U.S. cranberry growers, faced with a huge surplus that’s pushing down prices, have renewed their crop’s federal marketing program, though Canadian competitors and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving raisins makes volume controls appear unlikely.
Some 76 percent of 470 growers in 10 states, including Washington and Oregon, recently voted to renew the Cranberry Marketing Committee for another four years. The vote total was similar to the 2011 referendum.
The committee, established in 1962, is rooted in the same 1937 New Deal law that was successfully challenged by California raisin farmer Marvin Horne, who argued that being forced to surrender part of his crop to boost raisin prices was an unconstitutional taking of private property. The high court ruled 8-1 in June in his favor.
The cranberry committee sought a 15 percent reduction in the 2014 harvest after prices tumbled the year before. The U.S. Department of Agriculture denied the petition, citing possible collusion with Canadian growers to reduce supplies against the public’s interest.
The committee decided last spring to not renew the request for 2015, even though the industry expects to begin the fall harvest with 86 percent of the 2014 cranberry crop still unused.
The cranberry industry boasts some gains in increasing demand, but the new sales have been more than erased by higher production.
Cranberry supplies have been swelled by rising U.S. yields, especially in Wisconsin, plus Canada’s emergence as a large cranberry producer.
The cranberry committee’s outgoing director, Scott Soares, wrote in a farewell message in May that the global cranberry industry’s growth made U.S. volume controls less effective. The USDA last authorized cranberry volume controls in 2001.
Long Beach, Wash., cranberry grower Malcolm McPhail said losing volume control as a tool to reduce surpluses would be unfortunate.
“You get rid of the surplus and then you can get living again,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen again.”
The surplus caused the price farmers received to drop from an average of $47.90 per 100-pound barrel in 2012 to $31.10 in 2014, according to the USDA’s preliminary report on last year’s crop. The USDA is scheduled to issue a final report Friday.
Prices varied widely among farmers.
In Washington, where most farmers belong to the Ocean Spray cooperative or sell to the fresh fruit market, the average price was $43.50 a barrel.
In Oregon, which has more independent growers selling to processors, the average price was $27.50.
Bandon, Oregon, farmer Bob Donaldson, who grows for Ocean Spray and independent markets, said some berries are being sold for less than the cost of production. He said a small percentage of acres are not being cultivated this year. Returning the bogs to production would require expensive restoration of vines, he said.
“You hate to see your friends and neighbors give up,” Donaldson said. “I love growing cranberries, so I have to be an optimist and tell myself I’m going to stick with it, but it’s hard to see it coming back anytime soon.”
Donaldson and McPhail said they were happy the cranberry committee was reauthorized. The Massachusetts-based committee, funded by grower assessments, supports cranberry research and promotions.
Donaldson said farmers will have to hope new cranberry-based products catch on in the U.S. and overseas sales increase to whittle down the oversupply.
“That is our way out of this,” he said.
NYSSA, Ore. — The assessment fee for onions grown in Eastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho has been cut in half.
Onion growers in the area are under a federal marketing order and were being assessed 10 cents for each 100 pounds of onions they produced.
That assessment has been trimmed to 5 cents by the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee, which administers the marketing order. The new rate became effective July 1. The assessment cut will save the average grower about $30 an acre, said Grant Kitamura, chairman of the IEOOC’s promotion committee, which recommended the assessment cut.
“It’s definitely going to save us some money,” said Oregon farmer Bruce Corn. “Every little bit helps.”
About 20,000 acres of big bulb onions are grown on both sides of the border in the Treasure Valley and the assessment generates a little more than $900,000 a year.
The IEOOC’s research and export budgets will not be impacted by the assessment cut but the majority of the reduced revenue will come out of the committee’s promotions budget, which will be slashed from $635,000 a year to $250,000, Kitamura said.
Promotion committee member Paul Skeen, a Nyssa, Ore., farmer, said a lot of people thought the money spent on promotions wasn’t being used as effectively as it could.
“There were people who felt like we weren’t getting the right bang for our buck,” he said.
Kitamura said there would be a major reduction in travel and local promotions, but the committee will continue to maintain a major presence at industry trade shows and in the media.
Gone will be the feel-good type of promotions, particularly those aimed locally, he said.
“Those are effective at promoting good will but they’re not really effective for moving product,” he said. “We’re trying to get lean and mean.”
Many of the area’s 30 onion shippers preferred to have the assessment cut and do their own promotions, Kitamura said.
There has been a lot of consolidation among the onion industry’s main customers — large national retail companies — and those shippers feel it makes more sense for them to promote themselves directly to those customers, he said.
“The most effective marketing is direct,” Kitamura said. “Many shippers want to do their own promotion in this environment. We were doing business like we were 25 years ago (and) people felt it was time for a change.”
Kitamura, general manager of Murakami Produce in Ontario, said about 90 percent of growers and shippers in the area supported the cut.
Shay Myers, general manager of Owyhee Produce, a major onion shipper in Nyssa, said he would have preferred to keep the assessment as is and completely revamp the way the promotions budget is handled.
“I felt it could be managed more effectively,” he said.
He’s also concerned that having all the shippers in the area do their own promoting and marketing could fragment the industry.
“That’s the Catch-22,” he said. “I’m concerned with the change.”
SILVERTON, Ore. — Since women make most food-buying decisions for U.S. families, female farmers can establish strong credibility with those key consumers, according to a top USDA official.
“Women relate to women,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. “Women do have a special role.”
Female farmers operate in a largely male-dominated world, which prompted Harden to launch a “Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network” to help them connect with role models who experience similar hurdles.
During a roundtable forum on July 13 in Silverton, Ore., Harden said she was heartened by the 20 percent of principal farm operators in Oregon who are female.
Women farmers who served on the panel said they didn’t feel like they faced higher barriers to success in agriculture, which Harden said was unique in her experience traveling across the U.S.
“This room would not be full everywhere. You’re really lucky here,” Harden told the group of women gathered at the Oregon Garden Resort.
Once a female demonstrates she knows what she’s talking about, there’s usually no impediment to gaining “traction” in agriculture, said Molly Pearmine-McCargar, a Gervais, Ore., grower who spoke on the panel. “Once you get respect and credibility with your audience, it’s not a problem,” she said.
The panel participants said that Oregon farmers generally face similar challenges whether they’re male or female.
Shelly Boshart-Davis, whose family operates a farm and trucking business, said that the state and federal governments need to take steps to improve transportation for agriculture.
For example, the Port of Portland lost two major container ocean carriers this year, which has complicated life for farmers who rely on exports, she said.
If companies avoid importing goods along the West Coast due to labor concerns, there will be fewer empty containers available for agricultural exporters, Boshart-Davis said.
Amy Doerfler-Phelan, whose family farms multiple crops in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, said she’s concerned about the lack of economic development in the eastern and southern portions of Oregon that are less populated.
“We need to have opportunities in other part of our state,” she said.
Pearmine-McCargar said that insufficent labor and the need to mechanize harvest are top priorities, while Barbara Boyer, who farms near McMinnville, Ore., said she is concerned about farm succession.
Aspiring young growers often face the prospect of paying back student loans on top of the other financial burdens of running a farm, Boyer said.
The federal government should examine forgiving student debt for farmers as it does for certain other professions with social value, she said.
“It takes legislation, but it’s a great idea,” responded Harden.
CHRISTMAS VALLEY, Ore. — Mariam Horton has not only learned in the classroom over the past several years, but also on her family’s ranch.
She’s earned her education and degree at North Lake High School, but has managed her time well enough to also educate herself on the animal science of sheep and cattle. The 2015 North Lake graduate has expanded her livestock numbers from three Suffolk ewes when she was a fourth-grader to about 380 ewes and ewe lambs, and from two bred black Angus heifers when she was an eighth-grader to 35 registered Angus mother cows.
The 17-year-old and her father, LeeRoy Horton, are partners in the livestock operation.
Although Mariam Horton has already established quite a flock of Suffolk, Targhee and Rambouillet sheep and a herd of cows at such a young age, she has bigger dreams.
“I have big goals, definitely,” she said. “After college I hope to buy a ranch and have lots of animals, hopefully here in Oregon. I plan to get up to 500 to 1,000 Angus cows.
“And I want to be able to win one of the national shows,” she added.
Horton is off to a good start on all of her goals. In January, she attended her second National Western Stock Show in Denver and showed five heifers in the junior competition (for producers age 21 and younger). One heifer took first in its Early Summer Heifer Division (animals born during the previous months of May, June or July). She then showed the heifer in the Open Division that included entries from producers of all ages and the pair finished second in the judging.
Chad Waldron, the ag science teacher and FFA advisor at North Lake High School for the past 20 years, said he has not had a previous student own and manage as many sheep and cattle as does Horton.
“What she is doing is very unique for a student,” he said. “But she is very responsible, very motivated. She also gets a tremendous amount of support and encouragement from her parents. She does have a love for agriculture that motivates and drives her.”
LeeRoy Horton is a hay grower, and now a livestock partner, on the family’s Christmas Valley ranch.
“I’m an animal person myself,” LeeRoy Horton said. “Mariam is just kind of following right in behind me. We work real close together on everything.”
The daughter called her father her inspiration.
“He knows a lot and I try to listen to everything he has to say,” she said. “I look up to him a lot.”
LeeRoy managed and owned sheep flocks in the Willamette Valley and in Idaho in his younger years before moving to Christmas Valley in 1992 and concentrating on hay production.
Mariam Horton most enjoys the lambing and calving. And she doesn’t mind helping during the birthing process when needed. She first helped pull a lamb from a ewe at age 10 and has become the go-to person when an animal is having trouble giving birth.
The fun of showing her ewes and lambs at county and state fairs and jackpot events led Horton to want to have more opportunities to show animals. So she purchased the two Angus heifers. They had their calves, one a heifer and one a bull. She kept the heifer calf and eventually had her bred. The bull calf was sold at auction. It looked impressive, helping her establish a market and she’s had no trouble selling her bull calves since.
Horton also attended a weekend class at Oregon State University in Corvallis and learned how to artificially inseminate cows. She’s been involved in that process with her Angus cows for a few years.
At North Lake, Horton’s experiences in the FFA program helped her gain confidence in addition to knowledge in marketing and selling her animals. She’s been a two-year chapter president for North Lake FFA and a two-year district FFA secretary for Central Oregon. She considered running for a state office, but then decided not to because it would have meant time away from her animals.
She will attend Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, this fall. She plans to major in animal science and is eager to study sustainable agriculture so she can apply it in managing her own animals.
LeeRoy Horton will manage the cattle and sheep while his daughter is at school. And when she finishes her college career, she intends to return to Oregon to make ranching a full-time profession.
Oregon property owners cannot qualify to build new dwellings in farm zones by growing marijuana, according to recent revisions to the state’s land use laws.
When voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana last year, it sparked concerns that the high-value crop would make it easier to develop homes on farmland.
Under Oregon’s land use rules, landowners who generate at least $80,000 in revenues from agriculture for several years can build a dwelling on their property.
The worry was that marijuana would allow them to more readily clear this hurdle.
Under House Bill 3400, a comprehensive marijuana policy bill recently passed by lawmakers, new dwellings aren’t permitted on land zoned for exclusive farm use “in conjunction with a marijuana crop.”
While it’s now clear that marijuana can’t be used to meet the income test, experts say it’s less certain how restrictively this language will be interpreted.
The question is whether the value of marijuana is simply excluded from the $80,000 in required revenue, or if growing the crop entirely prohibits any new dwellings on the property.
Farm stands and other commercial activities conducted in conjunction with marijuana are similarly banned under HB 3400.
As with any major change in land use law, the marijuana-related provisions in HB 3400 will likely be subject to litigation, said Bill Kabeiseman, a land use attorney.
“I think it will end up in court because it’s something that will take a while to work itself out,” he said.
The dwelling provisions already have land use experts scratching their heads.
Jim Johnson, the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s land use specialist, thinks that a farmer who grows marijuana can still build a dwelling as long as other crops are used to meet the $80,000 test.
Katherine Daniels, farm specialist with the state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development, believes the law completely disallows new dwellings on property used for marijuana production.
The Oregon Farm Bureau would prefer the law to be less strict.
“That is something we’re not satisfied with and would like to see changed in future sessions,” said Jenny Dresler, the bureau’s government affairs associate.
Aside from revising the farm dwelling rules, HB 3400 has clarified that marijuana is considered a crop under the state’s land use laws.
The policy is significant because it will prevent counties from restricting marijuana production in exclusive farm use zones, since growing crops is an outright permitted use, experts say.
Linn County, for example, passed an ordinance disallowing marijuana in farm zones due to concerns about public safety if the high-value crop were grown openly.
“I think we have to change our code,” said Roger Nyquist, a county commissioner, when asked about the impact of HB 3400.
However, it’s possible that counties can refuse to recognize marijuana production as a legitimate land use because the crop remains illegal under federal law, said Sean O’Day, general counsel for the League of Oregon Cities.
“That’s still an open legal question,” he said. “It would be a federal law argument.”
Defining marijuana as a crop also has the effect of covering it under the state’s “right-to-farm” law, which prohibits local ordinances and lawsuits that target common farming practices as incidents of nuisance or trespass.
The characteristically strong odor of marijuana, for example, will be protected under the “right-to-farm” statute.
“That’s not unlike running a dairy operation or a mink farm where there’s a smell,” said Johnson.
The U.S. Forest Service is taking possession of U.S. Coast Guard planes that are being converted to drop retardant on wildfires.
The first of the planes, an HC-130H, is based in Sacramento, California, and ready to start flying as far as 500 miles to drop retardant on a wildfire. Six more are coming online through 2019 and will be based around the West.
The Forest Service has been working since 2004 to modernize and stabilize the tanker fleet following a series of high-profile crashes.
The former Coast Guard plane brings to 21 the number of planes available for dropping retardant around the West.
Fifteen of them represent the next generation of air tankers that fly faster and carry bigger payloads than in the past.
Pro Chefs of Oregon’s annual picnic and barbecue competition this year featured a twist: Not the lemon peel sort. Instead of being held in a Portland area park, this year, for the first time, it was held on an Oregon farm and sponsored by Oregon agricultural commissions.
“We just wanted to say thank you to them for all of the hard work they’ve done at the Bite of Oregon the last several years,” said Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the Oregon Blueberry Commission, one of four commodity commissions to sponsor the event. “They just bust their hump. They work hard at that thing.”
Pro Chefs of Oregon works in tandem with commodity commissions each summer to sponsor the Oregon Bounty Chef’s Table at the Bite of Oregon.
At this year’s Bite, scheduled for Aug. 7-9 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, several commodity commissions will be working with the chefs, including the Oregon Blackberry and Raspberry Commission, the Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission, Oregon seafood commissions and the four commissions that sponsored the annual picnic: the Oregon Dairy Products Commission, the Oregon Beef Council, the Oregon Potato Commission and the Oregon Blueberry Commission.
“I’ve been working with the chefs at the Bite of Oregon for the last several years,” Ostlund said, “and I’ve been completely impressed with how much work they do on our behalf. They are in there year in and year out volunteering their time to put a public face to Oregon agriculture.
“We absolutely appreciate what they do,” he said. “So we decided to do something special.”
Gingerich Farms in Canby hosted the picnic, held July 11, while the Oregon Beef Council supplied beef. Cheeses were provided by the Oregon Dairy Products Commission and potatoes and blueberries were provided by their respective commissions.
Aaron Guerra, barbecue competition and picnic chair for Pro Chefs of Oregon, said the sponsorship was “a welcomed boost to make this event bigger and better than it ever has been.
“I was very pleased to see them come through like that, but not necessarily surprised,” Guerra said. “The commissions have always stepped up.”
He characterized commission involvement in the picnic as a “win-win.”
“It is an opportunity for us to highlight the commissions and the wonderful products that they provide,” Guerra said. “And for them, it was a thank you for all that the chefs have done at the Bite to promote their products.
“We work very hard on the Bite, and it is a labor of love and anytime that we can help promote each other and see the appreciation and satisfaction (of participants), it is a win-win,” he said.
Asked if he believes commissions are getting good bang for their buck at the Bite, he said: “Absolutely.”
“We have chefs and purveyors who have become more aware of the variety and depth of Oregon products, as well as people in the general public who may not think about where their food comes from and all that goes into providing it on a daily basis,” Guerra said.
“I think it is a multi-layered benefit that helps the general public, the chefs and purveyors all see what the commissions provide and how they provide it,” he said.
SALEM — Growers of meadowfoam, a niche oilseed, say they have weathered a multinational corporation’s entrance into their market, forcing the larger company to slash contracted acreage. But a market observer believes both sides now face the specter of overproduction.
The oil extracted from meadowfoam seeds has special value to the Asian cosmetics industry due to its distinctive tactile feel and long shelf life. The oil is odorless and resistant to heat, oxidation and other manufacturing processes.
“There’s a lot of mythology around meadowfoam,” explained Oregon State University crop scientist Jennifer Kling. “Everybody wants to grow meadowfoam, but finding buyers is a real challenge.”
In search of that market, publicly traded specialty plant and seed corporation Technology Crops International began contracting with Willamette Valley farmers in 2010, asking them to add meadowfoam to their rotation of grass seed crops.
That move forced OMG, an open-enrollment cooperative formerly known as the Oregon Meadowfoam Growers Association, to sharply decrease their meadowfoam acreage. In 2012, the co-op’s production fell roughly 42 percent, to 2,200 acres from 3,800, according to a Capital Press report published at that time.
Membership rolls correspondingly fell to 50, down from a peak of about 100 growers. Mike Martinez, OMG’s chief executive officer, said the drop mostly represented infrequent growers of meadowfoam.
“We’ve definitely experienced some price pressure on an account-by-account basis,” Martinez said. “There’s always concern when any competitive entity wants to start a price war. That never bodes well for any industry.”
But TCI apparently overestimated the market, and subsequently scaled back its production from a high of 5,000 acres. The North Carolina-based corporation now produces “considerably less acreage than OMG,” which produces approximately 3,000 acres annually, according to Kling.
“I got put out of business,” she said, speaking metaphorically. OSU has shuttered her meadowfoam breeding program due to the lack of industry demand.
“There’s no reason for me to breed meadowfoam … because (TCI and OMG) can’t grow as many acres as they might like to,” Kling said. “So there’s really no urgent need for a higher-yielding variety.”
TCI and the farmers’ co-op declined to release detailed acreage information.
TCI General Manager Kathy Flores said from her office in Winston-Salem, N.C., that the company typically begins production of a new crop after someone expresses a need for it, but declined to provide specifics.
OMG’s Martinez declined to disclose the cooperative’s total contracted acreage for 2015. Charles Ortiz, an OMG agronomist, compared that information to a newspaper’s circulation numbers.
“I’m not trying to be all ‘Spy vs. Spy,’ but I’m just not comfortable giving out that information,” he said, referencing the comic strip published in Mad magazine.
Martinez also did not comment on the amount of meadowfoam production ordered by TCI, or if the company was undercutting the cooperative’s prices.
Martinez said the co-op has paid its members dividends every year since 2008. In separate conversations, board members repeatedly stressed the crop’s continued status as a moneymaker, but warned that it could easily be overproduced.
Farmer and OMG board member Bruce Ruddenklau said his 40 acres of meadowfoam has brought anywhere from $900 to $1,800 per acre.
“I wouldn’t raise the crop if it weren’t profitable,” he said. “We’re seeing good prices and good stability in being paid on schedule, and everything’s been steady as she goes for a long time.”
Anders Benjamin Christensen, a retired farmer and a charter member and 58-year director of the Linn Soil and Water Conservation District, died June 25, 2015, in Albany, Ore. He was 102.
Known by his friends and family as Ben, he was born June 9, 1913, in Rowland, Ore. He was the oldest of four children born to Katharine and Anders C. Christensen.
He graduated from Harrisburg High School in 1932 and worked with his father and brother on their farm until 1935, when he purchased a neighboring farm.
He married Rose Darling on Oct. 26, 1935. They had three sons, Anders Clifford, Cecil and Hubert.
In his younger years he helped build Gap Road east of Harrisburg using horses and a Fresno scraper. He also helped build and maintain telephone lines in the area when phone service became available.
He also helped survey and clear rights-of-way for Consumers Power in the area.
He farmed until 1961 and ran a tree-planting crew in the winters. Ben was a charter member of the Linn Soil and Water Conservation District. He not only ran equipment for the district building ditches, dikes and leveling fields, he served as a director for 58 years. He was treasurer for the State Conservation District for 45 years.
After retiring from farming, Ben worked for Lochmead Farms and Dairy for 30 years.
He joined the Harrisburg Fire Department in 1941-42. He helped serve the Fourth of July breakfast every year until he was 99. He also assisted with the fireworks displays.
He enjoyed deep sea fishing and hunting. For his 100th birthday, Ben traveled with family to Alaska and fished at Seward.
Ben was a member of the IOOF Lodge for 70 years, he was also a member of the Charity Grange for 64 years.
He is preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Rose; brother Leonard Christensen; and sisters Blake Enos and Elsie “Chris” Bryant.
He leaves behind sons Clifford of Terrebonne, Ore., Cecil of Eugene, Ore., Hubert (Carolyn) of Harrisburg, Ore., four grandchildren, six step-grandchildren and numerous great, great-great and great-great-great grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. July 25 at the Harrisburg Area Museum.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Harrisburg Fire Rescue, Samaritan Evergreen Hospice and the Harrisburg Area Museum.
BEND, Ore. (AP) — Three Siberian huskies will be euthanized for attacking alpacas on a central Oregon farm.
The Bend Bulletin reports the owners of the alpacas and the three dogs were both tearful during a Deschutes County Dog Control Board meeting Thursday. Officials decided Tasha, Buddy and Wolfers had to be put down over fears they may attack again and were unsuitable for adoption.
Dog owner Norman Jensen was fined $1,000, which he can later appeal.
Two of Michelle Alexander’s alpacas were killed during the attack, and two others were later put down due to their injuries. She says a veterinarian is monitoring a pregnant alpaca that was also injured by the dogs.
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Fueled by growing demand for its lineup of hot teas, the maker of Yogi Tea plans to roughly double its space by building a $12 million facility in west Eugene.
East West Tea Co., Yogi’s parent company, plans to buy 13 acres of vacant land in the Westec Business Park off Highway 126, where it will build a plant and offices totaling 150,000 to 200,000 square feet, CEO Conrad Myers said.
“We have property in escrow,” he said. “We’re deciding whether to start with 150,000 square feet and later enlarge (it), or build out the whole thing at once.”
The company, which has 103 U.S. employees — about 85 of them in the Eugene-Springfield area — plans to expand its workforce as it expands production, Myers said.
The company plans to add five employees in the U.S. by the end of the year, and forecasts adding 30 to 40 positions from 2016 to 2018, said Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, director of global community relations and HR development.
East West Tea Co. is owned by the Sikh Dharma religious community, which is based in Espanola, New Mexico, and was founded by the late Yogi Bhajan.
The tea company is what remains of Golden Temple of Oregon, a food and beverage company that was started by the local Sikh community in the early 1970s and became a pillar of Lane County’s natural food industry.
The investment in the new plant continues that longtime local presence, Myers said, adding, “we’re here for the long haul.”
East West Tea is the unnamed food company that The Register-Guard reported in late April was trying to decide whether to expand at the site in Westec or one farther west in Greenhill Technology Park.
The company ultimately chose Westec, Myers said, because “we think it’s an easier site to build on.”
“We think the soil conditions are better,” he said. “There are some wetland remediation issues not yet complete on the other site, which lends some uncertainty.”
East West Tea hopes to break ground next summer and to move into the new building in mid-2017, Khalsa said.
However, the timeline will be determined by what the company discovers in its due diligence, Myers said. He said the company’s lease for its International Way facility in Springfield expires in September 2018.
“We’ve given ourselves plenty of time to make good decisions and work with our landlord partners,” Myers said.
The 13.3-acre Westec parcel is between Oregon Lox Co. and Lane Memorial Gardens & Funeral Home and is owned by developers John Hammer and Richard Hunsaker, according to Lane County property records.
It is in the west Eugene Enterprise Zone, which offers expanding companies three to five years of property tax waivers.
Myers said they had not calculated the tax savings associated with a waiver.
But “that’s not our prime motivation,” Myers said. “Our prime motivation is our business is growing. We’re situated in several locations. That’s not the most efficient way to run our business, and it doesn’t make it cohesive for our employees.”
When the company opens the new plant, it will close three facilities it leases: a 38,000-square-foot headquarters and factory at 950 International Way in Springfield’s Gateway area, a 32,000-square-foot warehouse in west Eugene, and a 14,000 square-foot warehouse in Coburg, Myers said.
He declined to provide detailed financial figures for the privately held company. But he said, “we’ve had excellent growth both here and in Europe over the last two years.”
In addition to the Springfield site, East West Tea has an office in Portland; European headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, where Myers has been based since the managing director there resigned in November 2013, and a tea packaging plant in Imola, Italy, near Bologna.
East West Tea makes about 60 products for the U.S. market and introduces two to three new products each year, Myers said.
It is pushing to make its products in the U.S. with 100 percent organic ingredients -- something the company has already achieved in Europe, Myers said.
In June 2014, it introduced a recyclable K-Cup product for Keurig brewing machines, he said.
The Yogi brand’s niche in the tea market has always been in “functional, wellness teas,” a niche that is growing more quickly than the overall tea market, Myers said.
U.S. retail sales of tea and ready-to-drink tea in bottles or cans were $7.3 billion in 2014, up nearly 20 percent from 2009, according to Mintel International, a market research firm. Sales are projected to continue to grow at least through 2019.
“The great majority (of Yogi teas) have a functional purpose, with roots in Ayurvedic wellness and medicine,” Myers said. “That’s our sweet spot: They’re functional and delicious.”
Over the past decade, Yogi Tea has made the leap from natural food stores into mass retailers, such as Walmart and Target.
“There are many, many more opportunities to find our products,” Myers said.
For now, East West Tea makes bagged teas and K-Cups, but other products are “always a possibility,” Myers said. “We have a strong brand. Our main focus is on tea. Despite this being a 30-year-old company, it continues to grow like a much younger one.”
Yogi tea had sales of $27 million in 2009, according to court documents filed as part of lengthy legal dispute with a group of then-Golden Temple managers, including former Golden Temple CEO and Eugene resident Kartar Singh Khalsa.
In December 2011, a Multnomah County judge found the group of Golden Temple managers was unjustly enriched by a 2007 corporate restructuring that shifted 90 percent of ownership in Golden Temple to the executives and away from the Sikh Dharma community. The judge ordered the managers to return $36 million to the Sikh community.
The former management group left the company in fall 2012, Myers said. In a settlement reached in late 2012, Kartar Singh Khalsa agreed, among other terms, to relinquish ownership interest in Golden Temple valued at $23.5 million.
That dispute “is tremendously behind us,” Myers said.
However, a different lawsuit is ongoing. It involves allegations of trademark infringement by Yogi Bhajan’s widow, Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Puri, a Los Angeles resident.
“There is unresolved litigation with the widow,” Myers said. “We hope it will be resolved. We’d like to have a settlement. That hasn’t happened yet.”
Arbitrators found several years ago that the Yogi brand name belongs to Yogi Bhajan’s heirs. The yogi died in 2004, leaving half of his estate to his wife and half to a group of 15 female former assistants.
Myers said East West Tea has received authorization to use the trademark from the group of Yogi Bhajan’s former assistants.
The cereal brands Golden Temple built, including Peace Cereal and others, are now owned by Post Holdings, the parent company of Post Foods.
EAST WEST TEA CO.
1960s-70s: Yogi Bhajan served a spicy tea after yoga classes, which students called “Yogi Tea.” It was served in restaurants founded by the Sikh Dharma community.
1984: Sikh Dharma community founded a tea company in Los Angeles
1992: Tea company moved to Eugene and was located with Golden Temple of Oregon, which produced cereal products
2008: Tea production moved to facility at 950 International Way in Springfield
2010: All tea production and operations moved to Springfield after Golden Temple cereal division was sold
Future: Plans to build a large tea plant in Westec Business Park in west Eugene
Drought and heat have stressed Oregon’s grass seed crops in multiple ways, which has farmers expecting a substantial decrease in yields now that harvest is underway.
It’s still too early to know the exact impact, but farmers are preliminarily reporting yield reductions of 20-50 percent, said Mark Simmons, executive director of the Oregon Grass Seed Bargaining Association.
“This year is extremely unusual. It’s the equivalent of the 50-year flood,” he said. “It’s really tough for farmers who grow grass seed.”
With less water available, grass cannot carry as much sugar to its seed, said Tom Chastain, seed crop physiology professor at Oregon State University.
That sugar is converted to starch that’s used to “bulk up” the embryonic plant and the “endosperm” that feeds it within the seed, he said. This year, dry conditions in spring have hindered grasses from filling the seed, reducing its weight.
Enzymes that convert sugars to starch are also affected by high temperatures, said Chastain. “The heat is exacerbating the problem because it interferes with some of those enzymes.”
Not only are seeds lighter, but there are also fewer of them — drought hinders pollination and causes the “abortion” of seeds, he said.
“We have a lot of producers who are very concerned right now,” Chastain said.
During 1992, which had weather conditions similar to this year’s, grass seed yields in Oregon’s Willamette Valley were cut by 11-14.5 percent overall, he said. That average includes irrigated acres, so dryland farmers likely experienced more severe impacts.
Chastain said the outlook for 2015 currently appears bleaker, with growers reporting average yield losses of 25 percent.
“Hopefully, that’s a worst-case scenario,” he said.
Ron DeConinck, a farmer near Woodburn, Ore., said he’s expecting a 20 percent reduction in yields despite irrigating his fields, though that figure remains speculative at this point.
Fields that were irrigated twice seem to be faring well but those only irrigated once are clearly damaged, he said. “There were a few days there, it literally burned it.”
Rodney Hightower, a farmer near Junction City, Ore., said growers in the southern Willamette Valley are expecting yield losses of 30 percent.
His farm produces several grass types, as well as specialty seeds and some grain, and the drought stress has affected most of them, he said. “This year, being diversified may not help a whole lot.”
Marion Ag Service’s seed cleaning operation is 10 days ahead of schedule due to the warm weather, which is the earliest that the company’s seed specialist, Scott Banyard, can remember.
An acre usually generates roughly 2,500 pounds of grass seed, but this year the range is about 1,700-2,000 pounds to the acre, said Banyard.
The only upside to the low yield expectations is that demand for grass seed may consume this year’s crop as well as leftover inventories.
If that happens, growers will be in a strong market position next year, said Simmons. “From that perspective, we’re hopeful.”
Farmers in the Willamette Valley have scaled back their grass seed production in favor of other crops in recent years, which has reduced supplies and improved prices, he said.
Prices are expected to exceed 80 cents per pound for perennial ryegrass and 70 cents per pound for tall fescue, Simmons said. To compare, during the market downturn between 2007 and 2009, perennial ryegrass was fetching about 46 cents per pound while tall fescue sold for about 30 cents per pound.
“We had a whole year’s extra supply of seed on hand,” he said.
PRINEVILLE, Ore. — Removing intrusive Western juniper trees from the landscape is the buzz among researchers, ranchers and government land managers.
Cutting juniper can improve greater sage grouse habitat, restore rangeland for grazing cattle and even provide jobs in struggling rural communities, the experts say.
John and Lynne Breese have a 30-year jump on them. In the draws and slopes outside Prineville, the Breeses have been cutting juniper since the late 1980s.
Walking a section of what’s called the Stump Puller Pasture, John Breese explains the rapid impact of cutting juniper. Trees on a 16-acre parcel of the pasture were cut a year-and-a-half ago and the branches trimmed and scattered as part of an on-going experiment.
“The object is to get the branches scattered so the sunlight will get to the ground and grass will grow,” Breese said.
Grazing cattle — “1,300-pound stompers,” he calls them — will grind juniper needles into the ground and release stored nitrogen.
“The whole point is to get this watershed functioning,” Breese said.
Native grasses are already thriving amid the debris of downed juniper. That will pay off when cattle come through.
“The direct benefit is the grazing we get out of it,” Breese said. “We can double and triple the animal unit months.”
Western juniper is such a water hog — Lynne Breese calls juniper a “thief” — that removing it has a nearly instant impact on the amount of water available for other plants and for stream flow. In a part of the state that gets by on 10 to 15 inches of precipitation a year, that’s significant.
A 10-year study in the Camp Creek drainage 60 miles southeast of Prineville compared two watersheds. On one, all juniper trees older than 140 years were removed; the other was not treated.
“We were able to show a response in a month,” said Tim DeBoodt, with Oregon State University Extension in Crook County. According to a published account, juniper removal increased the late season spring flow by 225 percent and increased the time in which monitors detected groundwater by an average of 41 days.
DeBoodt said the needles of mature juniper trees capture moisture. Snow or rain held in the needles either dribbles down the tree for its own use or evaporates.
For every 1 percent of the forest canopy that is juniper, the land loses 1 percent of moisture, DeBoodt said.
“If 20 percent of the canopy is juniper, 20 percent of the moisture never gets to the soil,” he said.
“Nine to 35 trees per acre can use all the water delivered to that site,” he said. “We have a lot of places where the (juniper) tree density is 50 to 200 trees per acre.”
Cutting juniper reduces soil loss to erosion tenfold, said DeBoodt, while forage production can increase six to 10 times per acre.
Juniper trees crowd out sage and provide perches for hawks and other predators that make life tough for sage grouse. As few as four juniper trees per acre can have a negative impact on sage grouse, DeBoodt said.
The problem with removing juniper is figuring out how to make the work pay for itself. Leaving the wood lay can add to the fuel load when wildfire sweeps through. Selling juniper logs to mills or cutting it for firewood can help offset the cost of clearing them, but that isn’t easy, either.
While urban lumber yards say they can sell all the juniper boards and posts they can get, the logging, milling and hauling infrastructure hasn’t kept up with demand.
For now, government grants help landowners, including Breese, offset the cost. Two bills signed by Gov. Kate Brown during this legislative session will make Oregon Lottery money available to solidify the supply chain, aid rural mills and develop markets.
“There’s not enough grant money in the world to do what has to be done,” Breese said. “Somehow it has got to pay its way.”
It’s important to Breese on a personal basis.
The extended family’s cattle and timber operation covers 8,000 acres and dates to 1888. John Breese was a high school science teacher but returned to the family property after his father died in the late 1980s.
The first thing that struck him was the sad state of the watershed and its diminished creeks. Breese said he discussed it with Lee Eddleman, a retired OSU range ecologist.
Instead of working along the creekbeds, Eddleman told him to start in the uplands, where the juniper grows.
“Fix the uplands and you’re going to win in the crick,” Breese said.
Removing juniper became his way of sustaining the family heritage.
“We’re not screwing it up on our watch,” he said.
To see a video about juniper removal, go to