Feed aggregator

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.

Test plots of poplar trees may hold key to bio-fuels development

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

JEFFERSON, ORE. — It’s like leasing ground to the future. On about 90 acres that in the past was planted in vegetables and corn for silage, researchers are raising varieties of fast-growing poplar trees that can be used to make bio-fuels and other products.

It’s an idea that’s been promoted and federally funded for several years, but the promise of making fuel and industrial chemicals from renewable plants instead of petroleum has yet to fall in step with market reality.

If the two link up — believers say it’s inevitable — Pacific Northwest and Northern California farmers might have another crop to consider.

Jefferson, Ore., landowner and farmer Rob Miller, who leased about 90 acres to GreenWood Resources, a global timber company based in Portland, said marginal land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley might be ideal for growing hybrid poplars.

Acreage in the 45-mile stretch from Albany south to Eugene that is not irrigated and is used for grass seed production, for example, might work for poplars, he said.

The trees regrow after being cut and can produce six crops in a 20-year period. After the initial planting cost, they require little care and can be harvested and chipped with forage cutting machinery. With additional irrigation water likely to be hard to get in the future, growing trees for bio-chemicals is an attractive option, Miller said.

“It would be a really good crop if the market turned around,” he said.

There’s the rub. The U.S. push to develop alternative fuels is stalled by a drop in oil prices and reserves tapped by fracking technology. Bio-fuels require simultaneous cart-and-horse development of expensive refineries and the acreage to feed them.

But many believe bio-fuels’ time is coming. The environmental cost of fossil fuels, instability in the Middle East and the limit of U.S. supplies could raise oil prices.

“Which puts this stuff right back into the sweet spot,” said Rick Stonex, westside tree farm manager for GreenWood Resources.

GreenWood is part of the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest consortium, which includes other industry partners and researchers from six universities. The consortium is one of six research efforts funded by the USDA since 2011, compiling a total of $146 million.

The ultimate goal of the project is to produce “drop in” fuel that is compatible with conventional cars, trucks and aircraft. Given the state of the oil industry, however, the partners are focusing on high-value bio-chemicals such as acetic acid, ethyl acetate and cellulosic ethanol, that are produced in the first stages of the bio-fuel process. Those chemicals can replace petroleum-based products used to make plastics, paints and even runway de-icer.

In additon to the Jefferson project site, researchers are growing hybrid poplars in Hayden, Idaho; Pilchuck, Wash.; and Clarksburg, Calif.

GreenWood also has a poplar plantation growing alongside Interstate 84 near Boardman, in Eastern Oregon. Those trees are intended to feed a refinery planned by ZeaChem Inc. The company plans to break ground on the plant next spring.

Sixteen students who will be freshmen at Oregon State University this fall toured the Jefferson test plot Sept. 15 with GreenWood’s Stonex and Rich Shuren, the company’s director of tree improvement operations.

One of the students asked Stonex if bio-fuels would be viable in his lifetime.

“I think you guys will see it,” Stonex replied.

Wooden high-rise shares $3 million USDA design prize

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND — A high-rise to be built using cross-laminated timber panels is co-winner of a $3 million USDA prize designed to spark the use of timber products in tall construction.

Framework, a 12-story project in Portland’s upscale Pearl District, split the Tall Wood Building Prize Competition with a project in New York City. The USDA sponsored the competition in conjunction with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the awards Sept. 17.

The Portland project will have ground floor retail, five levels of office space, five levels of workforce housing and a roof top amenity space.

According to the developers, the building’s design is intended to “communicate at street level the project’s innovative use of wood and engineering technology in the development of a high rise structure, along with its relationship to the rural economy.”

The building will feature an engineered wood core and lateral system to withstand earthquakes, and cross-laminated timber floor panels up to 50 feet long.

The design team is led Thomas Robinson, of LEVER Architecture. Construction schedule details were not immediately available.

Cross-laminated timbers, or CLT, are panels made by bonding dimensional lumber in perpendicular layers. Boosters of the technology say the panels — which can be up to 8- to 10-feet wide, 10 to 20 inches thick and 64 feet long — are strong, lightweight and much faster to install than standard steel and concrete construction.

D.R. Johnson, a mill in Riddle, Ore., south of Roseburg, is the first U.S. manufacturer certified to make the panels. State and industry officials believe CLT technology could revitalize Oregon’s timber industry.

Oregon fire raises questions about forest management

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

JOHN DAY, Ore. — The Canyon Creek Complex continues to burn, but many people are already asking whether the blaze would have been less severe had the forest been managed better.

Dave Traylor, a member of the Grant County Public Forest Commission, is one of many voices questioning whether enough thinning and slash cleanup was done in past years on the 1.7-million-acre Malheur National Forest.

“We’ve got to make some changes because we’re losing our forest,” he said as the blaze reached 110,000 acres. “What we’re doing is not working.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Malheur National Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin agrees.

“We do need drastic change,” he said.

Even Aron Robertson, communications director for environmental group Oregon Wild, thinks there are ways to decrease wildfire risks with precise thinning practices.

But overall, their prescription for change is vastly different.

Traylor thinks the forest needs more active management, including a significant increase in grazing and logging.

“That means cattle in the woods eating grass down and not letting it just dry up and become fuel, and we need to do some logging. Not clear-cutting, but spacing out trees and taking out dying trees. We can provide jobs and create a healthy forest that is fire-resistant and protects the water.”

A lack of proper forest management, including thinning, salvage sales and slash cleanup, was a significant factor in the size and severity of the Canyon Creek Complex fire, says Prairie City resident Levi Voigt.

“The only control you have over a wildfire is to reduce the amount of fuel in the forest,” he says. “I believe a reduction in the amount of fuel out there would have reduced the severity of the fire.”

It was Voigt who asked Beverlin during a community fire update meeting in Prairie City Aug. 31 whether the Canyon Creek Complex fire would serve as a learning lesson in forest management.

Beverlin said it would.

There is no denying that forest fires are increasing in frequency and intensity across the American West, and it’s no different on our local forests and rangeland.

But Beverlin says that is mainly because we’ve been so good at wildland firefighting for so long. He said before European settlement arrived in Oregon pre-1860, historically 100,000 acres burned on average each year on the Malheur National Forest — roughly the acreage burned up this year by the Canyon Creek Complex. Beverlin said fire scars in the rings of virgin timber has shown how often fire came through the area.

But those fires, while spreading wide, were of low intensity. They burned up grass, downed limbs and dead trees, but large healthy trees were strong enough to survive. The fires therefore kept it a healthy ecosystem, restoring nutrients while cleaning out fuels.

In the last fifty years, Beverlin said this is the first time fire burned the average amount of acreage that burned up in the forest before human intervention.

“If you look at how active we’ve been the last couple years, I’m not sure we could go at it any harder,” said Beverlin, pointing out prescribed thinning projects on a map in his office.

Bob Vidourek, a retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management forester in John Day, lives on Little Canyon Mountain, a few miles south of John Day and just east of Canyon City.

Before he retired 7 years ago, Vidourek guided a series of projects that resulted in most of the 2,500 acres of BLM land on the mountain being cleaned up.

That included the thinning of forest stands, the cleaning up of a significant amount of slash from the forest floor and timber salvage sales. The projects occurred from 2003-2007.

One of the projects was a 10-year BLM stewardship contract that was purchased by a local company that hired a lot of sub-contractors to do the work.

Because of the work that was done, when the Canyon Creek Complex fire came roaring toward his property, which was placed under a Level 3 “leave immediately” evacuation order, Vidourek, whose home abuts the BLM land, says he was never really worried.

“I knew if it got into that stand, it wouldn’t burn too hot,” he says.

The fire did burn some of the BLM land as it roared up the south side of the mountain, but it slowed considerably after it reached the northern part of the mountain and left most of the BLM land unscathed or lightly burned.

It stopped about 1,000 feet above Vidourek’s property.

“It killed everything on the other side of the mountain. I’m confident the work we did slowed the fire down … and probably saved some of these houses,” he says, pointing in the direction of eight other homes near his.

Grant County rancher Alec Oliver says the fire barely touched a pasture his cattle lightly grazed this spring.

“I was surprised at the difference between the area where we grazed earlier this year compared with the area across the fence that hadn’t been grazed in a year,” he says.

What angers a lot of locals, Oliver says, is the lawsuits that have stopped a lot of proposed forest management work resulted in the damage caused by the Canyon Creek Complex fire.

Traylor, Voigt and Vidourek don’t lay the blame on the Forest Service. Rather, they blame environmental groups that have sued to stop proposed thinning, slash clearing or logging projects.

“It’s not the Forest Service; it’s the environmental groups that have them handcuffed,” Vidourek says.

Traylor says based on past promises that never materialized, he doubts forest management practices in the Malheur National Forest will change much, despite the severity of this fire.

“They’re going to tell us they’ll do something but the truth is they won’t do anything that amounts to anything,” he says. “They are not listening to us.”

Robertson said he too understands the danger of living too close to an unhealthy forest, just crossing your fingers until it lights. And he said that more thinning projects may make sense in urban/forest interfaces, which accounts for much of rural Grant County.

But he said there are different definitions of reasonable forest management, and groups like his disagree with others on how best to create a healthy forests.

“Some projects call them thinning projects, but they look more like clearcuts,” he said.

Robertson said the fire has refocused the organization’s efforts on making a forest “more resistant” to devastating blazes.

“Fires like these are tragic, and we have to do what we can to stop them from being so powerful,” he said.

Beverlin said the Forest Service is willing to do what it can, but can’t make everyone happy.

The Forest Service fields complaints across the board. Often, people complain about logging projects too close to roads or homes, saying it is loud work and ruins their view. Beverlin said people also complain about smoke in the air when crews try to do prescribed burns in spring and fall, when they can keep control over them and use them to clean out downed fuels. He gets complaints from some groups when they take a more active role, complaints from others when they are more hands-off.

Beverlin said he will continue to work with the public to try to find the right amount of management, the right amount of logging, the right amount of firefighting, the right amount of letting nature do its thing.

“We know what a healthy forest looks like,” he said. “We want to get it to the place where fire helps our forest, doesn’t hurt it.”

Oregon State Police ask for information about wolf killings

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Wolf pups from Northeastern Oregon’s Sled Springs pair haven’t been seen since their parents were found dead within 50 yards of each other during the week of Aug. 24th, an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife spokeswoman said.

Oregon State Police have been investigating the killings since the wolves were found dead in Wallowa County, but didn’t make the case public until Sept. 16.

“We didn’t want to tip our hand,” spokesman Lt. Bill Fugate said.

Wolves are protected under state and federal endangered species laws, and killing them is a crime. OSP is asking anyone with information about the case to contact Senior Trooper Kreg Coggins at 541-426-3049, or call the agency’s TIP line at 1-800-452-788, or email TIP@state.or.us.

Fugate said OSP won’t disclose the cause of death at this time.

Oregon Wild, the Portland-based conservation group that pushed for conditions adopted in Oregon’s wolf management plan, said the deaths were “definitely a cause for suspicion.”

“Wolves have been killed illegally in Oregon before, and there is a very vocal minority that enthusiastically encourages it,” the group said in a prepared statement.

The investigation began when a tracking collar worn by OR-21, a female, emitted a mortality signal, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. The female wolf and her mate were found dead.

The pair had pups that would be about five months old and weaned at this point, Dennehy said. The pups hadn’t been seen as of Wednesday morning, but wolves are secretive and the pups should be free-ranging by now, she said. It’s unclear how many pups the pair had.

Oregon faces uncertain drought recovery

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Water levels in reservoirs across Oregon are two-thirds below average as summer ends, but autumn and winter weather may not offer much help, experts say.

Mountain snowpacks that provide irrigation water and replenish reservoirs are facing another tough year as the “El Nino” atmospheric pattern bodes for warmer winter weather.

“There’s a lot of concern those reservoirs won’t fill,” said April Snell, executive director of the Oregon Water Resources Congress, which represents irrigation districts.

At this point, the deviation toward higher temperatures over winter is projected to be among the three most significant variations since the 1950s, said Tom Di Liberto, meteorologist for the Climate Prediction Center at the National Weather Service.

“We do expect it to be one of the strongest ones,” he said.

While a strong El Nino is reliably associated with warmer weather, the impact on precipitation is less clear — the event generally indicates drier conditions in Oregon, but that’s not inevitable, he said.

“El Nino is never a guarantee of a certain set of outcomes,” Di Liberto said. “Weather can be chaotic.”

Areas of low pressure tend to usher in storms toward the southern West Coast during El Nino winters, but it’s tough to say where this “anomaly” will be strongest, so the Northwest may also be affected, he said.

With higher temperatures, though, the precipitation isn’t as likely to come in the form of snow, he said.

Aside from El Nino, another significant weather pattern to watch is the Arctic Oscillation, which determines whether storms around the North Pole will spread out and impact lower latitudes.

This trend may either enhance or conflict with the effects of El Nino, though it’s too early to tell at this point, Di Liberto said. “Those are the type of patterns we don’t have a ton of predictability with.”

Soil moisture is another consideration heading into winter, as the ground must be saturated before snowpacks become available in the form of runoff, said Scott Oviatt, Oregon snow survey supervisor for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“We’re worried that we’re going into the water year with a deficit,” he said, noting that some regions in Oregon have experienced several years of insufficient moisture. “That has made the situation worse and it’s why we’ve been so susceptible to wildfire this year.”

Despite the “exhausted” soils, it wouldn’t be desirable for Oregon to see “high intensity” precipitation that would lead to flash flooding, he said.

That risk is particularly acute in areas that have suffered from wildfires, since ash impedes the soil’s ability to take on water, Oviatt said.

It’s preferable for the state to encounter a progression of “low intensity” storms that will replenish moisture without overwhelming the soil, he said.

Low stream flows across Oregon in 2015 caused water regulators to shut off irrigation for junior water rights holders weeks ahead of normal, said Diana Enright, spokesperson for the Oregon Water Resources Department.

Water calls also went back further in time in terms of priority date — the John Day River, for example, was regulated back to 1876, while Fifteenmile Creek in the Hood River area was regulated back to 1861, according to OWRD. In other words, irrigators with more recent priority dates had irrigation shut off.

It was also unusual that irrigators in the Northwest corner of Oregon were subject to water calls, Enright said. In Polk County, for example, Rickreall Creek was regulated back to 1940 and the Luckiamute River was regulated to 1964.

Longtime area residents said they hadn’t experienced such shortages before, Enright said. “We don’t usually regulate in those areas.”

With the possibility that more precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow, the management of reservoirs may need to be reconsidered, said Snell of the Oregon Water Resources Congress.

Water is traditionally released during winter to ensure adequate flood control, but if recent conditions are the “new normal,” those requirements must be balanced against the need for adequate water during summer, she said.

If there is an upside to the drought, it’s that more people are thinking about the need for water supply management and development, Snell said. “It’s an eye-opener for folks.”

Oregon minimum wage to stay at $9.25 in 2016

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon workers who make the minimum wage will not be getting a raise in 2016.

Oregon’s minimum wage is re-calculated each year because of a state law passed by voters in 2002 that ties the minimum wage to inflation.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian says inflation as measured by the federal Consumer Price Index was not high enough to trigger an increase in pay for 2016.

Oregon’s minimum-wage workers will continue to make $9.25 per hour.

Avakian says the CPI does not capture cost increases such as skyrocketing rents in Portland. He says it’s time for the state Legislature to boost the minimum wage, perhaps to $13.50 an hour.

Expert offers options for keeping slugs at bay

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — Penn State University entomologist John Tooker didn’t provide Oregon growers with any silver bullet solutions to slug control during his visit to the Willamette Valley last week.

But Tooker shared strategies Pennsylvania growers have used to lower slug pressure and encouraged Oregon growers to consider implementing some of them.

“I would ask you to think about ways to incorporate some of these ideas, recognizing our annual cropping system in Pennsylvania is different than what you have here,” he said at an Oregon State University Extension meeting in Salem on Sept. 10. “By implementing these ideas, a couple of growers who have fully embraced them have made their slug populations go away.”

Slugs are by most accounts among the worst pests in Oregon grass seed production, if not the worst. They accounted for nearly $100 million in damage to the $500 million crop in recent years. The mollusk also is responsible for substantial crop loss in several other field and row crops.

Tooker, who has become a leading expert in slug control in recent years, said growers and researchers in Pennsylvania have found that use of cover crops and predator beetles, in the absence of insecticidal seed treatments, can be a successful formula for keeping slugs at bay.

To start with, he said, slugs prefer certain cover crops over cash crops — a preference growers can use to their advantage.

“If you give them a choice between a rye plant and a corn plant, they will choose the rye every time,” he said.

Complementing the direct benefit of keeping slugs off grower’s primary crop, rye and crimson clover plants serve as hosts for beneficial insects that feed on slugs.

“The rye distracts the slugs, allowing them to feed on something they like better than the cash crop, and it improves the ground beetle population,” he said. “Those two things together are taking the pressure off the cash crop, letting it get out of the ground and grow.”

Some growers in Pennsylvania have even started planting cash crops directly into a standing green cover crop, Tooker said. They follow that with a treatment of glyphosate, which kills off the cover crop, but while the cover crop is dying, it is still palatable to the slugs and still fostering beneficial insect populations, he said.

“It is more management intensive,” he said, noting that growers incorporating this technique are not using insecticidal seed treatments and, instead, have increased scouting for insect pests and are treating only when needed.

“But,” he said, “what growers who are doing this have found is they are getting the best yields that they’ve ever had.”

Tooker showed evidence that treating seed with neonicotinoid insecticides can reduce ground beetle populations and, subsequently, increase slug pressure.

“Slugs are consuming the insecticide and the beetle gets it from the slug,” he said.

He added: “On average, we see more slugs where you have the insecticide than where you don’t. That is the exact opposite of what a grower expects. That insecticide on the seed is supposed to protect the crop from early-season insect pests. But insects aren’t at play here.

“There is no reason to think an insecticide will kill a mollusk, and no reason to think a molluskicide will kill an insect,” he said.

Tooker also provided evidence that when applied at night, nitrogen applications at 20 gallons to the acre can reduce slug populations — sometimes as much as 75 percent.

“This is not easy on your plants,” he said, “but the general thinking is the benefit you gain by knocking back the slug population outweighs the cost of dinging up you corn or soybeans with nitrogen.”

He said farmers in Pennsylvania have grown frustrated with the efficacy and rainfastness of the common slug bait metaldehyde.

New farmers learn root-level basics at OSU’s farm school

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

OREGON CITY — He was speaking to a class of beginning beekeepers, but Joe Maresh’s advice probably could apply to all the prospective farmers who attended Oregon State University’s one-day Small Farms School:

“Take your stings.”

In other words, accept the fact that you will take your lumps in agriculture. But that doesn’t deter the people who continue to flock to OSU’s popular small farms programs. At least 175 registered for the Sept. 12 farm school workshops and demonstrations held at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City southeast of Portland.

Classes offered through the day ranged from horse and sheep handling and emergency veterinary care to pasture management, small engine basics and how to grow blueberries.

Maresh, president of the Portland Metro Beekeepers Association, led about 30 students through the basics of keeping pollinators and collecting honey.

Among his tips: Get into your hives frequently to see what’s going on, join a bee club and get one or two good beekeeping books, not a bunch.

“Avoid beekeeping on the Internet,” Maresh advised. “The Internet is not your friend.

“You can ask five different beekeepers a question,” he added, “and get eight different answers.”

Outside at the college’s expansive crop plots, Aaron Guffy of East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District talked irrigation basics with two dozen beginning farmers.

In a fast-paced discussion of screens, filters, pump pressure tanks and variable frequency drives, Guffy emphasized the need to focus on getting water from one place to another.

“Before you decide the beginning” of an irrigation system, he said, “decide the end.”

The turnout for farm school was indicative of the continued intense interest, especially in urban areas, about where food comes from and how it’s produced, said Garry Stephenson, director of OSU’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems.

That interest can energize agriculture as legions of baby boomer farmers near retirement age.

“We have a generation of people in their twenties and thirties who are interested in going into farming as a business and as a statement of how they see the world,” Stephenson said. “One of the hopes we have is that they will eventually scale up and become medium-size farms.”

Not all the farm school students were youngsters, however.

John Hergenrather, attending from Hood River, said he’s 70 and his wife, Rhea, is 65. They own a garden store and cafe, and recently bought an adjacent 6.5 acres on which they hope to grow food and plants to supply their business.

“We ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing becoming farmers now?’” Hergenrather said with a laugh. “Lord knows.”

Agency resumes killing cormorants to help salmon migration

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has resumed killing double-crested cormorants so the birds eat fewer juvenile salmon migrating down the Columbia River despite an ongoing legal battle with conservation groups.

The Oregonian reports that contracted workers shot 200 cormorants last week on East Sand Island as part of a program to reduce the size of North America’s biggest cormorant nesting colony by 57 percent over four years. The killings come after a nearly two-month break that allowed adult birds to take care of their hatchlings.

Since May the agency has killed 358 birds and oiled more than 5,000 nests to keep eggs from hatching.

Five conservation groups are challenging the killing in court. A U.S. District Court judge is expected to rule on the case in spring 2016.

Ranchers intervene in environmental lawsuit

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Six ranch families will be able to defend their livelihoods against an environmentalist lawsuit that challenges grazing in Oregon’s Fremont-Winema National Forest.

A federal judge recently allowed the ranch companies to intervene as defendants in a case filed earlier this year by three environmental groups — Oregon Natural Desert Association, Friends of Living Oregon Waters and Western Watersheds Project.

The plaintiffs claim the U.S. Forest Service unlawfully authorized grazing in the Sprague and Sycan river basins, allowing cattle to trample streambanks and damage the habitat of threatened bull trout and other native fish.

The complaint alleges violations of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

If the federal government’s grazing permits are invalidated, the ranchers fear the practice will be disallowed or restricted on allotments that they depend on for their income, according to court documents.

In some cases, the ranches have been operated by the same families for several generations, dating back to the 1800s, according to declarations filed by the families.

“It is, of course, in our own interest to make sure that the forage will be healthy and plentiful so we can continue to make use of our permitted animal unit months,” said Brenda Morgan, one of the intervening ranchers, in a court filing.

Darrell Jacobs of the Obenchain Cattle Co. said his ranch has voluntarily undertaken riparian conservation, such as building several ponds on private land to keep cattle away from streams.

Bar-2 Livestock, a family-owned company that runs about 1,000 cattle on private and public lands, noted that the entire 10-mile stretch of creek on its allotment has been fenced off from cattle.

The recent return of beavers in the Sycan River also points to the “upward trend and progression of rangeland health,” according to Daniel Withers, a rancher involved in the case.

Apart from the ranch companies, a firm associated with the J.R. Simplot agribusiness company also holds grazing permits in the area and was allowed to intervene as a defendant.

The parties in the case have agreed to file court documents arguing their positions in time for a court hearing next April.

Minimum hazelnut prices second-highest on record

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon’s hazelnut growers didn’t expect a repeat of last year, when a disastrous freeze in Turkey brought record prices as candy, spread and snack makers chased replacement supplies.

But this season’s initial minimum price of $1.22 a pound for field-run hazelnuts, announced by the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association, is the second highest on record.

The starting price packers were willing to pay last year was $1.70 a pound, thanks to the freeze that decimated the world’s leading nut producing region, and the price jacked up to $1.81 by season’s end.

Oregon produces only 5 percent of the world supply, but is nonetheless the second-leading production area and was ready when buyers came calling.

Bargaining association President Doug Olsen said the 2015 starting price is fair, considering the circumstances.

“Everybody knew the price was going to come down,” Olsen said in a news release. “Last year’s was an anomaly.”

Turkey expects a good crop this year, while currency devaluations there and in China — a major buyer of Oregon hazelnuts — make American products more expensive by comparison.

In addition, an over-supply of walnuts gives end users another nut option, according to the bargaining association’s news release.

Oregon growers are projected to produce about 39,000 tons of hazelnuts this year. Willamette Valley growers have been adding 3,000 to 5,000 acres per year for several years running. In some cases, farmers have replaced grass seed or row crops with hazelnut orchards.

Josephine County won’t enforce GMO ban while lawsuit is pending

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon’s Josephine County will not enforce its prohibition against genetically engineered crops while a farmer lawsuit against the ordinance is underway.

The county counsel, Wally Hicks, has notified the attorney for sugar beet growers Robert and Shelley Ann White that enforcement will be stayed as they seek to overturn the ban, which was passed by voters last year.

The couple contends that Oregon lawmakers pre-empted most local governments from regulating genetically modified organisms as part of a bill passed in 2013 and have requested a permanent injunction against Josephine County’s ban.

John DiLorenzo, attorney for the growers, said he agreed not to seek a temporary restraining order against the ordinance as long as the county consented to forgo enforcement.

“Both sides have to spend less time and less expense,” he said.

The situation would likely change if Josephine County does take action against biotech farmers before the lawsuit is resolved, he said.

“I could fire up again, but I take them at their word,” DiLorenzo said.

Biotech farmers were also required to report their crops, location and “phase-out” plans to the county sheriff, according to the notice. That reporting requirement is also stayed under the recent agreement.

In their lawsuit, the Whites claim they were planning to cultivate sugar beets in a leased field but were prevented from doing so when the county announced the GMO ban would go into effect on Sept. 4.

Josephine County’s decision, however, has not convinced the couple to plant transgenic sugar beets because they don’t want to place themselves “in harm’s way,” DiLorenzo said.

Farmers who do have genetically engineered crops, however, don’t have to worry about enforcement actions, he said.

Capital Press was unable to reach Wally Hicks of Josephine County for comment as of press time.

Mary Middleton, who petitioned for the GMO ban, said the county is likely being cautious while the case is being litigated.

“It’s unfortunate that’s the route, because the will of the people is that it would be enforced,” she said.

Voters in Oregon’s Jackson County also passed a prohibition against GMOs, but that ordinance is not subject to the state seed pre-emption bill.

The legislature exempted Jackson County from its pre-emption statute because the ordinance was already on the ballot when the state law was passed.

The Jackson County ordinance is also being challenged in federal court by several farmers.

Earlier this year, a federal judge found that the GMO ban is not precluded by Oregon’s “right to farm” law, which disallows ordinances and lawsuits against common farming practices.

However, the farmers in that case are still seeking $4.2 million in compensation from the county, as they’d have to remove their biotech alfalfa crops under the ordinance.

Enforcement of the Jackson County GMO has also been stayed until the lawsuit is closed.

Oregon mill is first certified to make cross-laminated timber

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND — Valerie Johnson acknowledges it’s been a wild ride. Just 22 months after hearing about cross-laminated timber panels, her D.R. Johnson mill in Southern Oregon is making them, has partnered with state money and university researchers, bought new equipment and appears poised for a breakout that many think could revitalize Oregon’s timber industry.

On Sept. 10 in Portland, Gov. Kate Brown announced D.R. Johnson is the first American company certified to make cross-laminated timber panels. Certification by the American Plywood Association and the American National Standards Institute assures the panels, called CLT, can be used in building construction.

Brown made the announcement at Best Fest, an annual conference that features clean-tech innovation. The conference organizer, Oregon BEST, is a quasi-public state agency that provides development grants and links entrepreneurs with a network of university researchers.

Oregon BEST provided $150,000 for CLT research at Oregon State University and will lend D.R. Johnson $100,000 for a new production line. The governor said the state is sponsoring a CLT design competition, with $200,000 in funding and services going to the winner.

Speaking from a podium made from cross-laminated timbers, Brown said she hopes the technology will “fuel the economic engine in rural Oregon.” Cross laminated panels are strong, cost competitive, much quicker than steel and concrete to install, aesthetically pleasing and made from a renewable resource, the governor said.

“We are perfectly suited for this work,” Brown said. “We grow the most desirable species. If this product is going to hit the market, it made more sense for it to emerge from our state than any other.”

Ethan Martin, an engineer with the industry group WoodWorks, said cross laminated timbers are “like Glulam (beams) and plywood got together and had a baby.”

The process can produce wooden panels 8- to 10-feet wide, up to 20 inches thick and 64 feet long, he said. Panels are formed by bonding layers of dimensional lumber such as two-by-fours.

They can be hauled to a construction site and quickly installed in a manner Martin and others jokingly compare to assembling products from Ikea, or like giant Legos.

The product’s environmental impact is much less than other construction methods, Martin said.

“Every other material exudes carbon, except wood,” he said. “Wood is the only product that sequesters carbon.”

CLT construction has been used for high-rise buildings in Europe and Canada, but is limited in the U.S. to six stories, Martin said. The limitations come from building laws adopted in 1899 and 1910 in response to tragic tenement fires.

Martin said that’s changing, and the technology is gaining acceptance. A 19-story wooden building is being designed in Portland, he said. A four-story commercial building, Albina Yard, is under construction in Portland and is the first project built with domestically produced CLT panels.

Valerie Johnson, who became co-owner of the family company after her father died, said the rapid CLT development has the business in a “euphoric” state.

D.R. Johnson, based in Riddle, Ore., south of Roseburg, produces Glulam beams, but had no experience with CLT panels. At this point, the company is producing panels that are 24 feet long, but plans to make longer ones as new equipment comes into play.

Johnson said of the company’s experienced Glulam employees have been reassigned to produce the panels, and people were hired to take the vacated spots. All told, the company has added five jobs so far due to CLT production.

Several project developers are showing strong interest in cross-laminated timbers, however, and the company may have to add a second shift to fill orders, Johnson said.

Winter El Nino outlook: Wet S. California, dry Northwest

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Forecasters say they are now confident that El Nino’s southern storms will boost rainfall this winter as far north as Sacramento in California, but the Pacific Northwest will likely be drier than normal.

Federal Climate Prediction Center officials said Sept. 10 there’s a 95 percent chance that strong El Nino conditions will persist through the winter before gradually weakening next spring.

During the winter, odds favor increased chances for above-normal precipitation across the southern part of the United States and up the East Coast, officials said.

But the inland Pacific Northwest should anticipate below-normal rainfall, while the Oregon and Washington coasts and much of Northern California have equal chances of above- or below-average precipitation, according to the CPC’s three-month winter outlook.

Temperatures throughout the West are expected to be higher than normal this winter, complicating chances for an abundant snowpack, according to the outlook.

“One thing to caution a little bit is that these are probabilistic forecasts,” Mike Halpert, the center’s deputy director, told reporters in a conference call. “We could be surprised.… There have been a couple of big El Ninos when I don’t think it was really dry anywhere across the country. Everywhere was above normal.

“But the most likely case (in the Northwest) is drier than average conditions,” he said.

El Nino is a warming of the ocean at the equator that interacts with the atmosphere, changing the jet stream that drives the winter storm track. There have been six previous El Nino periods since 1950, and this one has the potential to rate near the top in terms of strength.

Some scientists have characterized this El Nino as a “monster” or “Godzilla” storm track, predicting that it could produce the kind of wet winter that California saw in 1982-83 and 1997-98, when nearly double the state’s average precipitation fell.

However, Halpert said such descriptions are “not helpful” as state and federal officials have worked to tamp down expectations that this winter could end the drought. State Climatologist Michael Anderson reiterated Sept. 10 that past El Nino events have produced mixed results in Northern California, where key reservoirs are situated.

“The fact is that this coming winter could extend our record-dry weather or bring major storms, heavy precipitation and coastal storm surges or a combination of all,” Anderson said in a statement. “We must prepare by conserving water in our daily lives, as well as protecting property against the potential of heavy storms and local flooding.”

Though growers have held out hope that a wet winter will ease drought conditions, it would take as much as three times the average annual precipitation over the next year to make up the cumulative deficit of 71.5 inches of rainfall in the central Sierra Nevada since 2011, officials have said.

Still, a wet winter would be a big reprieve in the San Joaquin Valley, where growers denied their normal surface-water allocations have depleted aquifers to the point that the ground is sinking in many areas.

“As we enter a new water year on Oct. 1, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what that water year will bring,” said Kevin Werner, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s director of western regional climate services. “It’s entirely possible we could see continued drought across many areas of the West.”


Subscribe to Welcome to World Famous Langlois Oregon aggregator