Tariffs imposed by the European Union on Friday will apply to less than one-third of the U.S. cranberry products sold to the 28-country trading bloc, but will still hurt, according to The Cranberry Institute, an industry group,
The EU put a 25 percent tariff on cranberry concentrate. The EU did not, however, extend the tariff to sweet dried cranberries, a product that has enjoyed duty-free entry to Europe since 2011.
The U.S. cranberry industry sells $127 million worth of products annually to the EU, its largest foreign market. Cranberry concentrate, a by-product of making dried cranberries, makes up $41 million of that, according to the institute.
“Tariffs on U.S. cranberries will be very detrimental to our industry,” the institute’s executive director, Terry Humfeld, said in a statement.
The cranberry industry has become caught up in emerging trade wars between the U.S. and trading partners. U.S. cranberry products face retaliatory tariffs from China and Mexico, as well as the EU.
The U.S. is the world’s top cranberry producer, but annual domestic consumption has been stuck at just under 2 pounds per person for many years. About one-third of the U.S. crop is exported, according to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Humfeld, who was unavailable for an interview Tuesday, said in the statement that the U.S. cranberry industry has spent decades cultivating the European market. He said the tariff may hurt Europeans.
“Since there is no domestic cranberry industry in the EU, costs could increase for manufacturers, leading to higher prices for consumers or reduced access to cranberries,” Humfeld said.
Canada, the second-largest cranberry producer, appears poised to fill the demand. Canadian cranberry production doubled between 2006 and 2017, according to the USDA. Canada and the EU signed a trade agreement last fall that removed tariffs on Canadian cranberries. The deal eliminated an advantage the U.S. had enjoyed. The EU suspended duties on American sweet dried cranberries imported to use as ingredients in 2011. Exports to Europe then surged, according to the USDA.
Chile, the third-largest cranberry producer, has had a duty-free agreement with the EU since 2012.
Mexico, which like the EU was reacting to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, applied a 20 percent tariff on sweet dried cranberries in early June. Next up, China is scheduled to increase tariffs on sweet dried cranberries to 40 percent from 15 percent on July 6.
The U.S. sells about $45 million worth of cranberries to China annually, according to Humfeld.
“China is an important expanding market for U.S. cranberries,” he said. “There is great potential for continued growth, so we hope that the parties involved can reach an agreement that will allow the cranberry industry to continue providing cranberry products to consumers in China.”
The EU imposed tariffs on dozens of goods to retaliate for the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum. U.S. goods slapped with retaliatory tariffs include clothes, makeup, industrial supplies, and other agricultural products such as sweet corn, kidney beans, peanut butter and orange juice.
At long last, the U.S. Forest Service is ready to unveil its final draft of the much-anticipated Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision.
The plans, which were last updated in 1990, will guide land management activities — including timber harvest, recreation and livestock grazing — over 5.5 million acres in the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman and Malheur national forests in Eastern Oregon for the next 10-15 years.
A draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, for the plans was released in 2014, but after a significant public backlash the Forest Service embarked on three more years of outreach to build consensus.
The result is a final EIS and draft record of decision that will be published Friday, June 29, kicking off a 60-day period for individuals or groups with legal standing to file objections. The process then segues into a 90-day objection resolution period, before the Pacific Northwest regional forester, Jim Peña, makes his final decision.
Tom Montoya, supervisor for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in Baker City, Ore., said that if all goes according to schedule, the revised forest plans could be adopted and in place by the beginning of 2019 — more than a decade overdue.
“We’ve learned that you can’t rush these processes,” Montoya said. “They take time to allow for adequate input, adequate dialogue and opportunities to for our public to engage.”
The Forest Service published its draft EIS in February 2014, and received more than 1,100 comments in response, most of which were negative in their feedback. That is when the agency decided to regroup and re-engage with partners representing local communities, cattlemen, loggers, public access and the environment.
Meanwhile, the forests continued to change. The massive Canyon Creek wildfire complex torched more than 110,000 acres on the Malheur National Forest south of John Day, Ore., prompting calls for more vigorous and active tree thinning and management.
The revision team itself also experienced turnover. The current team leader, Victoria Anne, took over in December 2016. The Umatilla National Forest also changed supervisors twice, from Kevin Martin to Genevieve Masters, most recently from Masters to Eric Watrud.
Ultimately, the Forest Service developed two new alternatives for the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision, based on the agency’s original preferred “Alternative E.” One of those, dubbed “Alternative E Modified,” will be the preferred plan in the final EIS.
Montoya said the latest update sought to address concerns about overall forest health, timber harvest, grazing and access.
“It really tries to strike at what we heard from our public,” he said.
The Forest Plan does not make any site-specific decisions — such as closing roads — though it does identify goals and desired conditions for future projects. Goals identified in the latest plan revision include healthier forests that are more resilient to fire and disease, provide clean water and long-term economic value, Montoya said.
Details remain sparse until the documents are officially published Friday, but the Forest Service is already touting a number of potential benefits, including:
• Thinning up to 33 percent of dry upland forests over the life of the plan to improve health and resiliency.
• Up to 1,173 new jobs in forest products, livestock and recreation, and $59.5 million in added income.
• Doubling timber harvest across the three forests, from a recent average of 101 million board feet to 205 million board feet.
• Approximately 242,800 animal unit months, or AUMs, of livestock grazing, consistent with the current output in the Blue Mountains forests. AUMs are defined as the amount of forage animals need to graze for one month.
The plans will also recommend Congress authorize an additional 70,500 acres of new wilderness, or about 1.3 percent of the total area.
In a statement, Peña, the regional forester, said the Blue Mountains Forest Revision honors the many years of input provided by local governments, states, tribes, federal agencies and other groups.
“We have been listening to diverse perspectives,” Peña said. “Together, we are working to make our forests more resilient to change while also supporting rural prosperity.”
The final EIS for the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision can be accessed online at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/BlueMountainsPlanRevision. Hard copies are also available at local libraries.
It has been a wild week for rancher Joe Pechanec.
Pechanec, of R2 Ranch, runs about 1,400 head of cattle on public and private rangeland in arid central Oregon, where a pair of massive, wind-whipped wildfires have torched more than 100,000 acres and passed mere yards away from his front door.
“Last night, I finally got seven hours of sleep,” Pechanec said Monday. “It’s been a really brutal battle, but I think we’re getting headway.”
The ordeal began early Thursday, June 21, when lightning touched off the Boxcar fire one mile southeast of Maupin along the Deschutes River corridor. Lightning also sparked the Jack Knife fire just 30 miles away near Grass Valley, and together the blazes have combined to burn 114,272 acres of heavy grass, sage and juniper.
Local ranchers, including Pechanec, quickly banded together to protect their homes and livestock, using their own bulldozers and equipment to dig fire breaks and evacuating cattle to safety south of the inferno.
“All the ranches, we took pretty much everything we had,” Pechanec said. “It’s the greatest thing you’ve ever seen.”
Pechanec recalls how the flames approached just 150 yards or so from his home in Willowdale, about 12 miles north of Madras in rural Jefferson County. With help from his neighbors, they dug dozer lines and performed a back burn to hold the fire at bay.
Since the fires started, Pechanec estimated 40-50 volunteers have come from as far as Shaniko and Antelope to lend a hand — most of them local ranchers, friends and families — along with professional firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management.
As of June 26, the Boxcar fire was 60 percent contained and the Jack Knife fire was 80 percent contained. Firefighters expect to have both fires fully contained by July 6.
“We’re looking really good,” Pechanec said. “I think we’re going to be OK.”
The rangeland, however, could take some time recover. Pechanec said the fires have scorched all 12,000 acres of his BLM range, along with 2,500 to 3,000 acres of private ground.
Without that land available to graze, Pechanec said he will likely have to turn to the hay pile while doubling the rotation rate for his unburned pastures to avoid overgrazing. Pechanec estimated he may lose up to $30,000 this year on his hay costs, and pastures where he would normally leave cattle for three weeks he will instead rotate after a week and a half.
“Everybody has to be out in the cattle, checking the rangeland and checking the grass,” he said. “You’re just going to have to make sure that stubble doesn’t get down below 2 to 3 inches so we can have regrowth for next year.”
Justin Rodgers, a rangeland management specialist for the BLM in Prineville, said that, in general terms, the agency allows for two years of rest on burned land to allow time for rehabilitation. Staff will work with individual ranchers to accommodate grazing needs and discuss appropriate land management moving forward.
“That’s the big thing there, just getting the land back to pre-fire conditions as best we can,” Rodgers said. “It’s definitely a case-by-case situation. Every range is in different condition before the fire. Each landowner or permittee has different flexibility or livestock grazing operations going on.”
Meanwhile, Pechanec said it has been two months since the last considerable rainfall at the ranch, and conditions remain bone dry.
“We are running tremendously low on water and feed,” he said. “We have no green left.”
Most of central Oregon is listed in moderate to severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Central and southern Oregon can expect above-normal potential for additional wildfires heading into July and August, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
NEWBERG, Ore. — Last year, Western Helicopter Services could only spray herbicides about a third of the time that was scheduled.
The rest of the time, they were waiting for weather conditions to improve and become suitable for spraying.
“We don’t go out and spray willy-nilly,” said Rick Krohn, president of Western Helicopter Services of Newberg, Ore.
Due to the speed and efficiency of spraying by air, though, the company was able to make the best use of the time windows that became available, Krohn said. “If we were trying to get that done by ground, (we’d) never get it done.”
The realities of aerial herbicide spraying in forestry were discussed during a June 22 workshop organized by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, an educational organization that examines controversial issues in timber management.
“You don’t get much tougher than herbicides right now,” Mike Cloughesy, OFRI’s director of forestry, said of the issues facing the industry.
In recent years, two Oregon aerial applicators have faced regulatory penalties for spray violations and one of them was sued over alleged trespass damages by rural residents. Several bills have also been proposed in the Legislature to restrict aerial spraying and voters in Lincoln County banned the practice under an ordinance that’s now being challenged in court.
Speakers at the workshop explained why aerial spraying is a commonly used tool in the timber industry.
Aerial spraying plays a role in the “vegetation management” phase of forestry, preventing weeds from dominating young trees, said Jay Walters, field coordinator at the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Under the Oregon Forest Practices Act, timber clear cuts must be replanted within two years and trees must be “free to grow” unencumbered by vegetation or other serious problems within six years.
The chemicals must be mixed and loaded more than 100 feet from streams that bear fish or that are used for domestic water, and aerial applicators must spray at least 60 feet from waterways and standing water with a surface area larger than a quarter-acre, said Walters. Under a law passed in 2015, aerial applicators must also maintain a 60-foot buffer around inhabited dwellings and school campuses.
A year ago, digital subscriptions to the ODF’s “Forest Activity Electronic Reporting and Notification System,” or FERNS, were made available to members of the public who wanted to learn about upcoming timber operations.
The number of subscriptions has grown to nearly 600, up from about 400 under the agency’s earlier paper notification system, Walters said.
Even so, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon Department of Forestry haven’t noticed an increase in complaints about herbicides since the digital subscriptions went live.
“People who had concerns were getting through to Forestry and us,” said Mike Odenthal, ODA’s lead pesticide investigator.
Notifications must usually be submitted to ODF at least 15 days before a spray operation but they remain valid for a year.
Because there have been examples of malfeasance among applicators, people should be notified of spray operations to make arrangements, such as keeping animals and children indoors, said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland. Dembrow, chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, was among several elected officials at the workshop.
“I think there’s a need for us to build on the FERNS system to be a more real-time notification system,” Dembrow said.
Dembrow said he expects legislation dealing with notification and reporting to be introduced next year.
With the difficulty of anticipating weather changes, the timber industry will likely continue to oppose such proposals as “logistically difficult, if not impossible,” said Scott Dahlman, policy director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an agribusiness group.
“I think it’s going to run into the same problem we had before,” he said.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Authorities say a wildfire threatened a small Oregon town, but the blaze is now mostly contained.
The Sherman County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Tuesday that the fire burning near Rufus is 95 percent contained. It thanked firefighters, farmers and “everyone else with a hose.”
The sheriff had ordered evacuations after the fire broke out Monday. Rufus is located east of The Dalles in north-central Oregon.
Wildfire season is off to an early start in a state that tends to see most of its fire activity from late July through early September. Several other large fires are burning in Central Oregon — all have more than 50 percent containment.
The first forecast for this fall’s U.S. apple crop is up 3.6 percent from the 2017 crop, which should be manageable, but big concerns linger about labor, fruit quality and exports, a top Michigan apple producer says.
Total U.S. fresh and processed production was estimated at 257.9 million, 42-pound boxes at the Premier Apple Cooperative meeting in Syracuse, N.Y., on June 26.
The USDA unadjusted figure for 2017 is 248.6 million boxes and the large 2014 crop was 272.2 million boxes, while the record was 277.3 million boxes in 1998.
“We have a couple factors impacting this season’s marketability. No. 1 is whether we have sufficient labor to pick on a timely basis to give us the quality we need, and the other issue is trade, that our biggest trading partners are or will be instituting tariffs,” said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce, Sparta, Mich., who attended the New York meeting.
Lack of immigration reform, including resolving DACA (Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals), and increased immigration enforcement all weigh heavily on the immigrant community who make up most of the tree fruit workforce, Armock said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on a meat packing plant in the upper Midwest and President Donald Trump’s tweets about swift deportations unsettle the labor force, he said.
As in Washington state, more large and mid-size apple growers in Michigan and New York are turning to H-2A-visa foreign guestworkers, he said.
“We can’t be taking chances on (domestic) workers who may or may not be legal,” he said.
Unless resolved soon, tariffs by Mexico, Canada, India and China in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, undoubtedly will affect U.S. apple exports, Armock said. It is unknown to what degree, he said. Typically, 30 percent of U.S. apples are exported.
Mexico is imposing a 20 percent tariff on U.S. apples, India is adding 25 percent on top of 50 percent, China added 15 percent to a 10 percent existing tariff and will impose another 25 percent July 6 in retaliation for U.S. tariffs related to intellectual property theft. Canada has not set any tariff on apples.
“When you insult (Canadian Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau like we have, people take a bit of an anti-American stance,” Armock said.
Of the 257.9 million-box Premier estimate, Washington is 152 million boxes, down 4.9 percent; Michigan, 33.5 million, up 43.1 percent; New York, 31 million, up 7.8 percent; Pennsylvania, 11.7 million, up .3 percent; California, 5.5 million, up .4 percent; and Virginia, 5.1 million, down 2.2 percent.
Oregon is 4.2 million, up .8 percent and Idaho is 1.5 million, up 19 percent.
The Washington estimate is down partly because of a higher level of fire blight, said Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs of the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va.
Bruce Grim, manager of the Washington Apple Growers Marketing Association, said there were also holes at bloom time. He said the fresh crop should be in the mid-130 million boxes which seems to be a new normal.
Barring any weather disasters, fruit size could be pretty ideal, which would be good because it was down one to two sizes in 2017, up two sizes in 2016 and down one to two sizes in 2015, Grim said.
“We haven’t hit the sweet spot in three years and that creates marketing challenges,” he said.
Armock said Michigan and New York estimates are up. Crops didn’t get the spring frost damage they did a year ago and because warm weather during cell division means better chance of good fruit size.
The Washington State Tree Fruit Association will forecast the Washington crop in early August and U.S. Apple will give a national crop estimate at its annual Outlook conference in Chicago, Aug. 23-24.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thousands fled their homes as major wildfires encroached on a charred area of Northern California still recovering from severe blazes in recent years, sparking concern the state may be in for another destructive series of wildfires this summer.
Severe drought has already forced officials in several western states to close national parks as precautions against wildfires and issue warnings throughout the region to prepare for the worst.
In California, officials said unusually hot weather, high winds and highly flammable vegetation turned brittle by drought helped fuel the fires that began over the weekend, the same conditions that led to the state’s deadliest and most destructive fire year in 2017.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday declared a state of emergency in Lake County, where the biggest fire was raging about 120 miles north of San Francisco, a rural region particularly hard-hit by fires in recent years. The declaration will enable officials to receive more state resources to fight the fire and for recovery.
Jim Steele, an elected supervisor, said the county is impoverished and its fire-fighting equipment antiquated. He also said the county has just a few roads into and out of the region, which can hinder response time. Steele said the area has also been susceptible to fire for many decades because dense brush and trees in the sparsely populated area, but the severity of the latest blazes is unexpected.
“What’s happened with the more warming climate is we get low humidity and higher winds and then when we get a fire that’s worse than it’s been in those 50 years,” Steele said.
The fire that broke out Saturday evening has forced 3,000 residents from their homes and destroyed at least 22 buildings. It is the latest devastating blaze to rip through the isolated and impoverished county of just 65,000 people in the last few years.
In 2015, a series of fires destroyed 2,000 buildings and killed four people.
The following year, an arsonist started a fire that wiped out 300 buildings.
Last year, the county was among those ravaged by a string of fires that ripped through Northern California wine country.
“I think we’re all just so traumatized and overwhelmed with all these fires year after year, this whole community is at a breaking point,” said Terri Gonsalves, 55, who evacuated her home around midnight Sunday.
She put four goats into her truck after she looked out her back window and saw a big hill aflame. She is staying with her daughter in nearby Middletown, a small city where dozens of homes were destroyed in 2015. “When this stuff happens, we rally around each other.”
Fire Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said more than 230 firefighters were battling the Lake County fire in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment close the blaze.
A forestry scientist says it’s difficult to forecast how severe California’s wildfires will be this year, but said the drought-dried vegetation throughout the state is a bad omen.
“You have a lot of grass and its dry and that’s cause for concern,” said Keith Gilless, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s department of environmental science.
Authorities on Monday afternoon lifted evacuation orders in Tehama County, where two wildfires were burning. Multiple homes and businesses in the city of Red Bluff were destroyed.
A Red Bluff police officer helping residents evacuate lost his home, authorities said. Red Bluff Police Lt. Matt Hansen said people had donated about $10,000 in cash along with furniture and clothing to the family as they search for a rental home.
Residents also fled a wildfire in Shasta County.
No cause has been determined for any of the fires.
Last year, California’s costliest fires killed 44 people and tore through the state’s wine country in October, causing an estimated $10 billion in damage.
While the weekend’s blazes were the first major ones of the season to hit California, others have raged throughout the west for weeks. Earlier this month, a Colorado wildfire forced residents of more than 2,000 homes to evacuate. The last evacuees returned home last week.
The fire north of Durango was in the Four Corners Region where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet — the epicenter of a large U.S. Southwest swath of exceptional drought, the worst category of drought.
Moderate to extreme drought conditions affect those four states plus parts of Nevada, California, Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Associated Press writers Lorin Eleni Gill and Janie Har contributed to this story from San Francisco.
USDA will fund a new researcher to tackle a starch damage problem that in the past has cost Pacific Northwest wheat farmers tens of millions of dollars.
In the Omnimbus appropriations bill last April, Congress approved $1 million for falling number research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Wheat growers and commissions in Idaho, Oregon and Washington requested funding for the position.
The new researcher will help develop new wheat varieties resistant to starch damage, study environmental factors that trigger the problem and improve the falling number test, said David Weller, research leader for USDA’s wheat health, genetics and quality research unit in Pullman, Wash.
Many factors can lead to low falling number test results, Weller said, including wheat variety, temperature fluctuations and weather. Further research will hopefully lead to a model to help growers and industry members determine when conditions cause starch damage.
Weller hopes to advertise the new job shortly. He estimates the hiring process to take roughly six months.
The search for the researcher will be nationwide, he said, and include an advisory committee to screen candidates, who will visit the Washington State University campus, deliver a seminar and meet with faculty and commission members.
In 2016, low falling number test results hit a large portion of the Pacific Northwest’s wheat crop, costing growers between $30 million and $130 million in discounts.
The hope is for the funding to continue in the future, Weller said. “This is not something we’re going to solve in a few months.”
Weller called the group of “world-class” researchers working on the project from USDA, WSU, Oregon State University and the University of Idaho the “A-Team of falling number.”
“We are all working as a team in a seamless effort to address all aspects of this particular problem,” he said. “We are working night and day, as hard as we can, to find solutions.”
It may be several months late, but farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project finally know just how much water is available for the 2018 irrigation season — pending an injunction requested by the Klamath Tribes to protect endangered sucker fish in Upper Klamath Lake.
The Bureau of Reclamation released its annual operations and drought plans for the Klamath Project on June 18, serving 230,000 irrigated acres in Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Regulators calculate the water supply based on factors such as stream flows, reservoir storage and existing legal obligations for fish. According to the 2018 plans, irrigators can use 233,911 acre-feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath River, which is 40 percent less than the historical full demand.
As of June 18, the bureau had already diverted 38,000 acre-feet for irrigation, leaving roughly 196,000 acre-feet still in the pipeline.
Jeff Nettleton, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation office in Klamath Falls, Ore., said this year has been challenging on all fronts, from the lack of usual snowfall to a court order requiring more water in the Klamath River to protect salmon from disease.
“I appreciate the willingness of the entire community to work together to seek solutions to meet these challenges,” Nettleton said. “Careful management of irrigation and continued water conservation efforts will help to minimize negative impacts of the reduced water supply as we proceed through the season.”
The Klamath Basin, like much of Southern Oregon, had a drier-than-usual winter, with snowpack at 55 percent of normal by April 1, 46 percent of normal by May 1 and completely melted by June 1.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service anticipates stream flows will be as low as 26 percent of normal in parts of the basin through September, and the bureau warns that most agricultural producers will not have enough water “to meet the requirements of good irrigation practices for the acres served by the Project.”
A federal judge in San Francisco also upheld a ruling earlier this year that requires more water from Upper Klamath Lake be kept in-river to flush away a deadly salmon-killing parasite known as C. shasta. The bureau released 38,425 acre-feet of water from April 6-15 and another 50,000 acre-feet from May 7-28 to comply with the order, which was secured by the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes in 2017.
That leaves the Klamath Project short its usual water allocation, though irrigators can expect a near full supply of water from Clear Lake and Gerber reservoirs.
Scott White, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said it has been a “crazy, crazy year” but nothing in the latest operations plan caught him by surprise.
“It’s going to be tough going, but we’ll be able to get through,” White said. “In a drought year, that’s all you can really ask for.”
The big question now, White said, is whether the Klamath Tribes win an injunction to hold more water in Upper Klamath Lake to protect endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers.
The tribes sued the Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May. A hearing scheduled for July 11 before Judge William Orrick in San Francisco has since been rescheduled for Friday, July 20. The KWUA has also filed a motion seeking to have the case dismissed, arguing it should be heard in a different venue.
Tribal harvest of suckers decreased from more than 10,000 to 687 between 1968 and 1985, and today just two fish are harvested for ceremonial purposes. But if the injunction succeeds, White said it would essentially shut down the Klamath Project.
“All the dollars put into the land thus far would be wasted,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation said she cannot comment on pending litigation.