Oregon’s hazelnut crop is projected to hit 39,000 tons this fall, an 8 percent increase over 2014, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in Portland.
The crop won’t be a record — the state produced 47,000 tons in 2009 and 45,000 tons in 2013 — but Oregon accounts for 99 percent of U.S. production and continues to add orchard acreage at a pace of 3,000 to 5,000 acres per year. The state has an estimated 40,000 acres of hazelnuts.
Whether the price for this year’s crop will approach the record set in 2014 is an open question. Last year, frost severely damaged the crop in Turkey, the world’s leading producer. Candy, nut spread and snack companies quickly sought other sources, and the price for Oregon nuts soared over $1.70 a pound as a result. At one point last fall, an Oregon grower estimated every nut on his trees was worth 1.3 cents.
Michael Klein, executive of Oregon Hazelnuts, an industry group, said Turkey’s crop this year appears to be average. Frost hit again, but not as badly as in 2014, he said.
Like many other crops this year, hazelnut harvest will likely happen two or three weeks earlier than normal, Klein said.
According to the NASS harvest projection, 87.2 percent of the Oregon nuts tested as “good” and the average dry weight was 3.17 grams, down from 3.23 grams recorded in 2014. About 43 percent of nuts tested by NASS were categorized as “large” and 36 percent as “jumbo.”
Hazelnuts are Oregon’s ninth leading crop, with a 2013 value of $120 million, according to NASS.
ONTARIO, Ore. — When it comes to assessing how well various onion varieties grow in the Treasure Valley area, Oregon State University’s annual onion variety trial field day is a top destination for growers, seed dealers and industry representatives.
The OSU onion variety field day is one of several held around the Pacific Northwest this week but it’s particularly popular because it provides an impartial look at how varieties fare against each other under the same growing conditions, said onion industry consultant Bob Komoto.
“The real key of the OSU trial is that it’s a third party and not a seed company,” said Komoto, the retired manager of an onion shipper-packer operation in Ontario. “They do all the varieties for all the seed companies so you get an unbiased view of what’s happening. Anybody that wants to sell an onion here in the valley is going to have their onion in this trial.”
OSU’s Malheur County experiment station each year plants about four dozen of the main onion varieties grown in the Treasure Valley of Eastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho, the nation’s top onion producing region by volume.
“They do a very good job of trialing all the varieties that ... are available for the Treasure Valley,” said Jon Watson, special projects manager for JC Watson Packing Co. “We’re looking for an onion that does well in the Treasure Valley and this trial gives us a good idea of how the different varieties grow on the ground here compared with each other.”
The field trial includes yellow, red and white varieties, which are grown under both furrow and drip irrigation. Each variety has a 23-foot-long plot and there are five replicates of each one.
Some of the onions are lifted from the field while others are still growing.
Researchers plant at a high seeding rate and thin the stand by hand so all the varieties have about the same plant population, said Erik Feibert, one of the project’s lead researchers.
“It costs a lot of money to do it that way but you get really good data,” he said. “All of the onions are grown under the same conditions in the same location in an unbiased way so industry can compare them.”
Bill Johnson said his farming operation plants one or two new onion varieties each year and the field trial helps him figure out what those varieties will be.
“There are a couple of varieties we haven’t grown before that I liked, some that had some really good consistency,” he said about this year’s trial.
How well the varieties store is also an important factor, he said, and the industry will be watching closely for the results when OSU researchers grade them for storability in January.
When Mike Britton answers the phone at his North Unit Irrigation District office in Central Oregon these days, the conversations take a quick turn.
“The first three words are, ‘I heard a rumor,...’” Britton said.
And so it goes. Environmental groups have warned they intend to file suit over Oregon spotted frog habitat, and patrons of multiple Deschutes River Basin irrigation districts worry the outcome will leave their land with less water and more restrictions.
Britton, the North Unit manager, scheduled a town hall meeting Wednesday, Aug. 26 in Madras, Ore., to talk things out, share information and get everyone on the same page. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Madras Performing Arts Center on Southeast Buff Street.
Here’s the background: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in August 2014 listed the Oregon spotted frog as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act. The listing wasn’t a surprise; the frog has disappeared from an estimated 78 percent of its historic range, from Southwest British Columbia to Northern California.
Loss of its favored marsh habitat and introduction of predators such as bullfrogs are the primary reason for the frog’s decline. Fish & Wildlife proposed 22,600 acres in the Deschutes River Basin as “critical habitat.”
The Upper Deschutes in Central Oregon is one of the few places where the frogs can still be found, particularly in Crane Prairie and Wickiup Reservoirs and in the wetlands downstream from them and from Crescent Lake.
Irrigation districts, recognizing the potential impact of an Endangered Species Act listing, worked with Fish & Wildlife, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies and groups to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for spotted frogs. Britton heads a group, the Deschutes Basin Board of Control, which represents eight irrigation districts in the process.
But this summer, the Center for Biological Diversity and WaterWatch of Oregon separately gave 60 days notice they would file suit against the Bureau of Reclamation, which built the Crane Prairie, Wickiup and Crescent Lake reservoirs, and against the North Unit, Central Oregon and Tumalo irrigation districts, which operate and manage the dams and reservoirs.
The lawsuits allege the bureau and districts have harmed spotted frogs. In a news release, WaterWatch said “managing the Deschutes more like an irrigation ditch than a river has caused significant damage to river health.”
WaterWatch said it is primarily concerned about the stretch of river from Wickiup downstream to Bend. The Center for Biological Diversity questions the operations of Wickiup and Crane Prairie, saying the frog lives upstream and downstream of both and is harmed when river levels rise and fall rapidly in response to irrigation needs.
In a prepared statement, the Center’s endangered species director, Noah Greenwald, said the problems “can likely be fixed with minimal impact to irrigation districts.”
He said the Oregon Spotted Frog is “one of the most imperiled amphibians in the world” and the Bureau of Reclamation needs to “step up” its oversight of the dams.
Britton, the North Unit manager, said he doesn’t want to speculate on what the lawsuits will specifically allege once they are filed. “I wish we knew, good or bad,” he said.
Britton said the Center for Biological Diversity’s involvement is puzzling, because it hasn’t been involved in development of the habitat conservation plan. Britton said WaterWatch’s threat of legal action is disappointing, because it was among the agencies, districts, tribal leaders and others involved in the planning.
“I thought we were working for a collaborative solution,” he said.
One of the projects that emerged from the spotted frog work is called Ryan Ranch Meadow, a 65-acre site. Fish & Wildlife, the Forest Service and the districts see it as possible spotted frog habitat that could mitigate habitat loss elsewhere, Britton said. District volunteers installed pipes and fish screens and plan to flood the meadow to determine if it can retain enough water to be used by the frogs.
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon taxpayers will get $402 million in “kicker” rebates when they file their taxes next year.
Economists said Wednesday that the median rebate will be $124. The top 1 percent of taxpayers will get $4,600, and the bottom 20 percent will get $10.
Oregon’s kicker law is triggered when the state collects more than anticipated during a two-year budget cycle. When that happens, the additional money is kicked back to taxpayers.
Tax increases from 2013 and the economic recovery helped Oregon generate about 3 percent more than anticipated in personal income taxes.
In the past, kicker rebates have arrived as a check shortly before the holidays. Because of a change made in 2011, the money will now come as a credit when Oregonians file their taxes next year.
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A state agriculture official said Tuesday that Oregon’s hemp industry is not turning out the way lawmakers envisioned, so the department will recommend changes to the law regulating how it is grown.
The law authorizing industrial hemp production in Oregon was written to regulate it as an agricultural crop, with large fields of densely planted hemp grown for fiber, seed and oil, said Lindsay Eng, who oversees the hemp program for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Instead, the nine operations inspected by the department this year seem more interested in producing compounds known as CBDs, which don’t get people high, but are believed to have medical benefits. They are also found in marijuana.
As a result, Eng says the current law does not work well to regulate growers, who are growing small plots, sometimes in greenhouses, with the emphasis on producing buds that contain the CBDs.
“I imagine there will be some changes in the next year or two,” she said. “We definitely will have some recommendations to either shore up definitions or the intent. There is not a whole lot we can do through rulemaking.”
Hemp is related to marijuana, but it contains very low levels of the compound known as THC, which gets people high. It has a long history as an agricultural crop, but it was outlawed along with marijuana in 1937. The Legislature authorized hemp production in 2009, but the first permits were not issued until this year.
Meanwhile, the department suspended issuing new hemp permits on Monday. Eng said it was largely because of practical considerations. No one could start a crop this year, and the current three-year permits change to one-year permits starting Jan. 1.
The department has issued 13 permits for growing industrial hemp around the state, but only nine growers actually produced a crop. Tests have shown they all met the standards for low values of THC, but few approached the minimum acreage set out in the law of 2.5 acres, Eng said.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two portable smoke monitors have arrived in Eastern Oregon, giving officials a more accurate reading of air quality near the Canyon Creek complex of wildfires.
One of the monitors was placed in Prairie City, which was very smoky Monday. The other will be put in Seneca.
Firefighters battling the blaze spent Monday patrolling, improving and holding control lines. Officials say crews are positioned to protect homes in the residential areas of Upper Pine Creek and Upper Dog Creek.
Along the southeastern portion of the fire, crews used existing roads and trails to strengthen lines in preparation for a burnout operation. That is expected to slow the progress of the blaze and corral it into the Strawberry Wilderness.
The wildfire has destroyed more than three dozen homes. It has scorched 114 square miles and is about 30 percent contained.
In 2009, Pennsylvania State University entomologist John Tooker said he “naively waded into the slug world” after slug problems were the topic of 50 percent of his extension calls that year.
Today Tooker is one of the few U.S. researchers actively engaged in slug research.
Tooker will be a featured speaker at the Oregon State University seed crop and cereal production meetings in September.
Tooker also will speak at a seminar on the OSU campus, scheduled from 3 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 9 in room 4000 of the Agriculture and Life Sciences Building.
Sujayo Rao, field crop entomologist at Oregon State University, said that while Mid-Atlantic cropping patterns are different from Oregon’s, she believes Tooker can provide Oregon growers valuable insight on a problem that has beset them in recent years.
An industry study recently calculated the economic impact of slugs on Oregon grass seed crops at just under $100 million annually, or about 20 percent of the crops’ farm gate value.
“Clearly slugs are a big issue, and John Tooker is one of the few researchers nationwide who is doing research on slugs,” Rao said. “This seemed like a good opportunity to bring him to Oregon.”
In a Penn State University Department of Entomology research report, Tooker noted that a 2010 survey of Mid-Atlantic corn and soybean growers, showed that 82 percent of respondents identified slugs as their most challenging pest.
The report also included findings that cover crops, including cereal rye and clovers, helped limit slug damage by providing alternative feed sources for slugs. And it included information that minimal tillage — even light discing in the spring — helped reduce slug pressure.
Research in Oregon also has shown that tillage — even biennial tillage — provided significant benefits in slug control over continuous no till.
“Dr. Tooker’s visit provides an opportunity for us to learn about his slug management successes and challenges, while enlightening him about our challenges,” Rao said. “His awareness about our situation has potential for benefiting us at many levels.”
In addition to Tooker’s presentations, OSU Extension plant pathologist specialist Cindy Ocamb will provide presentations on the impacts of barley yellow dwarf virus in perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. OSU Extension weeds specialist Andy Hulting will look at Italian ryegrass, roughstalk bluegrass and annual bluegrass in wheat and seed crops. And OSU Extension cereals specialist Mike Flowers will provide a look at winter wheat varieties, grain protein, and diseases growers faced in 2015. Flowers also will provide information on seeding rate data.
Two meetings are scheduled on Sept. 10: One from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Elks Lodge in Forest Grove, 2810 Pacific Ave.; and a second from 1:30 to 5 p.m. at Roth’s Hospitality Center in West Salem, 1130 Wallace Road.
The final meeting is scheduled on Sept. 11 from 8 to 11:30 a.m. at the Linn County Fair and Expo Center, 3700 Knox Butte Road, Albany.
A federal judge has ruled that it’s unlawful to use motorized vehicles to remove juniper from nearly 80,000 acres in the vicinity of Oregon’s Steens Mountain.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is cutting juniper from roughly 336,000 acres in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Area because the trees are crowding out native vegetation.
Juniper removal is important to ranchers because it’s expected to prevent further population declines of the sage grouse, a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection.
If the bird is listed as threatened or endangered, ranchers fear further restrictions on cattle grazing in its habitat.
U.S. District Judge Garr King has now ruled that using motorized vehicles within “wilderness study areas” is prohibited by a federal law that governs management of the Steens Mountain area.
The BLM argued that there’s an exception to the vehicle ban for “administrative purposes” — including juniper removal — but King sided with the Oregon Natural Desert Association, which filed a lawsuit against the practice.
The judge said that BLM was interpreting the “administrative purposes” language too broadly.
“The BLM’s interpretation places no limit on what falls in the category of ‘administrative,’” he said. “BLM — as the agency charged with implementing Congress’ enactments — could call any activity ‘administrative’ since its job is to ‘administer’ the laws.
Supporters of juniper removal worry that the ruling will complicate activities within the 79,600 acres designated as “wilderness study areas” inside the project’s boundaries.
John O’Keefe, president-elect of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said the task of removing juniper from enormous swaths of land is difficult enough without onerous restrictions on equipment.
“We’ve got to use the most efficient means we can. These laws can be problematic from time to time,” he said.
It’s unfortunate ONDA wants to limit such tools, as juniper removal is beneficial to the ecosystem that the group wants protected, O’Keefe said.
“To do this effectively, we have to do this fairly large-scale,” he said.
Dan Morse, ONDA’s conservation director, said the group’s lawsuit was intended to enforce the intentions of Congress when it banned motorized vehicles in wilderness study areas.
The vehicle prohibition is meant to preserve the values of solitude and dispersed recreation, as well as prevent soil disturbances, he said.
Juniper treatments can continue with people on the ground, rather than heavy machinery and all-terrain vehicles, Morse said. “We don’t oppose the project’s basic purpose.”
Oregon’s agricultural exports, already the third leading sector among the $21 billion worth of products leaving the state annually, appear poised for continued expansion.
In particular, marketers and trade experts say Vietnam and the Philippines may approve imports of fresh blueberries, and fresh or processed potatoes may find greater acceptance in those countries, Japan, China, Taiwan and elsewhere.
Bryan Ostlund of the Oregon Blueberry Commission said fresh berry exports to South Korea, approved in 2011, reached 1.4 million pounds in 2014 and are on pace to top that in 2015. Korea had a strong retail system in place, which aided distribution after exports were approved, but Vietnam is developing the economic infrastructure and middle class that could make it a “really nice fit” for Oregon products as well, Ostlund said.
“The economy, you can feel it, is just ready to explode in a positive way,” he said. “The buying power is rapidly coming to the table.”
Pests and diseases that may arrive with imports are always a concern to be worked out, he said, as are food safety protocols.
“The Vietnamese and Philippine governments are very keen on broadening the scope of what comes in from the U.S.,” he said. “The growth potential seems huge to me.”
Processed and frozen products such as french fries are popular in Asian countries, as are “chipping” potatoes used for snacks, but grower groups are trying to expand the trade to include more fresh “table stock” potatoes, said Bill Brewer, director of the Oregon Potato Commission.
In Vietnam, for example, fresh potatoes are primarily used in soups, but Oregon representatives have demonstrated western cooking styles, which generated a “great deal of interest,” Brewer said.
The appearance of potatoes from Oregon, Washington and Idaho is totally different than potatoes, usually from China, that Vietnamese consumers are accustomed to, he said. Restaurants and hotels that cater to western tourists are good markets for Northwest potatoes, as are supermarkets whose customers include people who have lived in or visited the U.S.
“Whenever they’re exposed to our potatoes, they like them,” Brewer said.
Asia’s two biggest economies hold continued economic promise for Oregon. China now accepts only processed potato products and could be a great market for chipping and table stock potatoes, Brewer said. Japan is the number one market for processed potatoes and accepts fresh potatoes for chipping, but also could be good market for table stock potatoes, he said.
Because Oregon “faces” Asia, as exporters like to say, Asian trade is a natural, experts say. About 80 percent of what Oregon exports goes to 21 Pacific Rim nations, a category that includes the five largest markets: Canada, China, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. Those five alone receive 60 percent of what Oregon exports, according state economic analyst Josh Lehner.
Oregon’s largest export sector is electronics, followed by heavy manufacturing, with agricultural and food products third.
Barry Horowitz, an international trade consultant in Portland, said Oregon food and crop commissions previously operated on their own but now are beginning to cooperate in presentations to foreign buyers. Thinking of Oregon’s high-quality food products as a series of meals, complete with Oregon beer and wine, sharpens the focus, he said.
“That is a package that is unbeatable in the international marketplace,” he said.
Expanded trade with Vietnam is an example of the export potential that could benefit the state, he said.
“You have a country with almost 100 million people and a literacy rate over 95 percent,” Horowitiz said. “Western countries can’t get in there fast enough.”
Vietnamese distrust of Chinese food products works to the advantage of Oregon producers, who have “developed a highly visible reputation for high quality food,” he said.
“We’re not the most internationally minded place but we have enormous potential, because ag is a fundamental industry everywhere,” Horowitz said. “We can’t talk Intel to everyone, and not everyone in Vietnam can afford Nike shoes. But everyone in Vietnam can afford Oregon food products.”
Read economic analyst Josh Lehner’s report at http://oregoneconomicanalysis.com/2015/08/12/oregon-exports-2015-industries/
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The state Department of Transportation says a portion of Highway 26 will remain closed until at least noon Monday because of a wildfire near Manning, Oregon.
ODOT spokesman Lou Torres says Highway 47 serves as a detour for eastbound and westbound traffic. Manning is about 30 miles west of Portland.
SALEM — Oregon emergency authorities will have to assess damages from the Canyon Creek Complex fire before seeking financial assistance from the federal government.
At this point, it’s too early to estimate damage because firefighters are still battling the blaze, said Andrew Phelps, director of Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management.
The agency is contacting state and county officials to inform them how to document damage for the assessment, he said.
“We’re still in the early stage of assessing that damage,” Phelps said. “It’s communicating what the impact is to our communities and our state.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency can offer several types of help if a disaster is declared, but Gov. Kate Brown must first make a request and conduct a joint preliminary damage assessment, said Ryan Ike, spokesman for the agency.
If the federal government then determines a major disaster declaration is warranted, it can cover 75 percent of the repair costs for damaged roads, power lines, bridges and other infrastructure, Ike said.
It’s also possible for FEMA to provide grants and loans to individuals, though this kind of assistance is subject to a different standard, he said.
To qualify for assistance in repairing public infrastructure, a state must demonstrate the disaster damages cross a certain financial threshold, based on its population, said Phelps.
In Oregon’s case, that means $5.4 million in damages.
“Individual assistance is a little bit trickier,” he said.
Though several factors are considered, a key measure is how many uninsured primary residences were destroyed. Secondary or vacation homes don’t count, he said.
If assistance is approved, disaster victims typically receive about $20,000 to $30,000 per household, said Phelps. “They don’t make you whole. They don’t rebuild your house for you.”
While state officials will conduct the analysis, it’s historically rare for wildfires to cause enough damage to qualify for individual assistance from FEMA, he said.
Data from the agency indicate that states face a high hurdle in obtaining help.
In April, Oklahoma asked for individual assistance after tornadoes, flooding and strong winds that damaged 900 residences and destroyed 89, with about 26 to 38 percent of them uninsured, depending on the county.
The request was denied because “damage was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies,” according to FEMA.
To compare, 36 homes have been burned in the Canyon Creek Complex fire, though it’s unclear how many were uninsured.
SALEM — Although Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that the state will do everything it can to make sure victims of the Canyon Creek Complex fire have the tools, resources and knowledge they need to rebuild, the state can provide little in the way of direct aid.
Its only aid program for fire victims — the wildfire damage housing relief program — has strict income restrictions that will exclude all but the poorest of applicants.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed a bill that dedicated $50,000 in financial assistance to low-income residents who lose their primary residences to wildfire, with claims limited to $5,000 per household.
To qualify for the program, a household’s income must be 25 percent below the federal poverty level. For example, a household of four would have to earn $18,188 or less per year to be eligible.
Organizations that serve needy Oregonians in the fire area expect that the criteria will likely prevent some homeowners from getting help from the program.
“There definitely are people within that income bracket, but there are more people that need help also,” said Margaret Davidson, executive director of Community Connection of Northeast Oregon, an agency that serves Grant County.
When the organization learned of the program, “We thought, ‘This is going to exclude a lot of people,’” she said.
The $50,000 allocated to the program may not be sufficient if many homes are lost to wildfires in one year, Davidson said.
It is possible for Oregon Housing and Community Services, which administers the program, to shift money from other parts of its budget into the wildfire relief fund if necessary, said Rem Nivens, assistant director of public affairs for the agency.
As of Aug. 20, nobody affected by the Canyon Creek Complex fire in Grant County had applied for assistance, he said.
The program is aimed at closing the financial “gap” that low-income residents face when they suddenly need to relocate after a fire, said Scott Cooper, executive direct of NeighborImpact, a nonprofit that serves Central Oregon.
“It’s $5,000 max, so it’s not going to rebuild your house. But at least it can help you figure out the next steps of your life after you’ve lost everything,” he said.
The program will help those who would have “fallen through the cracks otherwise,” Cooper said. “You’re talking about people who could not afford to pay an insurance premium.”
Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, originally wanted to devote $200,000 to the wildfire damage housing relief program but the amount was scaled back by legislative leaders, said Kara Walker, his spokesperson.
The legislature’s Emergency Board — which makes emergency funding decisions — may decide to increase the overall amount and ease the income requirements, she said. McLane is a member of the board, which meets next month.
It’s also possible that assistance funding could be obtained through the Federal Emergency Management Agency if the wildfire is declared a federal disaster, said Cooper of NeighborImpact.
However, that’s unlikely to happen unless an event displaces large numbers of people, Cooper said. “Wildfires don’t usually rise to that level.”
Melissa Navas, spokesperson for Brown, said state agencies will partner with organizations such as the American Red Cross to help residents who’ve lost homes.
“The governor is utilizing existing staff and structures within her office, such as Regional Solutions and Constituent Services, to foster collaboration between state agencies and local governments,” Navas said in an email. “This will connect those affected by fires with resources and develop strategies to assist them.”
While the Oregon Revenue Department doesn’t have specific tax relief programs for wildfire victims, residents may be able to get property tax reductions from their county governments, said Bob Estabrook, spokesperson for the agency.
Sorting out funding for repairs to roads and other infrastructure will have to wait until the fire is under control, said Dave Thompson, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Exactly how much state and federal money is used to repair highways and county roads will depend on the wildfire being declared a disaster by the federal government, he said.
Right now, the focus is on fighting the fire and saving lives, Thompson said. “Quite frankly, the funding thing we’ll worry about later.”
The Canyon Creek Complex fire has caused more destruction to homes in Oregon than any blaze in recent history, said Rich Hoover, community liaison for the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.
So far, 36 homes have been destroyed by the fire. In 2002, 18 homes were lost in the Eyerly fire in Jefferson County, and before that, 19 were lost in the Skeleton fire near Bend in 1996, he said.