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Airspace change threatens to disrupt Christmas tree harvest

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Christmas tree farmers in the vicinity of Salem, Ore., hope a change in federal airspace designation won’t complicate upcoming helicopter harvests of their crop.

Over the summer, the Federal Aviation Administration increased the radius of “Class D” airspace around the Salem Municipal Airport from about four miles up to eight miles in some areas.

This expansion would impede harvests of Christmas trees in the area because helicopters would come under stringent restrictions that would effectively prevent most flights when visibility is low — a common occurrence during the cloudy autumn months.

“We realized it would shut the growers down,” said Terry Harchenko, president of Industrial Aviation Services, a Salem aviation firm that serves farmers.

Roughly 2,600 acres of Christmas trees on multiple farms are included in the larger “Class D” airspace, said Ben Stone, whose family operates BTN of Oregon, a farm near Salem.

“That’s a big area,” Stone said.

Growers have a narrow window of five to six weeks to harvest trees, so companies such as BTN of Oregon wouldn’t have time to switch their harvest plans this year, he said.

The farm doesn’t have sufficient tractors, roads or workers to cut and haul the trees by ground, nor could such operations be accomplished quickly enough to meet holiday demand, Stone said.

“We’ve farmed with helicopters for 30-plus years,” he said.

Due to protests from pilots and others affected by the airspace change, the FAA agreed to scale back the expansion — under a new proposal, the radius of “Class D” airspace around the Salem airport will increase by up to one mile.

However, due to the public notice and comment process, growers fear the revision will not be finalized in time for this year’s harvest.

“Helicopter harvest is very critical to what we do,” said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. “I refer to the Christmas tree harvest as controlled chaos and this is going to make it even worse.”

There is a possibility that harvest disruptions can still be avoided.

Agricultural aviators may be able to operate under a “letter of agreement” that allows them to fly in the “Class D” airspace during periods of cloudiness and reduced visibility, as long as they follow certain conditions.

Rob Broyhill, air traffic manager at the Salem airport’s control tower, said he’s drafting a “letter of agreement” that he expects to have done by Oct. 15. The proposal must still be approved by FAA officials, he said.

Harchenko of Industrial Aviation Services said the outcry from pilots and growers, as well as intervention from Oregon’s congressional delegation, will hopefully allow the problem to be resolved in a timely manner.

“It could have been a real disaster if everybody wouldn’t have gotten with it,” he said.

Growers should also submit comments on the scaled-back “Class D” airspace proposal, which was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 21 and can be found online, Harchenko said.

The original expansion occurred after an FAA review determined the change was needed to improve the safety for pilots operating on instruments around the airport, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Affected pilots and others didn’t comment on the proposed change because they were unaware of the FAA’s announcement, said Mitch Swecker, director of the Oregon Department of Aviation.

“Nobody noticed it,” Swecker said.

During periods of low visibility, pilots in “Class D” airspace come under the jurisdiction of FAA’s control center in Seattle, which is unlikely to have time for helicopers harvesting Christmas trees, he said. In such a situation, the Seattle control center would probably simply stop them from flying.

“There ability to focus on something as small as ag operations is not very good,” Swecker said. “It probably wouldn’t be a high priority for them.”

Idaho, Oregon onion prices higher, bulb size smaller

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ONTARIO, Ore. — As onion farmers in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho and Oregon gather in the remainder of this year’s crop, they are enjoying prices that are significantly better than last year.

But onion size and yields are expected to be down because of a severe heat wave earlier in the growing season that affected plant growth.

“The size is down a tiny bit because of the heat but the quality looks pretty good. With all the heat we had ... the crop fared better than I thought it was going to,” said Nyssa, Ore., grower Paul Skeen. “We’re looking forward to a good market.”

The price for a 50-pound bag of jumbo onions is around $8 right now, up from about $4.50 at this time last year.

“That’s a very good market for harvest time,” said Kay Riley, manager of Snake River Produce in Nyssa, one of about 30 onion shippers in the region.

“It looks like it will be a pretty average crop,” he said. “Quality seems to be good (but) size on some lots is a little smaller than normal.”

The area of southwestern Idaho and Malheur County, Ore., is one of the largest onion growing regions in the country, but acreage has decreased somewhat since 2013 because of a significantly reduced water supply on the Oregon side.

According to estimates by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, there will be 8,400 acres of onions harvested on the Idaho side in 2015 and 9,000 acres on the Oregon side.

That 17,400-acre total is down from the 19,900-acre total in 2013, when 9,000 acres were harvested in Idaho and 10,900 were harvested in Malheur County.

According to NASS, 9,300 acres of onions were harvested in Malheur County and 6,900 acres in Idaho in 2014, a total of 16,200.

While Eastern Oregon onion acres are about the same as last year, Idaho has seen a significant increase this year due to the water situation, said Oregon State University Cropping Systems Extension Agent Stuart Reitz.

“They had a little bit better water situation over there,” he said about Idaho. “A lot of it is driven by the drought.”

Reitz said a lot of onion fields in the valley were affected by a nine-day stretch of 100-degree temperatures that ended July 4.

“That took its toll on the plants. We didn’t see the size we normally get around here,” he said. “Some plants seemed to run out of gas by the end of July.”

But Idaho farmer Sid Freeman said his onion crop looked great, which he attributed to the drip irrigation system he installed two years ago.

“This is the best crop we’ve ever grown,” he said, adding that the heat wave ended before it hurt his onion plants. “It stopped just in time. It didn’t do a whole lot of damage.”

Because the drip system allowed him to mange inputs more intensely, “the onions were in good enough condition going into that heat spell that they didn’t degrade,” Freeman said.

Eastern Oregon farmers adapt to deal with years of drought

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ONTARIO, Ore. — Growers along the Oregon-Idaho border who depend on water from the Owyhee Reservoir to irrigate their crops have had to change the way they farm.

They have no choice. The annual water allotment for the 1,800 farms that depend on the reservoir has been slashed by about two-thirds during the past three years as a drought grips the region.

The reservoir provides water for 118,000 irrigated acres in Malheur County in Southeastern Oregon and around Homedale and Marsing in Southwestern Idaho.

This was the fourth straight year of reduced snowpack runoff in the Owyhee Basin, which feeds the Owyhee River and the reservoir. The Owyhee Irrigation District receives water from the reservoir and delivers it to irrigators through 400 miles of canals, laterals and ditches.

“I know growers who are growing onions on 1.7 to 1.8 acre-feet of water. Ten years ago that never happened; we used almost twice that number to grow an onion,” Ontario, Ore., farmer Bill Johnson said. “So clearly this drought has forced us to change our practices.”

To get by, farmers have switched irrigation practices, left ground fallow, grown crops that require less water and mature earlier, changed rotations — anything that will get them through until the snow and rain return to normal.

“It’s kind of been all of the above,” said Stuart Reitz, an Oregon State University cropping systems extension agent in Malheur County. “Growers are doing what they have to do to make a crop.”

OSU cropping systems extension agent Bill Buhrig said farmers are trying many ways to make the water they do have last.

“It’s like a combination (lock),” he said. “Growers are trying to turn it and unlock next year’s success.”

Nyssa, Ore., farmer Paul Skeen said a lot of farmers have switched from a 24-hour watering set to a 12-hour set and sometimes even six-hour sets. A set refers to how often water is moved across a field.

“You’re getting across the field in half the time, so you’re ... using less water on that field, which gives you more for other fields,” he said.

Farmers are leaving a lot more ground fallow, which allows them to use what water they have for the area’s cash crops, such as onions and potatoes. They’re growing more crops that require less water such as like peas, beans, seed crops and grains.

But there’s a catch to switching to low-water crops.

“They try to rotate crops that take a lot less water ... but those crops provide less income, too,” said Owyhee Irrigation District Manager Jay Chamberlin. “That’s completely thrown their rotations out. It’s going to take years to get back into their rotation.”

The drought has resulted in more farmers switching to irrigation pivots, Buhrig said.

“One grower I talked to said, ‘My reduced water allotment goes a lot further through sprinklers than it does through furrow irrigation,’” Buhrig said. “He said, ‘After two years of being reactive, I feel like I need to get on the offense a little bit here.’”

Farmers have also switched a lot of acres to drip irrigation systems.

Skeen switched about 40 percent of his onion crop to a drip system this year and “that’s probably going to be up around 60-65 percent this coming year,” he said. “I’m just trying to save water and have a better crop.”

Some farmers are turning to crops such as triticale or camelina that need little or no irrigation water, Buhrig said.

Those crops won’t provide much income but at least they help a farmer cover some of the fixed costs associated with his land, he said.

“They’re not high-dollar crops but they’re ‘get me over’ crops,” Buhrig said. “Leaving a field fallow is not cheap. Your water bill and taxes stay the same.”

Weeds become a major issue in fields left fallow, Chamberlin said.

Weed patches have developed on some land left idle “and now they’re going to have to fight that weed seed for the next several years,” he said.

Because sugar beets and corn for grain are both high-water crops and need water longer in the season than many other crops, acreage for both is down by about a half compared to normal in the region, Buhrig said. More shorter-season corn varieties were planted, he added.

Onions are a high-water crop, but they are also the main cash crop in the area, so those acres have decreased only slightly during the drought.

Farmers are getting more conservative with their fall fertilizer programs, Buhrig said.

“It’s getting a little harder to spend that $300 on fertilizer in a fall-bedded operation if you don’t know for sure you’re going to (have the water to) be able to grow that crop the next year,” he said.

Water from the irrigation district stopped flowing in August the past two seasons — about two months earlier than normal. But because the allotment was reduced by two-thirds, a lot of farmers ran out of water in July.

The effects of the drought have been felt most severely on the 50,000 acres along the upper parts of the irrigation district, where growers are totally dependent on water from the reservoir.

Growers on the lower parts of the system have access to supplemental water from the Snake River, but that also increases their pumping costs.

The availability of additional water on the lower parts of the system has created its own problem.

Because growers have switched a large portion of their cash crops, mainly onions, to parts of the system with more water, it has resulted in shortened rotations.

For example, instead of planting onions every four or five years in a field, farmers might plant them two out of three years or three out of four years to take advantage of the water that is available there.

Those types of practices aren’t good over the long term because they can lead to a build-up of soil-borne diseases and poor crop quality, Reitz said.

“If you can’t rotate through to other crops, (the problem) just gets compounded year to year,” he said. “For the long term, we don’t want to see those kinds of practices continue.”

Through the drought, much of the work being done at the OSU research station has centered on helping growers maximize the efficiency of their irrigation.

Researchers worked on about 40 experiments this year involving drip irrigation, said Clint Shock, the station’s director.

Some of the work, such as the station’s drip irrigation trials, has been going on for two decades. The station has for years studied irrigation scheduling — turning water on and off at the right time, Shock said.

The drought has caused a lot of growers to adopt those practices, which the station has preached about and studied for years, he said.

Growers and water managers in the area are keeping a close eye on the precipitation forecast for the coming winter. Currently, there’s about a 50-50 chance of the basin receiving a normal amount of snowpack, Chamberlin said.

With only about 5,000 acre-feet of available carryover water stored in the reservoir — far below the 350,000 acre-feet that would be expected during an average year — farmers in this area are heading into 2016 with even more uncertainty regarding their water supply.

“Right now farmers are (preparing) ground for next spring not knowing what kind of water year they are going to have,” Chamberlin said. “That’s tough when you’re looking at a (reservoir) that’s empty.”

Oregon regulators fine aerial pesticide spraying company

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — State regulators have fined a company that conducts aerial pesticide spraying on private timberlands for worker protection violations.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says Applebee Aviation must pay $1,100 and implement new procedures and training. The company’s Commercial Pesticide Operator license was also suspended.

Regulators say Applebee Aviation employees did not get pesticide safety training, were not provided with decontamination materials, nor with safety gear. They also faced potential for pesticide exposure due to a defective hatch seal on a pesticide mixture tank.

Officials were alerted to the problems in April, when a spraying crew member went to a hospital. The man said he had to regularly take shelter from herbicides sprayed from a helicopter.

Applebee Aviation owner Mike Applebee declined to comment on the violations, but said he would comply with the order.

Oregon State Fair signs contract with new carnival operators

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon State Fair has brought on a new Portland contractor to provide carnival operations beginning next year.

The Statesman Journal reports that officials announced the state fair had severed its nearly four-decades-old partnership with Funtastic Shows and signed a new deal with Rainier Amusements, which launched in 2014.

State fair spokesman Dan Cox says officials had pursued a new deal because of a scheduling conflict with Funtastic, which also provides carnival operations for the Washington State Fair.

Plans for Rainier Amusement’s debut at next year’s state fair haven’t been detailed, but several new rides are expected to be introduced.

The 2016 state fair is scheduled to begin Aug. 26.

Oregon timber sale draws protest from environmental groups

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Environmentalist groups have stalled a timber sale in Benton County that calls for the cutting of about 8 million board feet of timber.

The Corvallis Gazette-Times reports the U.S. Board of Land Management awarded the Rainbow Bridge timber sale Sept. 16 to Freres Lumber for $2.6 million, giving the company the right to log the 135-acre parcel near Alpine.

But the sale won’t become final until a resolution is reached with Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands and the Benton Forest Coalition.

Most of the timber cut would be generated through variable retention harvest, a technique touted for its environmental benefits. The trees that would be left standing would be clustered together with large areas left open.

Environmentalists argue that forest openings should be created naturally by fire, storms and insects.

ODFW won’t authorize killing wolves despite multiple attacks

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon wildlife officials won’t authorize killing members of the Mount Emily wolf pack despite five confirmed attacks on a sheep herd since June.

Under the state’s wolf recovery plan, which moved into Phase 2 this year, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife can authorize lethal control of wolves after two confirmed “depredations,” or one confirmed attack and three attempts.

But ODFW chose not to in this case, despite four documented attacks by the Mount Emily pack in August and a fifth in June.

At least seven sheep and a guard dog were killed in pack attacks investigated June 22, Aug. 4, Aug. 15, Aug. 24 and Aug. 27. The attacks would have qualified for lethal control even under Phase 1 of the recovery plan, which required four confirmed depredations over a six-month period.

As required under the wolf plan, producer Jeremy Bingham of Utopia Land and Livestock formally asked ODFW for “lethal relief from the wolves that are massacring our sheep.”

The department, which hasn’t authorized killing any wolves since two in 2011, turned him down. In a Sept. 25 letter to Bingham, ODFW wildlife biologist Mark Kirsch said non-lethal measures had worked since the last attack in late August.

“We are sorry your experience with Oregon’s forest lands has been problematic this year,” Kirsch concluded in his letter to Bingham. “It is our hope you complete your grazing season with no further loss.”

Department officials also noted Bingham would be removing his sheep from the area in October under the terms of his seasonal grazing permit in the Umatilla National Forest.

Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said the Mount Emily pack now is frequenting the central and southern part of their known range area, and the sheep are in the northeastern edge. Three of the pack members wear radio collars that allow biologists to track their movements.

Bingham is furious, and said ODFW officials are dishonest and “two-faced politicians.”

“It’s unfortunate I trusted them,” he said by text to the Capital Press. “The only interest to them is that the wolves eat the economy of Eastern Oregon.”

Bingham said he’s been patient and followed Oregon’s wolf plan rules in the face of repeated losses to wolves over the past two years. He estimates he’s lost more than 100 ewes. One guard dog was killed this year; in 2014 two were injured and another disappeared and is presumed dead.

“We have not harmed any wolves but we are not in the business of sacrificing assets to feed (ODFW’s) pet dogs,” Bingham said by text.

ODFW investigates reported livestock attacks but follows a strict protocol that includes examining wounds and measuring bite marks and tracks before confirming wolves were responsible. ODFW depredation reports do not correspond to Bingham’s claimed losses. He said he didn’t report many attacks; other producers have repeatedly said livestock often disappear in wolf country. They suspect wolves kill many more cattle and sheep than are confirmed in depredation reports.

Bingham is general manager of Utopia Land and Livestock, a family company based in Burley, Idaho. He grazes sheep in Idaho, and for the past three seasons held a grazing permit in the Umatilla National Forest in Oregon as well. The permit allowed him to graze 2,000 ewes and lambs for a little over four months. He must remove them from public land Oct. 9.

The Mount Emily pack, which at the end of 2014 was thought to consist of seven wolves, has been a problem.

In September 2014 wolves attacked Bingham’s sheep on consecutive nights, killing a total of eight sheep and injuring two of five guard dogs; a third dog was missing, according to the initial ODFW report. The incident was the first time herd dogs were attacked in Oregon, the department said at the time.

Bingham said he’s taken steps to fend off wolves. He hired a herder who is with the sheep 24 hours a day, placed five to seven guard dogs with each sheep band, penned sheep at night on occasion and deployed alarm lights and a siren that is activated by a wolf’s radio collar. He said a federal Wildlife Services agent voluntarily sat with the herd overnight several times.

Bingham said Wildlife Services and the U.S. Forest Service, which administers the grazing allotment, have been “incredible” agencies to work with. He said ODFW led him to believe there was recourse for the wolf attacks but now won’t do what’s allowed under the state plan. He said allowing wolves to kill multiple sheep is “just training pups to be chronic depredators.” He predicted elk and antelope populations will decline due to wolves and said attacks on humans will happen.

“ODFW has an agenda and it is only about politics, not science,” Bingham said.

Oregon official explains defense of Clean Water Act rules

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The State of Oregon is defending the federal government’s new Clean Water Act regulations in court because they’re expected to simplify the statute’s administration, according to a top state official.

It’s possible that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules will allow state officials to issue Clean Water Act permits, which are currently dispensed by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Richard Whitman, natural resources policy adviser for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

The regulations have met with controversy because opponents fear the new definition of “waters of the United States” will significantly increase the federal government’s jurisdiction over waterways on private property.

Multiple states have filed lawsuits challenging the rules, while Oregon and several other states have intervened as defendants in support of the regulatory change.

“This is an issue that has frankly been politicized nationally,” Whitman said before the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water.

Oregon officials believe the amount of water under the federal government’s purview will only increase by 3 to 5 percent under the new regulations, he said.

“As a technical and policy matter, we do not believe the rule is a major expansion of federal jurisdiction,” Whitman said.

Congress decreed that “waters of the U.S.” fall under Clean Water Act jurisdiction but did not define the term, leaving that problem to agencies and courts, he said.

The matter was the subject of three U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the most recent in 2006.

Because the justices disagreed on how to determine whether a water body is regulated, the case established three conflicting standards, Whitman said.

“You have complete confusion in the lower courts about which of these three tests is the right one,” he said.

The EPA’s new rules are meant to clear up some of that confusion by reducing the number of waterways that must be examined on a case-by-case basis, Whitman said.

Most agricultural activities continue to be exempt from Clean Water Act regulations, he said.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, which is involved in litigation against the rules, is disappointed that the State of Oregon intervened as a defendant without consulting with agricultural groups, said Jerome Rosa, the organization’s executive director.

Rosa said he disagrees with Whitman’s characterization of the regulations, which OCA thinks will be extremely detrimental to ranchers.

“We don’t see it that way,” he said.

Cougar kills livestock in N. Willamette Valley

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

CANBY, Ore. — A cougar has been killing livestock and worrying families near this north Willamette Valley town.

Stefani Carlson, whose husband, Paul, owns and operates 4:8 Financial, an investment services firm in Canby, said they lost two alpacas and three lambs last week. Another neighbor lost three sheep around the same time, and another nearby family lost two llamas and a pygmy goat, Carlson said.

“Everyone knows it’s funky out there, a weird feeling out there,” Carlson said. “Even cattle are acting funny out here. (One of our neighbors), Nancy Bennett, said one of her llamas jumped over one of their fences and hurt its leg badly trying to protect (their livestock from) something out there.”

Bennett said her llama has been on “super-high alert” ever since Sept. 9, when the cougar first killed her livestock.

USDA Wildlife Services sent out a trapper who set bait near the dead animal carcasses to try and catch the cougar, but the effort has not been successful.

USDA officials were not immediately available for comment.

Farmers seek lawmakers’ help on transmission line

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — Farmers near Boardman, Ore., hope state legislators will influence the U.S. Navy on the siting of a proposed transmission line.

Growers in the area fear that the power line — which Idaho Power plans to build from Boardman to Melba, Idaho — will take roughly $30 million of irrigated farmland out of production.

An alternative to this possibility involves repurposing an existing easement that runs across the Navy’s bombing range near Boardman.

The size of the easement’s footprint would not have to be increased, but the decision involves federal action and the Navy doesn’t see the issue as a high priority, said Craig Reeder, vice president of Hale Farms.

Reeder asked members of the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water to tell the Navy that the transmission line should not be built over farmland that’s crucial to the region’s economy.

The Navy has a requirement that the easement can only be repurposed if there are no viable alternatives, but a federal environmental study examines siting the transmission line on farmland in the region, said Don Rice, director of North American operations for Greenwood Resources, which owns poplar tree farms in the area.

The state government could help convince the Navy that this option isn’t actually viable, he said.

The entirety of the project spans more than 300 miles and is expected to cost up to $1.2 billion, said Mitch Colburn, engineering leader for Idaho Power.

The transmission line is needed to improve the electrical grid’s reliability and facilitate the expansion of renewable energy in the region, he said.

Aside from the Idaho Power transmission line, the region is facing other power line issues as wind turbine projects must find way to connect to the Bonneville Power Administration’s electrical grid along the Columbia river, said Bob Levy, who farms near Hermiston, Ore.

There’s currently a lack of planning, with wind energy projects winning approval from regulators before their developers figure out transmission routes, he said.

To compare, a builder cannot construct a house without showing how it will connect to existing infrastructure, Levy said.

The state should set a policy to plan for power corridors and to protect high-value irrigated farmland, said Reeder.

Currently, decisions are made based on soil type — while the sandy soils in the Boardman area are not considered the highest quality, they’re nonetheless capable of growing high-value crops when irrigated, he said.

Wallowa County horse killed by elk, says ODFW

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

When a horse turned up dead earlier this month in rural Wallowa County after an apparent bloody struggle, wolves were investigated as the primary target.

The evidence, however, soon pointed to a much more unlikely suspect.

Wildlife officials determined the horse, which was found dead Sept. 18 in a pasture along the upper Imnaha River, had actually been gored by a bull elk — a scenario they admit is extremely rare, though not entirely unheard of.

The unusual ruling is tough for some local ranchers to believe in an area where suspicion of wolves runs high. But the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife says its examination clears the predators this time, and places the responsibility on the antlers of a feisty elk.

“It is breeding season for elk. Bulls are very aggressive this time of year,” said Mike Hansen, district wildlife biologist with ODFW in Enterprise.

The horse was initially found by elk hunters in a 20-acre pasture on the Grouse Creek Ranch, about 18 miles upriver from the town of Imnaha. ODFW arrived the same day to investigate, noticing the carcass was mostly still intact except for a piece of intestine on the ground 40 yards away.

After surveying the scene, Hansen said they identified elk and horse tracks indicating the animals had been in a tussle. There was a single half-inch cut on the horse’s nose, deep puncture wound into the groin and scrapes on its side matching the size and space of elk antlers.

The horse struggled and slid down the hillside, Hansen said, before it died of internal bleeding. There were no predator tracks of any kind in the area, and no sign of wolf bite marks.

Roblyn Brown, ODFW assistant wolf program coordinator, said elk attacks on livestock are very rare but have happened before. She cited an incident several years ago in southwest Oregon where a young spike bull charged a heifer and punctured the cow’s lungs and liver.

“All we can do is follow our investigation protocol,” Brown said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services also agreed with ODFW that it was an elk, not a wolf, that killed the horse on Grouse Creek Ranch.

Despite the conclusion, several ranchers have their doubts. Eric Porter, who owns the ranch where the horse was killed, said the location of injuries were typical with those of a wolf bite.

This wasn’t the first time Porter was disappointed with the outcome of an investigation. In May, one of his calves was killed on the property, with wolf tracks spotted nearby and GPS coordinates placing a collared wolf in the area.

Yet even with that evidence, Porter said ODFW ruled the incident a “probable” wolf attack since bite marks appeared to be from a coyote.

“All the evidence was there, but they wouldn’t confirm it,” Porter said.

Oregon lists wolves as endangered species east of highways 395, 78 and 95, and it remains illegal to kill a wolf except under specific circumstances outlined in the state’s wolf management and conservation plan.

Todd Nash, a rancher in Enterprise and wolf committee chairman for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said producers are frustrated by how difficult it is for them to prove wolves are responsible for attacking livestock. He sees the elk ruling as a huge stretch.

“I can sympathize with not finding wolf tracks, but because you find elk tracks in the area, that’s what you come up with? It’s crazy,” Nash said.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider removing wolves from the state endangered species list in Eastern Oregon in the coming months, based on the department’s recommendation. Conservation groups argue the species’ population remains fragile and in need of protection.

Until then, Nash said producers need to make sure they continue to follow the rules. Oregon State Police is investigating two wolves recently killed in Wallowa County, known as the Sled Springs pair, found 50 yards apart from each other. An OSP spokesman told the Oregonian the deaths “do not appear to be natural,” and poaching is being considered as a factor.

Nash said neither he nor the cattlemen’s association would ever condone poaching, but added ranchers are tired of being the only ones asked to play by the rules.

“I certainly do not encourage people to take matters into their own hands,” Nash said. “We still need to do the things required of us. It’s our obligation as OCA members to work through this.”

Paulette Pyle speaks up for agriculture

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Paulette Pyle says she is retired after 35 years as grass roots director of the lobbyist group Oregonians for Food and Shelter, but that may not be possible.

For one thing, she works 40 hours a month while new Executive Director Katie Fast gets her feet on the ground. “I told Katie I want to make sure she’s successful,” Pyle said.

Beyond that, her status as mentor and model — especially to women in agriculture and forestry — may not allow her to simply slide out of the limelight.

The Capital Press caught up with Pyle as she was once again on the move, this time to the Oregon Farm Bureau’s annual golf tournament. A sampling of the conversation:

Her best accomplishment?

“You mean what WE’VE done and what WE’VE accomplished?” Pyle corrected, emphasizing that a coalition of people have worked together to represent producers.

“I think the highlight for me has been engaging in a profession that is my passion,” she said. “Helping ag and forestry is very rewarding.”

She regrets that in an era of highly partisan politics, the people who supply society’s food, fiber and shelter have been “demonized.”

And yet there appears to be growing recognition, at least among legislators and agency policy-makers, that rural Oregon and natural resource industries are critical parts of the state’s economic structure. Producers have been able to make the case that their viewpoints deserve consideration, Pyle agreed.

“I think, politically, we have,” she said. “When we have time to tell our story and present the facts, we do prevail. It’s a struggle and it’s hard work all the time, but we can get it done.”

She has three major concerns over the next couple years. At the top of her list is the urban-rural divide.

“The biggest challenge is for rural Oregon to stay in business,” Pyle said. “Life begins and ends with politics, it’s a true statement. Until urban legislators take the time to understand the challenges of the less populated part of the state, that will be the number one challenge.”

Second on her list is another divide, this time between various types of farmers, “Initiated by our organic friends,” Pyle said. Oregonians for Food and Shelter supports all kinds of agriculture — organic, conventional or using genetically modified crops, she said. But she said organic farmers, hoping to get an edge in the market, are trying hard to bend public policy their way and complicate life for farmers who use other tools to get their crops to market.

“We ought to let them all grow what they want to grow on their own private property, and take it from there,” Pyle said.

Pyle did not include the flap between Oregon wine grape growers and other farmers over spray drift that can damage vineyards. Some wine grape growers explored taking the issue to the Legislature, but OFS helped steer it to farmer-to-farmer discussions instead.

“I think we are on track to resolve that issue,” Pyle said.

Third is the growers themselves. “I believe they need to step it up,” Pyle said. “Every farmer in this state, all farmers — GMO, biotech, conventional, organic — needs to stand up and tell their story in a positive way.”

On another topic, Pyle praised the young women farmers who have emerged to effectively tell ag’s story through social media and at the Legislature.

“They come as a whole person — a mom, a farmer — and present a different version of what agriculture is all about,” she said.

Paulette Pyle

Who: Retiring grass roots director of the lobbying group Oregonians for Food and Shelter.

Career: Came to Oregon in late 1970s, was hired by OFS as temporary campaign worker to defeat measures that would have banned application of phoenoxy herbicides. OFS offered her a job in 1980 and she was with them until announcing retirement this year.

Personal: 69, lives in Albany with her husband, Ken. They have six grown children and 16 grandchildren.

Awards and honors: Pyle will be presented the Oregon Agri-Business Council’s 2015 Ag Connection of the Year Award in November. A council news release said she “excelled at connecting natural resources groups with lawmakers to defend and protect Oregon’s natural resources industry.”

She previously received the 2013 Ted Young Award from the Oregon Forest Industries Council, which said she has “done so much to unite agriculture and forestry — and not allowed any one of our immediate interests to forsake the greater partnership. She also was presented the 2014 President’s Award from the Oregon Farm Bureau.

Advice to her successor, Katie Fast: “Stay close to the ground roots. Don’t take your eye off the ag and forestry businesses we represent.”


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