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Threemile Canyon general manager appointed to Oregon Ag Board

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Marty Myers, the general manager of a diversified dairy and crop farm in Boardman, Ore., has been appointed to the Oregon Board of Agriculture.

The company he operates, Threemile Canyon Farms, has about 50,000 cows and also raises potatoes and organic produce on more than 90,000 acres in the Columbia River Basin.

“I’ve got a diverse background in agriculture,” said Myers, noting that he worked on farms through high school and college.

Myers said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown asked him to join the advisory board, which makes policy recommendations for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, due to his past experience with task forces on dairy air quality and biotechnology, as well as his involvement in international trade programs.

“I try to find solutions rather than take hard line positions,” he said.

The appointment is not without controversy, however.

Friends of Family Farmers, a group that advocates for environmentally responsible agriculture, criticized Brown’s choice as misguidedly bending to corporate farming.

“For us, it shows the governor wants to take agriculture in the direction of industrialization,” said Ivan Maluski, the group’s policy director.

Maluski said Threemile Canyon Farms isn’t representative of sustainable farming in Oregon because it’s a “mega-operator” that causes air pollution and generates large amounts of manure.

It’s also concerning that Myers will be able to guide ODA policies that affect his company, which could create a conflict of interest, said Maluski. “They don’t need special access.”

Myers said it was offensive to label his operation as a “factory farm,” as it’s run by two families.

“It’s a group of families that have come together and we’re farming,” he said.

The dairy has a digester that captures methane from manure and turns it into renewable energy, Myers said. “When you look at air quality, we’re very proud of what we do.”

The company employs 300 full-time employees and is regularly subject to customer audits to ensure animal welfare and other best practices, he said. “Large does not mean it’s bad. It gives the critical mass to do things the right way.”

PacifiCorp asks Oregon to ease green energy contract terms

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

BEND, Ore. (AP) — The power company PacifiCorp is asking Oregon to change green power rules so as to reduce contract lengths and lower the amount of renewable power it is required to accept.

The Bulletin in Bend reports that the company has asked the Oregon Public Utility Commission to lower contract terms for qualified renewable power generators from 15 years to three. It has also requested to lower the limit on renewable power projects that the utility must connect to its system from 10 megawatts to 100 kilowatts.

Critics of the request say it will stifle growth of renewable energy sources by making them difficult to finance.

PacifiCorp officials argue that the fixed-price, long-term contracts don’t work with the short-term nature of the energy market.

Tree removal planned for Oregon recreation area

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is planning to cut down trees that are encroaching on meadowland at Marys Peak.

The Statesman Journal reports timber company Georgia Pacific is paying over $175,000 to harvest about 3,000 trees Tuesday in the popular recreation area east of Corvallis.

Retired Siuslaw National Forest ecologist Cindy McCain is a member of the Corvallis-based Marys Peak Alliance who says noble fir reduce meadowland by about a half meter each year. The tree growth has fractured what was a single meadow in 1948, impacting habitat and views.

Five years of studying the issue led the federal agency to collaborate with the Marys Peak Alliance to remove the trees.

Work will cause periodic closures of camps, trails and roads.

Old school is cool again

Langlois News from The World Newspaper -

LANGLOIS — Around the country, old schools are closing as student populations decline or new structures are built. In many cases, the buildings could still be useful, but instead sit vacant until the elements take their toll.

Free pesticide collection set for Malheur County

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ONTARIO, Ore. — A free pesticide collection event for agricultural producers in Malheur County will be held Oct. 23.

The first-ever such event for farmers and commercial applicators in Eastern Oregon was last year.

Oregon State University Cropping Systems Extension Agent Bill Buhrig, who is helping coordinate the event, said, “It’s a pleasant surprise” that another free collection is being held so soon. “We’re trying to get the word out to everybody to take advantage of it.”

A total of 10,506 pounds of unusable pesticides were collected during the 2014 event and organizers are expecting a similar amount this year, said Kevin Masterson, toxics coordinator for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The collection event is being funded by ODEQ and the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the work has been contracted out to Clean Harbors Environmental Services.

Masterson said a household hazardous waste collection is being held the day before and because Clean Harbors is the waste collector for both events, it made sense to hold another pesticide collection.

“It allows us to stretch our dollars further by pairing those two events,” he said.

The pesticide collection event will occur from noon to 4 p.m. at Ontario Sanitary Service, 540 SE Ninth Ave. in Ontario.

Growers must fill out an application and pre-register with Clean Harbors. The pre-registration requirement is only for logistics purposes so the company can schedule drop-off times and not be overwhelmed, said Graham Gadzia of Clean Harbors.

People can use only their first names if they wish, he said.

“The only reason I ask them for a name at all is so I can contact them and make an appointment,” he said.

Buhrig said the sole purpose of the event is to get rid of unwanted pesticides and the registration information is for internal use only and won’t be shared with any government agency or third party.

After an application is submitted, Clean Harbors will call the grower and schedule a drop-off time.

“You can register under a fake name as long as you remember that fake name when they call,” Buhrig said.

If growers are unsure what a product is, they can just describe the quantity and physical state of the waste as best they can on the form, he said.

Empty containers will also be accepted.

Applications must be returned to Clean Harbors by Oct. 9. For more information, contact Gadzia at (503) 953-6397 or by e-mail at gadzia.graham@cleanharbors.com, or call Buhrig at (541) 881-1417.

Registration forms can be downloaded at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/malheur

Flat minimum wage invigorates proponents of increase

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — Oregon’s minimum wage won’t rise in 2016, which is expected to save money for farms and other businesses but also invigorate advocates of a higher rate.

Due to stagnant inflation, as measured by the federal “consumer price index” for urban areas, the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries will keep the minimum wage at $9.25 per hour next year.

Both supporters and opponents of a higher wage floor believe that the flat rate will be used as an argument in favor of a substantial increase.

“It’s a mixed blessing, politically,” said Jenny Dresler, state public policy director for the Oregon Farm Bureau.

While it should be good news for low-income workers that prices aren’t rising sharply, the unchanged minimum wage will likely spur political action, said Steve Buckstein, senior policy analyst for the Cascade Policy Institute, a free market think tank.

“It probably will increase pressure in the legislature, or through a ballot initiative, to raise the minimum wage next year,” he said. “Both efforts will be bolstered politically by the fact the minimum wage is staying flat.”

Proponents say the unchanged rate is based on a nationwide measurement of inflation and doesn’t reflect unique factors, such as increased housing costs, seen in Portland and elsewhere in Oregon.

“To bring people out of poverty, we need at least $15 and in places like Portland, more than that,” said Jamie Patridge, chief petitioner for a 2016 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage.

Patridge said he was disappointed by the flat rate but acknowledged that it will likely convince people that the current inflation-based system is inadequate and persuade them to take action at the ballot box.

“It’s probably positive for our campaign but negative for low-wage workers,” he said. “Workers should not be living in poverty. Every worker should be paid a living wage.”

The Oregon Center for Public Policy, a non-profit that supports increasing the minimum wage, said the rate would be $19 per hour if it had tracked worker productivity for the past half-century.

“We’re seeing growing support for some action,” Tyler Mac Innis, policy analyst for OCPP.

To achieve economic security in Oregon, a single adult with a child needs to earn roughly $45,000-$51,000 per year, depending on the region, according to the group. With the current minimum wage, a worker earns $19,240 per year.

“It’s certainly not good news that it’s staying flat. It highlights the fact minimum wage workers need a significant increase in the minimum wage,” said Mac Innis.

Dresler, of the Oregon Farm Bureau, counters that farmers in the state compete against others in the U.S. and internationally, so a higher minimum wage puts them at a disadvantage.

Oregon already has the second highest minimum wage in the nation behind Washington, she said.

“That keeps us less competitive than it does our neighbors” in the Midwest and South, Dresler said.

Farms in Oregon are currently highly diverse, but a major hike in the minimum wage would likely convince growers to transition to crops that are less labor intensive, she said. “That would be one of the reactions to that sort of increase.”

Other types of companies will have to raise prices, lay off workers or reduce benefits to cope with a higher minimum wage — or they’ll simply go out of business, said Buckstein of the Cascade Policy Institute.

“There are always unintended consequences,” he said. “There’s no magic pot of money that businesses have to pay more wages.”

Wolves found dead blamed for killing calf

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The wolves found dead in Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County last month were blamed for killing a calf in June, according to an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife report.

State police have asked the public’s help investigating the deaths of the Sled Springs pair, whose bodies were found within 50 yards of each other during the week of Aug. 24. Police did not disclose the killings until Sept. 16, saying they didn’t want to tip off the person or people responsible. The spot where the wolves were found is north of Enterprise.

Police and wildlife officials have not disclosed how the wolves died. The investigation began when a tracking collar worn by the pair’s female, OR-21, emitted a mortality signal. She and her mate were found dead.

Wolves in northeastern Oregon are protected under the state’s endangered species law, and killing them is a crime. State police have referred to the case as a “criminal investigation.” Wolves west of Highways 395, 78 and 95 are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The feds have delisted Oregon wolves east of those highways, but the state listing and management plan hold sway in that corner of the state.

ODFW biologists have not spotted the pair’s pups, which are thought to be about five months old. Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said the pups — their number is unclear — are weaned and typically would be free-ranging at this point. Wolves are secretive, and not seeing them would not be unusual.

Meanwhile, the Mount Emily pack in Umatilla County has recorded five attacks on sheep since June, four in August alone.

Under Phase 2 of Oregon’s wolf plan, which changes as the number of breeding pairs increases, a producer can ask ODFW for “lethal control” of wolves after two confirmed “depredations,” as they are called, or one confirmed attack and three attempts. All five attacks have been confirmed, but the producer has not formally asked the department to take action, Dennehy said. The attacks happened on a public land seasonal grazing allotment that expires Oct. 1, she said.


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