up at 2 a.m. and write thank-you notes, or I do my bookwork,” Thomsen said. “It’s just less sleep, and you do it for seven months.”

More than anything, Thomsen credits his longtime foreman, Alfredo Elisea, with giving him the flexibility to serve as a legislator.

“During the week, Alfredo runs the show,” Thomsen said. “He does the day-to-day operations.”

Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, is another farmer running for re-election in House District 26. Vial defeated Dan Laschober in the Republican primary, and will face Democrat Ryan Spiker in the general election.

Vial, 64, and his family operate three farm businesses, including Vial Family Farm in Hillsboro, west of Portland. The farm grows roughly 30 tons of table grapes every year for Portland metro schools. Harvest begins in late August, when Vial organizes the picking crews and ensures the crop is packed correctly in 20-pound boxes.

Then, for five weeks, Vial handles all the school deliveries himself, starting his day at 4:30 a.m.

“I’m feeling the effects of that, and then coming home and changing my clothes and going into my law office for a few hours, and then going out and knocking on doors,” Vial said. “In my district, I do need to do real on-the-ground campaigning.”

Legislative Days in September was especially grueling, Vial said, adding committee meetings to the agenda.

“In all honesty, there are days when I think, ‘Man, how am I going to get this done?’” Vial said.

In all three cases, the candidates say their farm experience and upbringing has prepared them for long, exhausting days. Davis, who began driving a combine when she was 12, said she has never shied away from putting in the time.

“That was instilled in me from a very young age,” Davis said. “Whether I win or lose, or whether this becomes more than two years (in the Legislature), that won’t change me or my goals in life.”

Thomsen, a fourth-generation farmer, said the key to campaigning is to tap into that intrinsic work ethic.

“When you’re raised on a farm, you do what you have to do, when you have to do it, to get the job done,” he explained. “I’ve always said that whoever runs against me is not going to outwork me. They can’t, because I’m a farmer.”

Veggie food maker seeks injunction against Missouri meat law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A vegetarian food-maker has asked a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction against a Missouri law making it a misdemeanor crime to promote products as “meat” that aren’t made from livestock or poultry.

The Oregon-based Tofurky Co. claims the Missouri law infringes on its constitutional free speech rights to use product labels such as “veggie burgers,” “vegetarian ham roast” and “chorizo style sausage.”

The request for a preliminary injunction was filed late Tuesday as part of a federal lawsuit that originally was filed in August.

The other plaintiff in the case is The Good Food Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for meat alternatives.

The Missouri law was passed earlier this year with support from the Missouri Farm Bureau and state pork and cattle associations.

OWEB awards grants for sage grouse conservation

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board has awarded nearly $420,000 in grants to restore habitat for imperiled sage grouse in Eastern Oregon, treating invasive grasses and helping ranchers to protect riparian vegetation.

OWEB announced four grants at its board meeting Oct. 16-17 in Gold Beach, which will go to the Malheur Soil & Water Conservation District, Harney SWCD, Crook SWCD and the Malheur Watershed Council.

Funding for OWEB grants comes from the state lottery, federal dollars and salmon license plate revenue. An 18-member board awards grants for work on streams, wetlands and other natural areas.

In 2015, OWEB adopted a policy to dedicate at least $10 million over 10 years to aid sage grouse preservation. That same year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opted not to list the bird as an endangered species. The federal government did approve sage grouse protections in 11 western states, including Oregon, though the Trump administration has since opened those plans to further review.

Including this year’s grants, OWEB has awarded nearly $7 million toward sage grouse habitat, and is on pace to exceed its stated target.

“This project is a great investment of the state’s lottery dollars,” said Meta Loftsgaarden, OWEB executive director. “This investment benefits Oregon’s greater sage grouse habitat, while also supporting natural resource jobs in local communities.”

The Malheur SWCD will receive $55,476 to treat invasive annual grasses on 640 acres along Crooked Creek outside Jordan Valley. The Harney SWCD similarly was awarded $176,908 to treat western juniper and work with landowners to manage streamside vegetation near Burns.

The Malheur Watershed Council landed $120,775 to plant native vegetation and stabilize stream banks, which will benefit not only sage grouse but Columbia spotted frog and redband trout. Finally, the Crook SWCD will receive $66,577 to enroll private landowners into conservation agreements under the Crooked River Watershed Sage Grouse Conservation Project, working to develop site-specific protection plans in Crook and Deschutes counties.

Eric Harstein, senior policy coordinator for OWEB, said the benefits of these projects don’t stop at the sage grouse. They go on, he said, to improve conditions for other wildlife and cattle, which makes up the bulk of Eastern Oregon’s agricultural economy.

“You see a lot of win-wins with sage grouse projects. That’s why I think we have a lot of local support for doing projects in Eastern Oregon,” Harstein said. “These are projects we’re excited about, and hope to see more of in the coming years.”

Wild horse roundup completed in Southeast Oregon

More than 800 wild horses were recently rounded up in southeast Oregon by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as part of a sterilization project to control their population.

The BLM conducted the wild horse gather from Oct. 2 through Oct. 23, during which time the agency rounded up 846 horses, 41 burros and two mules, leaving roughly 20-30 horses in the Warm Springs Herd Management Area, said Tara Thissell, public affairs specialist for the agency.

“We are overpopulated on the range for sure,” Thissell said.

The agency plans to return 200 horses to the range, with the ovaries removed from half the female population and the other half being left intact as a control group, she said. A portion of the mares and stallions will be outfitted with tracking collars.

The two populations that will be returned to the range are part of the “behavioral and spatial ecology portion of the study,” which will also sterilize additional mares that will remain in captivity so the rate of medical complications can be analyzed, Thissell said.

Thissell noted the project is supported by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, which wants to see whether ovary removal from wild mares is a “viable population management tool.”

Wild horses are controversial on the range, as ranchers often blame them for causing environmental damage that’s blamed on livestock or that justifies grazing curtailments.

Before the roundup was even finished, however, the BLM’s project was challenged in federal court by the Friends of Animals, a nonprofit advocacy group based in New York that calls it an “unethical and ill-informed experiment.”

The plaintiff complains that separating the two study populations with a fence will create a “zoo-like herd management area” without first conducting sufficient analysis and public participation as required under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

Friends of Animals notes that testing conducted between 2001 and 2010 found genetic diversity in the herd had declined and claims that BLM doesn’t plan to conduct additional environmental assessments each time it conducts roundups as part of the 10-year management project contrary to NEPA.

Removing ovaries is characterized in the complaint as a “dangerous surgery” that will leave mares “highly traumatized” and will adversely affect their health over the long term.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the sterilization experiment and 10-year management plan for the wild horses as well as reimbursement for the plaintiff’s litigation costs.

National FFA Officer team includes two reps from the West

Growing up in Bend, Ore., Shea Booster was such an outgoing kid he earned himself the nickname “motormouth.”

“I was never shy,” Booster said. “Every time I met someone new, I just loved to talk to them.”

That personality is part of what led Booster to join FFA as a freshman at Mountain View High School, and later serving as Oregon FFA state president in 2016-17. On Oct. 27, Booster was one of six leaders elected to the National FFA Officer team during the organization’s annual convention in Indianapolis, as the western region vice president.

Over the next year, Booster, 21, will spend more than 300 days traveling across the country, flying 100,000 miles and talking to local FFA chapters, farmers and legislators, spreading the good word about agriculture education. He couldn’t ask for a more perfect role.

“I’m super excited,” Booster said. “It still hasn’t really sank in yet.”

Booster is not your traditional FFA student. He was not raised on a farm or ranch. He didn’t spend summers milking cows or driving combine. But that is the beauty of FFA, he said — since 1988, when the “Future Farmers of America” officially changed its name to the National FFA Organization, it has strived to become an all-accepting youth leadership and development group, with chapters in 24 of the 25 largest U.S. cities.

Today, the National FFA Organization has nearly 670,000 members in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The FFA has been a highly diversifying and inclusive organization,” Booster said. “It has always made that a priority.”

Back in high school, Booster said FFA was the one place where he felt he could truly be himself. He took immediately to the organization, and made it a personal rule of thumb to try a new career development event every year.

“I was the agriculture rookie,” he said. “Any time I had the opportunity to try something new, I would.”

Booster graduated from high school in 2016, and is now a sophomore at Oregon State University majoring in agricultural business management, with a double minor in communications and Spanish. He will return to campus from Indianapolis on Nov. 1 and wrap up classes by Thanksgiving before heading back out with the National FFA Officer team on Nov. 24.

The 2018-19 officers also include Luke O’Leary, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., who was elected national president — the highest rank of any FFA officer. O’Leary previously served as California FFA president in 2017-18, and is now studying agriculture leadership and development at Texas A&M University.

Rounding out the team is Layni LeBlanc, an animal science-science and technology major at Louisiana State University, who was elected national secretary; Adrian Schunk, a communications major at Michigan State University, who was elected eastern region vice president; Ridge Hughbanks, an agribusiness major at Oklahoma State University, who was elected central region vice president; and Jordan Stowe, agriscience education major at Auburn University, who was elected southern region vice president.

Booster said he is eager to see how FFA is continuing to develop students’ confidence and leadership skills, as it did for him.

“FFA truly focuses on developing students,” he said. “Being a part of FFA, you get to see youth that is just supremely confident.”

Oregon farms, ranches land federal renewable energy grants

Nine Oregon farms and ranches will receive financial assistance from the USDA to build small-scale solar power and hydroelectric projects, saving a combined $100,000 per year on their utility bills.

Funding comes from the Rural Energy for America Program, which provides grants and loans for renewable energy, such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal installations, as well as energy efficiency improvements like insulation and replacing old farm equipment.

The national program recently awarded $427,739 in Oregon for nine projects from Roseburg to Enterprise that will generate a total of 901,160 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy each year. That’s enough juice to power roughly 80 homes.

John Holman, energy programs coordinator for USDA Rural Development in Oregon, said the Rural Energy for America Program is broken down into two funding streams — grants, which cover up to 25 percent of the total cost for smaller projects, and loan guarantees for larger, utility-scale projects covering up to 75 percent of the total cost.

Since the program was first authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill, Holman said the agency has awarded grants in Oregon for 136 projects totaling more than $3.5 million, and loan guarantees for 27 projects topping $165.5 million. Collectively, these projects are expected to produce more than 3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

“The main purpose of rural development is economic development for our rural communities,” Holman said. “(This program) is helping businesses and agricultural producers to save energy.”

While the 2018 Farm Bill remains in limbo, Holman said he anticipates the program will continue to receive funding, but cannot speak directly to its future. Small businesses are eligible to apply so long as the are located in rural areas — that excludes Portland, Salem, Eugene, Bend and Medford. Any farm or ranch is eligible to apply regardless of location.

The latest round of projects includes:

• Triple Creek Ranch, Joseph — $108,625 award for an 85-kilowatt hydro turbine that will replace 95 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $18,381 per year.

• Greater Northwest Nursery, Silverton — $98,779 award for a 250-kilowatt solar array that will replace 64 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $27,089 per year.

• Hanna Limited Partnership, Roseburg — $60,923 award for a 94-kilowatt solar array that will replace 14 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $9,827 per year.

• Chapin Dehydrating, Salem — $60,082 award for a 507-kilowatt solar array that will replace 104 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $16,114 per year.

• Alpine Solar, Enterprise — $49,896 award for a 125-kilowatt solar array that will replace 66 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $11,405 per year.

• Taylor Farm, Silverton — $20,000 award for a 78-kilowatt solar array that will replace 97 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $10,788 per year.

• Myrtle Creek Farm, Myrtle Creek — $10,937 award for a 7-kilowatt solar array that will replace 97 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $6,576 per year.

• Persephone Farm, Lebanon — $9,342 award for a 7-kilowatt solar array that will replace 91 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $1,059 per year.

• Groundswell Farm, Langolis — $9,155 award for a 10-kilowatt solar array that will replace 99 percent of current energy use and lower utility bill by $1,147 per year.

The next application deadline is April 1, 2019. For more information, contact Holman at 503-414-3369 or email

Wolves blamed for fourth dead cow in a week near Fort Klamath

FORT KLAMATH, Ore. — The number of cattle believed killed in the Fort Klamath area by the Rogue Wolfpack now totals four.

Officials from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who over the weekend confirmed the killings of three yearlings found over a three-day period last week, are awaiting confirmation of a fourth animal found dead Friday morning. The first three yearling calves were found Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings on Wood River Valley ranchlands owned by Bill Nicholson and leased to DeTar Livestock of Dixon, Calif. The fourth was discovered Friday on neighboring land owned by Roger Nicholson, Bill Nicholson’s cousin.

Bill Nicholson said ODFW personnel are taking turns camping in a field where they are using non-lethal methods, including large bonfires, strobe lights and the firing of cracker shells, to try to deter wolves. One camper reported hearing howling and distressed bawling about 1:30 a.m. Friday, but no noise has been reported the past few nights.

“Everything is quiet now,” Nicholson said Monday.

Two remote cameras are being used to help track possible movement and five traps have been set in hopes of capturing and collaring wolves with tracking devices. Efforts at tracking wolf movements have been frustrated because none of the Rogue Pack wolves, including OR-7, have operating collars. Nicholson said the number of wolves in the valley is uncertain because one camera picked up six, including OR-7, while five were seen by another camera in a nearby field at about the same time. OR-7 has a collar but it is no longer transmitting signals.

In 2016, when four grazing cattle were attacked and eaten alive by wolves, ODFW and other game biologists also stayed overnight in an effort to deter wolf predation. At the time, one wolf had an operating collar that helped track the pack’s movements.

On Saturday, when ODFW biologists visited the Nicholson ranch, it was determined one steer had been attacked and was bleeding when it was dragged 500 feet to a ditch, where it died of its wounds.

Until last week it was believed the Rogue Pack was on the west side of the Cascades. In September it was determined a large dog guarding cattle near Prospect had been killed by a wolf. Before the recent killing, the last confirmed cattle attacks by the Rogue Pack were in January, when two calves were killed two days apart near Butte Falls.

Based on the ODFW findings posted on its website, a dead 600-pound calf, carcass A, that was found Wednesday was intact but open at the abdomen with evidence of feeding on the right flank. Examinations of two other dead calves from the same pasture, which had been buried but were unearthed, determined that wolves fed on the flank of carcass B, which was found Tuesday, while a third, carcass C, had been mostly consumed and probably died Monday.

Physical evidence indicated a “struggle/kill scene” for carcasses A and C, which included blood spray, and pooled blood.

“There was a trail of blood and rumen for 50 feet ending at carcass A. Carcass A was skinned and partially shaved, revealing numerous quarter-inch wide bite scrapes on both armpits, the hind legs above the hock, flanks and the groin. Deep underlying tissue damage with associated premortem hemorrhaging was evident under the bite wounds,” according to the report. “Calves B and C were skinned, revealing premortem tissue trauma on the hind legs between the hock and anus, and behind the elbows. These injuries are clear evidence of predator attack and the size, location, and severity of bite injuries are similar to injuries observed on other calves attacked by wolves.”

Remote camera photographs showed Rogue Pack wolves 2.5 miles from the pasture on (Tuesday), according to the report. “The Rogue Pack has depredated on this property before. Since the evidence shows that each calf died on a different night, these are considered three separate incidents of depredation.”

Details of are available at the ODF&W Wolves and Livestock Updates website at