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Oregon farm seeks $2.5 million for wrong strawberries

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

An Oregon farm claims to have suffered $2.5 million in damages from planting an incorrect variety of strawberries sold by a nursery in California.

Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., has filed a federal complaint accusing Norcal Nursery of Red Bluff, Calif., of delivering nearly 1.6 million strawberry plants with “poor yield and inferior berry quality.”

The Oregon farm claims it ordered the Tillamook variety of strawberries and accepted six shipments of plants from the California nursery in 2016 and 2017, for which it paid about $167,000.

Whereas the Tillamook cultivar is “ideally suited” to Oregon’s climate and produces “high yields of large, well-shaped, richly colored excellent flavored berries,” the plants from Norcal were “inconsistent” with these attributes, the complaint said.

Genetic testing confirmed the strawberries were of another, unnamed variety that Townsend had to plow under and replace with the correct cultivar, the complaint said.

“Further, as a result of the low yield, inferior quality and loss of growing cycles, Townsend Farms has incurred lost profits that would have resulted from the sale of its strawberries,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that Norcal violated its contract, breached an express warranty and acted negligently in shipping the strawberries, causing damages of at least $2.5 million.

Capital Press was unable to reach a representative of Norcal Nursery as of press time.

Oregon pursuing legal options to stop dairy violations

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two months after settling with the state’s second-largest dairy the Oregon Department of Agriculture has given up faith that it can comply with its permits.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports agriculture officials said Thursday they plan to work with the Department of Justice to pursue “every legal option to stop violations to the confined animal feeding operation permit that may threaten the environment.”

That could include suing to shut down the dairy located near Boardman.

Lost Valley Farm allegedly started violating its environmental and agricultural permits within months of opening. The violations have come regularly since then, including six since an April settlement with the state when it promised to do better.

Farm owner Greg te Velde has asked a bankruptcy judge for permission hire a real estate broker to sell the dairy and nearly 7,300 acres for $95 million.

Oregon Shows Limited Progress In Reducing Food Insecurity

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon has shown limited progress in reducing food insecurity over the last three years, according to a new report.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy says more than a half-million Oregonians now suffer from food insecurity. That means they either went hungry or didn’t know where their next meal was coming from at some time during the past year.

U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show food insecurity actually declined 3.9 percent in Oregon over three years. But Janet Bauer with OCPP said those declines are statistically insignificant.

“Oregon has a long way to go in addressing food security,” she said.

She added that many Oregonians are struggling to put food on the table.

“We cannot say with confidence that food insecurity has gone down in Oregon,” Bauer said. “It’s just as likely that the situation has not improved as it has marginally improved.”

Over the last decade, Oregon’s national ranking for food insecurity has improved from close to the worst, to now 14th.

But Congress is poised to consider a bill that would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, on which many families rely for food.

Bauer said the latest version of the Farm Bill in Congress doesn’t address food shortages adequately. 

“We should be investing more in food assistance programs and taking steps to relieve the economic stress of working families,” she said.

Bauer thinks it’s clear many working families are under severe economic pressures and have to make tough choices about whether to pay the rent, keep the lights on or buy food.

Oregon rancher, county intervene in grazing challenge

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A federal judge is allowing an Oregon rancher and county government to intervene as defendants in an environmentalist lawsuit against grazing in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The complaint was filed earlier this year by the Greater Hells Canyon Council environmental nonprofit, which claimed the U.S. Forest Service insufficiently studied the impacts of grazing on the Spalding’s catchfly, a threatened plant.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan has ruled the Forest Service may not adequately represent the concerns of McClaran Ranch, which grazes cattle in the forest, or Wallowa County, which relies on agriculture for its tax base and economy.

The ranch and the county have distinct interests that may be impaired by the lawsuit and thus are entitled to intervene in the litigation, Sullivan said.

According to the complaint, livestock trample the Spalding’s catchfly and consume its flowers and seeds, thereby hindering reproduction of the perennial plant, which has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 2001.

Cattle also introduce and spread invasive weed species that compete with the Spalding’s catchfly, whose populations are particularly at risk of displacement due to their tendency to “clump,” the plaintiff argues.

The environmental group alleges the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to study eliminating grazing from areas where the Spalding’s catchfly is vulnerable to grazing, among other claims.

The Forest Service has filed an answer to the lawsuit denying violations of NEPA and other federal statutes and arguing the complaint should be dismissed partly because the nonprofit failed to raise its objections during administrative proceedings.

In his request to intervene, rancher Scott McClaran said his family has raised livestock in the region for nearly 100 years and has developed strategies with the Forest Service to minimize negative effects on the Spalding’s catchfly and other native resources.

The ranch depends on grazing within the four allotments of the 44,000-acre “Lower Imnaha Rangeland Analysis” project area that’s at the center of the lawsuit.

“A decision that limits, restricts or prohibits livestock grazing on some or all of these allotments would hinder the environmental benefits from the rotational grazing among pastures on the ranch and allotments,” he said. “It would also negatively impact the economic viability of McClaran Ranch and threaten the ability of the McClaran family to maintain the ranching lifestyle that has been central to my family for generations.”

The lawsuit could set a legal precedent affecting grazing in other areas where the Spalding’s catchfly grows, which could seriously impair Wallowa County’s economy, according to a declaration from Todd Nash, a rancher and county commissioner.

“Such an economic impact would affect the county’s ability to maintain the quality of the services the county must provide to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of its residents,” he said.

Teen who started $40M Columbia Gorge fire to return to court

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Vancouver teenager charged in juvenile court with starting an explosive wildfire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge by tossing a lit firecracker into the woods is set to return to court Thursday.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports a hearing will be held to determine the details of his restitution.

The teen pleaded guilty in February to eight counts of reckless burning of public and private property and other charges. District Judge John Olson sentenced the teen to more than 2 ½ months of community service and five years of probation.

The September blaze grew to 75 square miles and forced evacuations, caused the extended shutdown of a major interstate highway and sent ash raining down on Portland for days.

The fire and its aftermath have cost nearly $40 million and that figure could still rise.

Dozens more charges filed in wildlife poaching ring probe

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors in Oregon have filed more than a hundred charges in an investigation of wildlife poaching that has spanned state lines and allegedly left dozens of animals shot illegally and sometimes left to rot.

The Wasco County District Attorney’s office charged eleven people with misdemeanor wildlife crimes in that county Tuesday. Some of those charged in Oregon are also being prosecuted in Washington state for allegedly killing bears, deer, elk or bobcats illegally. Members of the loose network often filmed or photographed their hunts, capturing gruesome scenes, including some in Washington that showed hunting dogs gnawing on dead or wounded bears. In some hunts, the alleged poachers left their prey to waste, collecting little meat or hide, investigators said.

Officials in both states have said the case is among the largest and most complex they’ve ever investigated, but still have not pinpointed any specific motives of the alleged poachers, other than to kill for thrill.

“Why would somebody do this? I don’t fully understand,” said Tim Schwartz, a Fish and Wildlife lieutenant with the Oregon State Police. “Just to see the killing, as a hunter myself, it’s really upsetting.”

The case began in November 2016, when Oregon State Patrol officers set up game cameras on national forest land near The Dalles. The motion-triggered cameras captured images of people in a truck shining a spotlight into the woods, then exiting the vehicle with rifles and head lamps, according to Washington officers’ investigative reports. The Oregon troopers later found a headless deer near the location where the truck had been photographed.

A few days later, the troopers recognized the truck and pulled it over. Cellphones seized from the suspects, which contained photos and videos of hunts as well as text messages, ultimately led Washington officers to more than 20 kill sites in Southwest Washington and several more suspects. Eight people were initially charged last fall in Skamania County with more than 190 counts of wildlife violations, including 33 felonies. More charges have been filed in other Washington counties since.

Meantime, Oregon officials continued to work the case. In January, officials charged nine people with wildlife crimes in Clatsop County, three of them with additional violations in Lincoln County and four of them with additional violations in Clackamas County. But most of the Oregon violations — some 120 misdemeanors in all — allegedly occurred in Wasco County.

Officials charged William Jarred Haynes, 24, with 45 counts; Erik Christian Martin, 24, with 42 counts; Joseph Allen Dills, 31, with 12 counts; Aaron Brian Hendricks, 35, with five counts; David R. McLeskey, 59, with four counts; Sierra Dills, 18, with four counts; Eddy Alvin Dills, 58, with two counts; Kimberly Kathrin Crape, 20, with two counts; Wyatt Keith, 17, with two counts; Aubri Nicole McKenna, 36, with one count; and Aaron Colby Hanson, 38, with one count.

Charges included unlawful taking or possession of wildlife (including deer, bear, bobcat, squirrel and cougar); waste of wildlife; hunting with an artificial light; use of dogs or bait to hunt (cougar and bear); criminal conspiracy; aiding or sharing in a wildlife violation; and altering, borrowing or loaning a license, tag or permit.

Unlike Washington, where spree killing is a felony, Oregon’s wildlife violations are misdemeanors.

Schwartz said his agency would like to see Oregon’s Legislature look at creating a felony statute for those who kill multiple animals in quick succession.

As investigators continue to pore over evidence, more charges could be coming in Washington.

“Our investigation is still ongoing,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Brad Rhoden told the Seattle Times. “There are still matters that we’re looking into. By no means are we done with our field work.”

FDA warns Oregon juice maker about fungal toxin

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

An Oregon juice manufacturer has received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for inadequately controlling for patulin, a harmful fungal toxin.

The Hood River Juice Co., which sells apple juices and ciders under the “Ryan’s” brand, used a system of inspection and sorting that wouldn’t sufficiently limit patulin below 50 parts per billion, according to FDA.

When FDA officials inspected the company’s facility in Hood River, Ore., in late 2017, they noted that internal tests had identified three batches with patulin levels of 187, 92 and 67 parts per billion.

“Even a small percentage of rotten, moldy, and damaged apples may contain high levels of patulin to result in the finished product exceeding FDA’s action level for patulin of 50 ppb,” the warning letter said. “Any apples which are rotten, moldy, bruised or damaged should be trimmed or culled from production.”

Apples at the facility were stored “outside for extended periods without atmospheric or temperature controls in open, wooden bins,” increasing the likelihood they’d become contaminated with the toxin, the agency said.

The FDA said the Hood River Juice Co. had violated “hazard analysis and critical control points,” or HACCP, regulations by manufacturing an adulterated product.

While the company responded to the inspection by vowing to revise its HACCP plan to deal with the problem, the agency hasn’t yet received that update.

The agency also faulted the company for not properly monitoring cleanliness of food contact surfaces to prevent cross-contamination, such as leaving “clumps of apple mash on mesh press bags after cleaning” and “peeling paint with apparent black, mold-like growth on the ceiling above press bags.”

Hood River Juice Co. sent a response to FDA claiming to have corrected these problems but hasn’t provided documentation, the agency said.

Inspectors also found the company mixed batches of apple juice to lower patulin levels, which isn’t allowed under federal law and still renders the finished product adulterated, according to the warning letter.

Batches containing more than 50 parts per billion of patulin were diverted by Hood River Juice Co. for products intended to be fermented for vinegar or cider, the FDA said. The agency recommended the company get “written assurances” from clients that fermentation would occur.

David Ryan, the company’s president, did not reply to requests for comment.

Republican Buehler Nominated To Face Brown In Oregon Governor’s Race

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

State Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, emerged victorious from a surprisingly tough Oregon Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday and will now face Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in the general election.

Brown easily won a lightly contested Democratic primary as she readies for her second general-election campaign in two years. In 2016, she was elected to fill the last two years of the term of John Kitzhaber, who resigned amid a scandal involving his fiancee’s consulting work.

Buehler, a state representative and orthopedic surgeon from Bend, was the only GOP candidate with a large campaign fund. His opponents couldn’t match his heavy spending on TV ads and mailers.

But Buehler frequently found himself getting into hot water with party activists who didn’t think he was conservative enough. They particularly criticized him for refusing to embrace President Donald Trump and for describing himself as pro-choice on abortion. Buehler’s recent vote in favor of a gun-control bill related to domestic abuse also rankled many gun-rights activists.

Bend businessman Sam Carpenter and retired Naval aviator Greg Wooldridge mounted the toughest challenges to Buehler.

Carpenter tied himself closely to Trump, adopting the campaign slogan “Make Oregon Great Again” and proclaiming that he too was a take-charge CEO in the mold of the president.

Wooldridge, who led the Navy’s famed Blue Angels stunt team, won the endorsement of Oregon Right to Life, the state’s major anti-abortion group. He argued that his leadership of the Lemoore Naval Air Station in California showed that he knew how to manage complex organizations.

The low turnout in the race — fewer than half the state’s 700,000 Republican voters were expected to take part — added a big level of uncertainty as Tuesday’s election approached.

“We know the Republican Party is a collection of tribes,” that ranges from wealthy business people to anti-abortion evangelicals, said Greg Leo, a former executive director of the state GOP. “And who wins may depend on turnout.”

Buehler, describing himself as “fiercely independent,” pitched himself as someone who could also appeal well outside the Republican base — which he said was necessary given that the party’s nominees regularly fail to win statewide contests. In fact, no Republican has won an Oregon governor’s race since 1982.

Buehler’s advertising accused Brown of a series of management failures as governor, on issues as varied as the state’s troubled foster care system and the big financial problems facing the state’s public employee retirement system.

He drained most of his bank account in a $1.5 million advertising blitz. Buehler said his campaign always planned to spend big in the primary because it was a good time to communicate with voters.

But his rivals – and many others – took it as a sign of how worried the Buehler campaign was about making it through the primary. At one point, Buehler also released a radio ad and a mailer attacking Carpenter for having a series of personal and business tax liens.

Carpenter scoffed that Buehler exaggerated the extent of his tax problems and noted that he had always eventually paid all that he owed.

Buehler often skipped events featuring his rivals and didn’t agree to participate in a debate until the end of the campaign. On the Friday before Tuesday’s primary, the three top candidates appeared together for an hour on the Portland-based talk show hosted by conservative Lars Larson.

In that event, Buehler turned the tables on Carpenter, coming at him from the right. Buehler – and Wooldridge – both said they would refuse to enforce a proposed ballot measure that would ban military-style semi-automatic firearms.

Carpenter said he strongly opposed the initiative but that it would be his job as governor to enforce the law. The next day, he said he bungled the answer by failing to talk about how he would push hard to have the measure overturned by the courts, should it become law.

By the time election night rolled around, Buehler reported having about $450,000 left in his campaign bank account. Brown, meanwhile, is sitting on a $3.7 million campaign fund.

McLeod-Skinner Nominated To Take On Walden For Oregon Congressional Seat

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Democrat Jaime McLeod-Skinner triumphed over six rivals to win the party’s nomination to take on GOP Rep. Greg Walden in Oregon’s vast — and conservative — Second Congressional District.

Walden, a Republican from Hood River, easily won his GOP primary contest against two others. The congressman chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee and has handily been re-elected ever since he first won Oregon’s Second Congressional District in 1998.

The district, which covers all of eastern Oregon and a chunk of southern Oregon, is by far the most conservative of the state’s five congressional districts. In years past, Democratic strategists have generally conceded the district. The party’s nomination could often be had for the asking.

Not this year.

Large and angry crowds besieged Walden at a series of town halls he held around his district in the spring. They criticized him for helping write a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Activists began regularly protesting at Walden’s district offices. And no fewer than seven Democrats signed up to run for his seat.

McLeod-Skinner was one of the first to get in the race and said she has logged more than 30,000 miles traversing the district, which is larger than any state east of the Mississippi River. She’s had a varied career, working overseas on reconstruction in war-torn Bosnia and as a planner in California, where she served on the Santa Clara City Council.

Back in Oregon, McLeod-Skinner was the Phoenix city manager for just four months before being fired in 2017. She blamed it on a dysfunctional City Council.

Following her victory Tuesday, McLeod-Skinner praised her fellow Democrats and expressed confidence that she could win in November.

She said she’s heard from rural Oregonians who are dissatisfied with Walden.

“Regardless of political affiliation, we all care about our families. We all care about our communities. And we want good representation, someone who shows up, listens and cares about our community,” McLeod-Skinner told OPB. “And that’s what I have to offer, and that’s what Greg Walden’s not offering.”

Physician Jenni Neahring came in behind McLeod-Skinner, while Jim Crary — a retired lawyer who has challenged Walden before and lost in 2016 — came in third.

The other candidates were: retired Chrysler executive Tim White, teacher Raz Mason, retired maritime official Eric Burnette and stonemason Michael Byrne.

The seven held a series of joint candidate forums around the district. They focused their criticism on Walden and spoke positively of each other.

The district is still considered safely Republican by national handicappers. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released an ambitious list of 101 Republican seats it is targeting. Oregon’s Second Congressional seat is not among them.

But Democrats are hoping they can give Walden a tougher race this time. The Oregon Democratic Party has set up a website — titled “repeal Walden” — to collect contributions for the primary victor.

“The political winds are shifting and Republicans like Greg Walden will face serious challenges to their re-election in November,” said state Democratic chairwoman Jeanne Atkins in announcing the website.

Lost Valley Farm’s owner seeks to sell dairy

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The owner of a controversial Oregon dairy wants to sell the facility and cattle rather than immediately liquidate the herd as sought by a major creditor.

Greg te Velde, owner of Lost Valley Farm in Boardman, Ore., has asked a bankruptcy judge for permission hire a real estate broker to sell the dairy and nearly 7,300 acres for $95 million.

Roughly 8,750 milk and dry cows and 3,380 heifers would be listed for $14 million under the proposed agreement with Schuil & Associates, a brokerage firm specializing in agriculture in Visalia, Calif.

A potential investor may already be interested in the dairy.

During a recent court hearing, an attorney for Washington Agri Investments, a limited liability company based in Spokane, Wash., said the firm is looking at buying the property.

However, Rabobank — which loaned more than $60 million to te Velde — still wants to hold an auction as soon as possible to sell off Lost Valley Farm’s cattle, arguing the herd is losing its worth.

An auction was scheduled for April 27 but was canceled when te Velde filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which automatically stayed all foreclosure actions while he restructures debt.

Rabobank claims that Lost Valley Farm hasn’t kept pace with replacing older cows and is producing less milk than other comparable herds partly due to its “shoestring budget.”

“My collateral goes down in value every day,” said Richard Rogan, attorney for the bank, during a recent court hearing.

The dairy lacks fresh water or bathrooms for employees and has lost its milk contract with the Tillamook County Creamery Association, which will stop accepting milk from the facility at the end of May, he said.

The facility is out of compliance with its court judgment with the Oregon Department of Agriculture over wastewater management and its general manager and animal waste engineer have both resigned, said Rogan.

Meanwhile, te Velde’s own budget projects the dairy will continue losing money, he said. “There’s absolutely no way this dairy can continue.”

For these reasons, Rabobank is asking the bankruptcy court to lift the automatic stay against foreclosure actions as to the Lost Valley Farm dairy.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Fredrick Clement, who is overseeing the case, will accept further written arguments on the matter and has scheduled a hearing for May 30 at which he expects to make a decision.

Te Velde owns two other dairies in California that would still be protected against foreclosure under the bankruptcy proceedings — one in Tipton valued at $40 million and another in Corcoran valued at $36 million.

According to his most recently filed financial schedules, te Velde owns $249 million in assets and owes $162 million in debt.

Emmett Earl Pryor, wheat industry leader, dies at age 92

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Emmett Earl Pryor, a former chairman of the Oregon Wheat Commission and past president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, died May 11, 2018, at his home in Salem, Ore. He was 92.

Blake Rowe, current CEO of the Oregon Wheat Growers League and Oregon Wheat Commission, said Pryor was a strong advocate for Oregon agriculture.

“Oregon Wheat notes with sadness the passing of one of its most respected grower leaders,” Rowe said. “We extend our deep appreciation for his service and our condolences to his family.”

As president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, Pryor was featured in the April 1984 cover story of Oregon Business magazine, detailing his role lobbying for the industry in the face of record surpluses, low prices and export difficulties caused by a strong dollar.

In the article, Pryor was described by one agricultural expert as “very dogged. ... He’ll be in there fighting and scratching and clawing for his members.”

Pryor was born in Condon, Ore., July 12, 1925. His mother, Julia Jones Pryor, preceded him in death when he was three years old. He was raised by his father, Emmet Pryor, and his step-mother, Jean Law Pryor.

He graduated in 1943 from Condon High School, where he was student body president and senior class president. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy immediately after graduation. After attending Oklahoma University, he served on the USS Merrimack as engineering officer.

After World War II, Pryor returned to Condon and began farming. He believed deeply in public service and advocacy for agriculture and specifically the wheat industry, according to his family. He once said in a speech that “Every man worth his salt should give back to his community and industry at least 10 percent.”

He was as good as his word.

He served on numerous community and industry commissions and boards, including the Gilliam County Assessor Advisory Committee, Gilliam County Board of Equalization, Gilliam County Budget Board, Gilliam County School District 25, the Budget Advisory Board, Gilliam County Board of Review, chairman, Gilliam County Grain Growers as chairman, Mid-Columbia Production Credit Association, Oregon Highway Federation and the Oregon State Extension Advisory Board.

He was also on the Oregon Agricultural Research and Extension Project Advisory Board, Committee for Senate Bill 100/LCDC Citizen Advisory Committee, Oregonians for Food and Shelter as a founding member, Agriculture Political Action League as a founding member, Oregon Wheat League as president, Agriculture Recovery Council as a founder and chairman, Oregon Wheat Commission as chairman, Council for Economic Development in Oregon as founder and chairman, Oregon Economic Development Commission, National Association of Wheat Growers as president and the U.S. Commission on Agriculture Trade and Export Policy.

Pryor was preceded in death by his wife of 30 years, Bernice “Peetie” Petroff of The Dalles, Ore.

He is survived by his wife, Laura Pryor of Salem; son, Marc and Paula Pryor of Torrance, Calif.; son, Ty Pryor of Condon; grandchildren, Damon Pryor of Damascus, Brittany Pryor Lodge of Boise, Idaho, and Stephanie Moore of Maryland; and great-grandchildren, Maggie and Grant Pryor of Damascus; nieces and nephews that he was always very close to, Rod and Jean Pryor of Olympia, Wash.; Joyce and Mike Allen of Brewster, Wash.; Scott Pryor of Spokane, Wash.; Larry and Kay Lear of Condon, David and Marlene Johnson of Bend, and Julie Johnson of Florida.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Condon Scholarship Foundation, P.O. Box 385, Condon, Oregon 97823.

A celebration of life will be held at the Condon Elks Lodge at noon Saturday, May 19, for family and friends; lunch will be served.

Sign the condolence book at sweeneymortuary.com

Idaho-administered Produce Safety Rule nets comments from border

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Capital Press

ONTARIO, Ore. — Idaho State Department of Agriculture efforts to administer the new federal Produce Safety Rule will work well if the agency sets clear expectations, makes the system practical for multi-state growers and can easily adapt to future changes in federal standards.

Those sentiments emerged as clear themes at an ISDA-hosted meeting May 15 in Ontario, Ore., part of a key produce-growing region that includes neighboring communities in southwest Idaho. ISDA is developing administrative rules tied to a new Idaho law.

“It just brings a little more awareness about what we have got to do with our growers on being up to par on this subject,” said Jeff Robins, operations manager with Champion Produce, a packing shed in Parma, Idaho. Champion already has a food-safety program.

“We’ve got improvements to be made,” said Jackie Williams, owner of Williams Fruit Ranch in Emmett, Idaho. For example, the orchard will evaluate its apple juicing, which is contracted to a third party.

Produce-industry representatives said ISDA farm inspections could cause problems where growers are based in Idaho but have fields in Oregon.

ISDA said the standards are the same no matter which agency administers the rule and inspects farms, and that an Idaho-Oregon operator would not need separate inspections.

The Produce Safety Rule establishes science-based minimum standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce generally consumed raw. It currently applies to hops and wine grapes as well.

In a law passed March 20 to take effect July 1, the Idaho Legislature authorized ISDA to administer and enforce the federal rule and conduct on-farm inspections. The department has said the state’s agriculture industry requested this due largely to existing relationships with ISDA. Federal grants are covering the effort so far.

At the May 15 meeting, industry representatives speculated about how packing sheds would be covered, and expressed concern about the rule’s water-quality standards changing unexpectedly.

ISDA Chief of Staff Pamm Juker said the rule covers packing sheds that share ownership with a farm. As for water quality, any proposed change would involve its own comment period and compliance deadlines.

ISDA’s draft administrative rule includes procedures by which the state could request the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant a variance, such as when a local growing condition interferes with standard compliance. A variance would be granted only to a grower who scientifically demonstrates safety would not be reduced and produce would not be adulterated, Juker said.

The Produce Safety Rule is in effect for large farms. Mid-sized farms must comply by next Jan. 28. Small farms have until January 2020, but those averaging less than $25,000 in annual revenue for three years are exempt.

ISDA is taking comments on proposed administrative rules until May 31. Meetings are scheduled at 10 a.m. Pacific time on May 22 at Fairfield Inn and Suites, Moscow, and at 10 a.m. May 29 at Best Western Plus Burley Inn, Burley.

Oregon environmental regulators gauge water quality

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon is getting better at identifying and rectifying water quality problems but conditions are still far from “rainbows and unicorns,” according to the state’s top environmental regulators.

Traditionally, Oregon has implemented projects aimed at improving water quality without sufficiently monitoring how those efforts were working, said Richard Whitman, director of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Over the past five years or so, however, the state’s approach to preventing “non-point” pollution from agriculture has strengthened the government’s ability to analyze on-the-ground data over time, he said.

“Without that, we’re flying blind,” Whitman said. “We haven’t had that historically in Oregon until recently.”

Officials from DEQ and members of the Environmental Quality Commission — which oversees the agency — recently toured streams near The Dalles that had garnered additional scrutiny under the state’s agricultural water quality program.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is charged with enforcing the agricultural water quality program but DEQ sets the standards for water quality and reviews conditions.

“We are the regulatory function and they are the science function,” said John Byers, manager of ODA’s agricultural water quality program. “We work in tandem.”

According to DEQ’s most recent water quality index for Oregon’s rivers, about 49 percent of sites were “excellent or good,” 18 percent were “fair” and 33 percent were “poor or very poor.”

In 2017, about 34 percent of sites were considered to be “improving,” 8 percent were “declining” and the rest showed no trend. To compare, 24 percent were improving and 6 percent were declining in 2016.

Forests had the largest proportion of good and excellent sites, at about 75 percent, and the smallest proportion of poor and very poor sites, at less than 10 percent.

More than 40 percent of the river sites in cities were of “very poor” water quality, the highest level of any other land use.

“Urban areas, as we might suspect, have some of the worst water quality problems in the state,” said Whitman.

Roughly 25 percent of the river sites on agricultural lands were rated “very poor” and 35 percent were rated “poor.” About 30 percent were considered “good” or “excellent,” while remaining sites on farmland were “fair.”

Since 2013, the ODA has focused on water quality in “strategic implementation areas” in which the agency relies on aerial photos and other data to find problems, rather than depend solely on complaints.

Wasco County has had three SIAs in Mill Creek, Threemile Creek and Eightmile Creek, partly because the county’s soil and water conservation district was eager to participate in the new approach. Byers said.

“Initially, it seemed a little scary to invite the regulators in,” said Shilah Olson, district manager of the Wasco SWCD.

Landowners identified as having water quality problems have sought help from local soil and water conservation districts without ODA having to issue penalties, said Byers.

“It’s not about enforcement, it’s about compliance,” he said.

Mary Sandoz, a farmer near The Dalles, built a roof over a hog pen to prevent runoff into nearby Mill Creek as part of the SIA program.

Because they were in one of the earliest SIAs, farmers near the waterway wanted to set a good precedent, she said.

“Are we being made an example of? Because that’s almost what it felt like,” Sandoz said.

Once landowners meet with ODA and learn about the SIA process, their concerns are usually dispelled, Byers said.

At the end of those meetings, farmers are asked, “Does this scare you?” he said. “Typically the answer is no.”

Bid accepted for work on Malheur Siphon in Eastern Oregon

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ONTARIO, Ore. (AP) — Major repairs are in store for the Malheur Siphon, a steel pipe that carries irrigation water to farmers from the Malheur Reservoir.

The siphon that’s about 80 years old stretches for more than four miles across the valley between Vale and Ontario.

The Ontario Argus-Observer reports the work is needed because of unstable, shifting soil around Malheur Butte, which has destabilized support structures on which the siphon rests. Moreover, the outer skin of the siphon has wrinkled because of the expansion and contraction caused by changes in temperatures.

The Owyhee Irrigation District recently accepted a bid on the repair work for $656,000. That’s about $200,000 less than a previous bid that was rejected for being over budget.

The project is slated to begin at the end of the irrigation season this fall. The work should be done by April.

Deck Family Farm to sell pork through craft meat distributor

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Deck Family Farm, a small, organic livestock producer in the Mid-Willamette Valley, has started selling pasture-raised pork to a craft meat distributor based in Seattle that specializes in doorstep deliveries.

Crowd Cow, launched in 2015 by startup entrepreneurs Ethan Lowry and Joe Heitzeberg, announced in April the company would add pork to its line of meat products, including bacon, sausage, chorizo, ribs and pork chops.

Customers on the West Coast will get their orders from Deck Family Farm, of Junction City, Ore. The farm, run by John and Christine Deck, raises Wattle-Berkshire crossbreed pigs on more than 300 acres of certified organic pastures, along with beef cows, chickens and lambs.

In addition to raising livestock, Christine Deck said the operation focuses heavily on environmental stewardship. Over the last 15 years, Deck Family Farm has planted 60,000 trees and restored more than a mile of riparian corridors in the Long Tom River watershed.

“We’re pretty serious about doing things right,” Deck said.

Deck Family Farm typically sells direct to consumers at farmers markets, or through the farm’s own community-supported agriculture model. While their products are more expensive than buying meat at the grocery store, Deck said their customers are “voting with their dollar to make a difference in the environment, and their ecosystem.”

“We don’t sell to consumers. We sell to citizen eaters,” she said. “Our buyers and us work together to do the right thing.”

The deal with Crowd Cow allows them to focus more time on farming and less on marketing, Deck said.

The farm began talking with Crowd Cow about four years ago, though purchases only started within the last six months.

Crowd Cow, as its name suggests, got its start in beef, buying cows from small, independent farms. Animals are bought one at a time, individually crowd-funded by buyers, with cuts of meat shipped to their homes.

The company announced in April it would add pork to its line of products — expanding into “Crowd Sow.” In a prepared statement, Heitzeberg, CEO and co-founder of Crowd Cow, said they are looking forward to partnering with small-scale producers who are preserving heritage breeds and brining their flavors to American eaters.

“We’re excited to be part of the transformation away from traditionally raised American meat and into ethically minded consumerism,” Heitzeberg said.

West Coast buyers will receive pork from Deck Family Farm, while those from east of the Rocky Mountains will receive purebred Berkshire pork from Autumn’s Harvest Farm in Upstate New York.

For more information, visit www.crowdcow.com.


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