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Water infrastructure bill includes provisions for Klamath Project

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin will benefit directly from a massive federal water spending bill that authorizes more than $6 billion to improve the nation’s ports, dams, harbors and other infrastructure.

Tucked into the America’s Water and Infrastructure Act of 2018 is a section that deals specifically with the Klamath Project, a sprawling 200,000-acre irrigation system that serves more than 1,200 family farms and ranches in southern Oregon and northern California.

Congress passed the bill on Oct. 10, which includes up to $10 million annually for the Klamath Project to help agricultural producers withstand water shortages and improve efficiency.

Scott White, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said the money could pay for pumping groundwater or idling farmland during drought years — like the basin experienced in 2018 — or project improvements like lining irrigation canals to prevent water loss.

“If we have $10 million to use for addressing (water) supply versus demand on an annual basis, then during good water years we could be using that money for ways to improve our efficiency and make those drought years that much easier,” White said.

The Klamath Project already faces a strain on water supplies to balance the needs of farms with the needs of endangered fish species. Earlier this year, the Klamath Tribes sued the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to hold more water in Upper Klamath Lake for endangered shortnose and Lost River suckers.

Meanwhile, the Yurok and Hoopa Valley tribes also successfully sued government agencies to send more water down the Klamath River to wash away a salmon-killing parasite known as C. shasta. The lawsuits delayed the start of the 2018 irrigation season by several months, making it harder for farmers and ranchers to know what to plant ahead of time.

White said provisions in the America’s Water and Infrastructure Act were originally part of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, a $1 billion long-term agreement that would have also included the removal of four dams on the lower Klamath River. The KBRA failed to pass Congress before expiring in 2015.

Three years later, White said they are pleased to see lawmakers take action.

“It’s not going to solve all the issues here, but it’s a good start,” he said.

In addition to the $10 million in drought relief, the bill also makes it easier for farmers to convey groundwater through the Klamath Project canals during water shortages, and instructs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to recommend ways the basin can reduce electricity costs, which in some cases have ballooned by 2,000 percent over the last decade.

Affordable power is tied directly to project efficiency, White explained. The more electricity costs, the less farmers may use technology designed to conserve water, such as center pivots versus flood irrigation.

“There are many reasons why affordable power is so important for water efficiencies on farm, and on the project,” White said.

Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation also cheered provisions to assist Klamath Basin agriculture, an industry worth about $557 million. Rep. Greg Walden said he was proud to work with his Senate colleagues to get the legislation across the finish line.

“This measure will help ensure our farmers, ranchers, and water users are able to survive this challenging water year and will help prepare us for severe drought conditions we may face in the near future,” said Walden, a Republican.

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley agreed the bill is a win for the basin’s agricultural economy.

“Through drought, wildfires, and other extreme challenges, Klamath Basin irrigators have shown they’re committed to working collaboratively with the many water stakeholders, and it is imperative that the federal government step up and do all it can to assist,” Merkley said. “This authorization will allow stakeholders to access much-needed resources as they work to address water supply challenges in the region.”

Horses seized from central Oregon ranch put up for adoption

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Officials are taking adoption applications for the more than 60 horses seized from a central Oregon ranch earlier this year.

The Bulletin reports the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is accepting applications through next week and will hold a lottery to select possible adopters.

The horses were seized from a ranch in Terrebonne in March after they were found in poor conditions.

The sheriff’s office plans to conduct background checks on applicants before the lottery draw scheduled for Oct. 26.

The horses will then be available for pick-up at the end of the month.

Any remaining horses will be adopted out in early November.

Clover growers face herbicide impasse

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

An herbicide used on soybeans has proven tantalizingly effective against two troublesome weeds in Oregon clover fields, but remains out of reach for farmers.

Despite performing well in killing dock and tiny vetch during field trials, Python — the brand name for flumetsulam — did in some “outlier” cases cause damage to clover foliage.

Those instances of crop injury were enough to dissuade Dow AgroSciences, the herbicide’s manufacturer, from seeking to extend the chemical’s label registration to include clover in the U.S.

Because clover is grown on relatively few acres, the possibility for the company to earn a small profit is negated by the potential for lawsuits, said Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the Oregon Clover Commission.

“Any liability issue becomes magnified,” he said.

Dow AgroSciences did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

While the Oregon Clover Commission has reached an impasse with Dow, the organization is still hoping to provide farmers with access to Python through another path.

At its Oct. 10 meeting in Salem, Ore., the commission unanimously voted to continue paying a consultant to explore the possibility of extending the herbicide’s federal registration to clover through an entity other than Dow.

One option would be for a smaller chemical company that specializes in niche crops to license the herbicide from Dow, taking on any liability as well as the responsibility of registering Python with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The other possibility is for a “third party registrant” — such as an agronomy company — to perform those functions at the commission’s behest, which isn’t seen as a desirable outcome.

“It gets expensive real fast,” said Ostlund.

Dock and tiny vetch are an expensive problem for clover farmers because no other currently registered herbicides can treat the weeds, said Nicole Anderson, an Oregon State University Extension field crops agent.

“They’re weed species we don’t have any other management tools for,” she said.

Seeds from dock and tiny vetch often don’t get blown out by the combine during harvest, which means they wind up at the seed cleaner, Anderson said.

Buyers have high expectations that clover seed be pure, so they have little tolerance for weed species, she said. “The growers lose a lot of good seed trying to get those levels met.”

Generally, Python achieves good weed control with limited crop injury risk in clover, Anderson said.

In field trials, though, OSU tested the herbicide’s efficacy even during periods that growers normally wouldn’t spray the chemical.

It was during these times that “outlier data points” of crop damage occurred, she said.

Though the label for Python wouldn’t allow the chemical to be sprayed during these periods, Dow nonetheless felt the risk was too great, Anderson said.

California winery works with investigators on label controversy

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The owner of a Napa Valley winery accused by Oregon winemakers of using deceptive labels says he is working with both state and federal investigators, while describing the controversy as a “charade.”

Copper Cane LLC, of Rutherford, Calif., buys grapes from about 50 growers in Oregon to make Pinot noir and rosé wines. Two brands in particular, “The Willametter Journal” and “Elouan,” have raised suspicion among Oregon winemakers that the labels and packaging falsely imply the wines originate in the state’s high-value American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs.

The dispute is now on the radar of Oregon congressional delegates, who sent a letter Oct. 9 to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau requesting an investigation into Copper Cane’s labels.

But Joe Wagner, who owns and operates the winery, said the agency already visited and began combing through production records weeks ago.

“As far as we see it, we are still doing things the right way,” Wagner told the Capital Press.

A spokesman for the TTB said he cannot comment on any investigation, but said the agency is well aware of the issue.

The Oregon wine industry raised concerns over the labels, which they claim misrepresent their appellation of origin.

Under federal law, if a wine labels itself as coming from a particular viticultural area, such as the Willamette Valley AVA, then 85 percent of the grapes must be from that area. Oregon labeling laws are even stricter, requiring 95 percent.

To protect the integrity of wine regions, labels cannot make any false, ambiguous or misleading statements about the wine’s origin. That is where Oregon winemakers take issue with “The Willametter Journal,” a Pinot noir that mentions “the Willamette region of Oregon’s coastal range” on its label. Industry leaders feel that could wrongly imply the wine comes from the Willamette Valley AVA.

“Elouan” also prominently lists the Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley on its retail cases, all three of which are designated AVAs in Oregon.

Jana McKamey, vice president of government affairs with the Oregon Winegrowers Association, said the industry has long been at the forefront of protecting its wine regions and truth-in-labeling.

“The (industry’s) priority is to assist state and federal regulatory agencies in ensuring all wineries, wherever they are crushing grapes, comply with federal regulations and Oregon’s 41-year-old labeling rules that are designed to protect the integrity of Oregon’s esteemed winegrowing regions,” McKamey said in a statement.

In their joint letter to the TTB Administrator John Manfreda, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader stated that if any of Copper Cane’s labels are out of compliance the products should be removed from the market.

Wagner, the Copper Cane owner, said he is still awaiting a final decision from the TTB. The winery is also in regular contact with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which asked to review production, transfer and bottling records for seven wines, including “The Willametter Journal” and “Elouan” brands. A spokesman for OLCC said that review is currently in process.

Jim Blumling, vice president of operations for Copper Cane, said the winery is “willing and amenable to working through and coming up with a solution that works for everybody.” Wagner said he feels the Oregon wines are labeled correctly, and references to the Willamette Valley and “Territory of Oregon” are just a fun, fancy way of telling the wines’ story.

“You see this around the world,” Wagner said. “It is the story of the life of the wine.”

Wagner said he was surprised to hear some winemakers were upset, and called the issue a distraction led by a few people with an ax to grind.

“At the end of the day, I assume these guys are going to have some egg on their face,” he said.

Lost Valley permit revocation unaffected by operator change

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon farm regulators plan to shut down a controversial dairy even if the new operator manages to bring the facility into compliance with wastewater regulations.

Lost Valley Farm of Boardman, Ore., was recently put under new management after its owner, Greg te Velde, lost control over the facility’s operations in bankruptcy proceedings and the reins were handed to a federal trustee.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture nonetheless expects to proceed with its revocation of the dairy’s “confined animal feeding operation” permit even if the trustee, accountant Randy Sugarman, cleans up the facility’s act, said Wym Matthews, manager of the agency’s CAFO program.

“Our unwavering aim is to revoke this permit. Whoever’s name is on it, we’re going to revoke it,” Matthews said at an Oct. 11 meeting of the CAFO advisory committee in Salem, Ore.

Lost Valley Farm is challenging the revocation of its CAFO permit through an administrative process, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Nov. 13.

Even if the dairy is brought into regulatory compliance, its past actions — such as manure lagoon overflows — warrant the revocation, and the ODA has lost all trust in te Velde’s management, Matthews said.

If the facility operated properly over the short term, the agency has no confidence that te Velde could keep up the compliance, he said.

The ODA anticipates arguing in bankruptcy court that its revocation of Lost Valley’s permit isn’t subject to the “automatic stay” that protects the company against adverse creditor actions under the bankruptcy process, Matthews said.

“Do you allow a facility to continue to violate state and federal laws?” he said.

While the facility does have some design flaws, ODA believes the wastewater problems were fundamentally caused by improper operations, he said.

If the dairy is eventually sold to repay te Velde’s creditors, the new owner would have to apply for a new CAFO permit, Matthews said.

During the CAFO advisory committee’s meeting, Matthews also discussed a planned legislative proposal to raise the maximum fees for CAFO permits.

The last time such an increase was approved by Oregon lawmakers was in 2010, and the costs of implementing the CAFO program have since risen while fees haven’t kept pace, he said.

Currently, 90 percent of the program is paid for with money from the state’s general fund, while 10 percent is funded with CAFO fees, he said.

The agency aims to fund at least one full-time position entirely from fees, but it’s currently about $50,000 short, Matthews said.

Fees for CAFO operations regulated under a “general permit” currently range from $100 to $300 per year, depending on the number of animals at the facility.

For CAFOs with more complex “individual” permits, the current fee cap is about $2,400.

Under the ODA’s legislative proposal, general permit fees would be raised to a maximum of $500 to $3,500, depending on operation size, and up to $10,000 for individual permits.

The maximum fees would be raised substantially to prevent ODA from having to soon return to the Legislature with a similar request, Matthews said.

However, in the short term, the fees for general permit CAFOs would likely be raised to $125 to $840 a year, while the individual permit fee would increase to $5,000.

Oregon to craft new proposal for managing wolves

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A new framework for managing wolves that repeatedly prey on livestock may have the support of both Oregon ranchers and conservation groups, if the state can find enough money to pay for it.

The idea came as groups sat down for the second time with a mediator on Tuesday as part of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s effort to update the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Participants include the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Hunters Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, along with Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The facilitated meetings are designed to find common ground within the contentious wolf plan.

Tuesday’s session revealed a possible breakthrough in how ranchers can peacefully coexist with wolves on the landscape while minimizing attacks on livestock. Though short on specifics, the strategy generally calls for more site-specific wolf protections with an upfront focus on non-lethal deterrents, such as hiring range riders or stringing fladry along fences to haze the predators.

Under the proposal, a wildlife biologist would meet with individual ranchers to discuss which non-lethal tools would be most effective given their location and geography. ODFW already has conflict deterrence plans where wolves are known to be active, but these new agreements would make it even clearer what a rancher ought to be doing to best protect their animals.

If wolves continue to attack livestock and meet the state’s definition of “chronic depredation,” then ranchers who follow the rules can request killing wolves to stop the damage, which is allowed in Phase III of the wolf plan in Eastern Oregon. Wolves remain a federally protected species west of highways 395, 78 and 95.

Todd Nash, a Wallowa County commissioner and member of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said the proposal would provide much-needed clarity and directions for ranchers to follow when it comes to dealing with problem wolves.

“There should be no dispute whether you did enough non-lethal,” Nash said.

Sean Stevens, executive director of Oregon Wild, said the concept also holds promise for the environmental community because it prioritizes non-lethal measures ahead of conflict.

“Done well and with a lot of goodwill, this could be effective,” Stevens said. “It really does focus on avoiding conflict.”

It remains unclear how such a program would be paid for in the long-term. The group discussed possible funding sources, including the Wolf Depredation Compensation and Financial Assistance Grant Program, which receives money from the Legislature and is administered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

During the 2017 legislative session, Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Cove, introduced a bill that would tie compensation directly to the increasing wolf population. That measure could surface again in 2019.

ODFW staff will write specific language for developing site-specific deterrence plans and present it to the work group Nov. 5 during a webinar and conference call. The next in-person meeting is scheduled for Nov. 27 in Pendleton.

Individual group members made it clear they still have lingering concerns over other parts of the Oregon plan. Stevens, with Oregon Wild, took issue with the state’s definition of “chronic depredation” in Phase III of the plan, which is currently defined as two attacks on livestock over any period of time.

ODFW has proposed amending the rule to three attacks on livestock in a 12-month period, but Stevens said even that is too broad.

“We really need to be thinking about an appropriate timeline,” Stevens said.

The group also went back and forth on issues such as radio collars, and whether it is appropriate for local authorities, such as county sheriff’s offices, to participate in wolf-livestock depredation investigations. Those topics will be up for further discussion moving forward.

For the wolf plan to work, Nash said ranchers and rural communities need to buy in. Right now, he said the current plan is broken.

“Producers don’t call in depredations at this point. Most have chosen not work within the context of the plan, because the context of the plan hasn’t worked,” Nash said. “You’ve lost the human tolerance condition among ranchers, in northeast Oregon especially.”

Kevin Blakely, deputy administrator for the ODFW Wildlife Division, said he was encouraged by the progress Tuesday, and believes it could be a foot in the door for more consensus.

“There’s got to be something for everybody on the table,” Blakely said. “I think that’s how you start to get some movement.”

Radish seed litigation re-activated

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

An out-of-state bank is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Oregon farmers who seek compensation for the lost value of their radish seed.

Northwest Bank of Warren, Pa., had previously alleged the radish seed grown by the farmers served as collateral for a loan to a defunct seed broker.

However, that claim was rejected by a federal judge, who found the bank didn’t have a security interest in the seed, allowing the farmers to sell it.

While the litigation was ongoing, however, the farmers claim the crop lost value and they had to pay for additional storage costs, prompting them to file a complaint seeking $6.7 million in damages.

The lawsuit filed by the Radish Seed Growers Association was put on hold while Northwest Bank sought to convince the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it actually did own the radish seed.

After the 9th Circuit rejected the bank’s arguments, the litigation was reactivated and now the parties have submitted new legal arguments to the court.

Despite its loss in the 9th Circuit, Northwest Bank argues it had reasonably believed that it owned a security interest in the seed, so its earlier lawsuit was not frivolous.

Unless the farmers can show there was no probable cause for the earlier lawsuit, the bank’s claims are protected by the “absolute litigation privilege” that allows parties to make certain allegations in court, according to the bank.

The bank also argues that some of the growers’ claims must fail because the bank didn’t have possession of the seed and because their claims are prohibited by an Oregon law that protects parties pursuing their constitutional rights.

The Radish Seed Growers Association, on the other hand, argues the lawsuit should now proceed because the case has already survived a motion to dismiss by the bank.

There’s no reason to revisit the bank’s arguments as it “could not have lost more clearly or decisively” on appeal, which was the only reason the case was stayed, the farmers claim.

Sugar beet harvest could set records

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

This year’s beet harvest in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon could set record highs for sugar content and yield, thanks in part to good growing conditions and limited disease and insect pressure.

Lab measurement of samples as of early October pegged average sugar content at 17.4 percent, Amalgamated Sugar Co. Communications Specialist Jessica McAnally said. Last year’s average was 16.84 percent.

Boise-based Amalgamated, a grower-owned cooperative, aims for 18 percent average sugar content company-wide, achieved just once previously, she said. The number represents the percentage of sugar in the beet, which contains mostly water.

Average sugar content was expected to move higher barring bad weather, McAnally said. Beets store more sugar in their roots as harvest progresses and air temperatures drop, though heavy rain can prompt the plants to devote more energy to growing and less to producing sugar.

Boise received 0.95 inch of rain Oct. 9, the National Weather Service reported. Some spots in the region received over an inch.

“I’m afraid it will hurt sugar content going forward,” said Mitch Bicandi, a grower near Notus, in southwestern Idaho. “If we got another storm like this in the next week to 10 days, it would be really bad. We hope this is it.”

Before the rain, southwest Idaho beets showed higher sugar content than in the past, he said. “We’re just hoping they will hold.”

Bicandi, who plans to start harvesting Oct. 15, said growers whose harvest was underway Oct. 9 probably were shut down until late Oct. 10. But those who previously felt conditions were too try to dig may have seen some benefit from the rain, which amounted to around a day’s worth of irrigation, he said. Harvest typically wraps up by early November.

Beet growth and sugar production are helped by a long growing season with hot, dry days and cool nights. Disease risk rises when there is too much moisture in foliage.

“We have had an excellent growing season, and while we have seen some disease pressure, it has not been as bad as some years,” McAnally said. “We also have increased quality available in seed varieties available to our growers.”

On the pest and disease front, “overall we are pretty happy,” said Oliver Neher, plant health manager with Amalgamated. The Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon had a bit more Cercospora Leaf Spot than the company would like, but it was a “very normal” year for powdery mildew and Looper insects, without severe infestations, he said.

McAnally said the approximately 750 growers who comprise Amalgamated parent cooperative Snake River Sugar Co. will produce about 182,000 acres of sugar beets this year, about the same as 2017. Last year’s yield averaged 39.2 tons per acre.

Board President Duane Grant, who co-owns 4-D Farms in Rupert, in south central Idaho, said yield per acre is expected to be up from a year ago by 1.5 to 2 tons per acre, or around 5 percent.

“We believe we are going to set a yield record and a sugar-content record this year,” he said Oct. 9. “That is a credit to our growers, who have agreed to share with each other their cultural practices, reporting them into the company.” Such sharing “lets us learn from each other how to improve our collective crop.”

Nitrogen management is an example.

“Our growers have learned to very carefully analyze the fertility content of the top three or four feet of soil and apply just the right amount of fertilizer to grow the crop, but still allow it to consume available fertilizer and mature in a fertilizer-depleted environment,” Grant said. Beets maturing amid excess fertilizer grow root mass but do not accumulate sugar, he said.

Advances in seed genetics this decade played a major role in increasing the productivity of the plant, and in turn boosting sugar content and yield, he said.

Grant said the 2018 growing season featured a cool start, and a hot summer stretch with high temperatures on the upper end of their historic range — including “quite a few days of extreme temperatures over 100. We were concerned the heat would mineralize a lot of fertilizer in the ground.”

Mineralizing organic nitrogen would create an environment that is too fertile, prompting beets to add mass without accumulating sugar as effectively, he said. This did not happen to the extent beets gained mass and yield while losing quality, though “it did mineralize nitrogen. You could actually see sugar beet fields green up as we moved to the end of July into early August.”

Subsequently, temperatures dropped and wildfire smoke settled over southern Idaho for about three weeks, stopping nitrogen mineralization and allowing beets to mature properly, Grant said.

As for the Oct. 9 rain, he said an inch or more can reduce sugar content as beets soak up water, which also may add to transport and processing costs.

McAnally said early “pre-pile” harvest started Sept. 4 in south-central Idaho, and east in the Upper Snake River region, so Amalgamated plants in Twin Falls and Paul could begin processing the new crop. In southwest Idaho, harvest began on a limited basis Oct. 1 and production at the 500-employee Nampa plant started Oct. 4.

The plants run year-round, and process sugar beets from fall to as late as March or early April.

Online

http://amalgamatedsugar.com/

Tom Wimmer, Oregon Dairy Women honored by Oregon Aglink

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon Aglink, a statewide organization dedicated to promoting a better public understanding of agriculture, will honor Tom Wimmer, chief operating officer of Marion Ag Service, and the Oregon Dairy Women for their decades of service to the industry at the upcoming Denim and Diamonds dinner auction next month in Salem.

Wimmer will receive Oregon Aglink’s 2018 Agriculturist of the Year award, and the Oregon Dairy Women will receive its 2018 Ag Connection award at the annual Denim and Diamonds dinner and fundraiser on Nov. 16 at the Salem Convention Center. The evening will start with a reception and silent auction at 5 p.m. It will be followed by dinner, the awards presentation and a live auction at 7 p.m.

When he was hired as Marion Ag Service’s bookkeeper nearly four decades ago, Tom Wimmer was only the seventh employee at the three-year-old company.

Today, Wimmer serves as the chief operating officer at the company, which has 120 employees at four locations.

“I learned from the ground up every facet of the business,” said Wimmer.

In its announcement, Oregon Aglink said it is recognizing Wimmer for his “knowledge, work ethic and generosity.”

Wimmer moved to Oregon from Iowa as a young boy when his parents bought a 30-acre beef cattle farm near Woodburn. The ninth of 11 children, he remembers devoting his free time to farm chores to help his mother after their father had passed away.

“We worked pretty hard,” he said. “I loved it. I was deeply embedded in it.”

After graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in agricultural engineering and business management, Wimmer accepted a job with Marion Ag Service in 1979 and has worked there ever since.

His position grew beyond bookkeeping to include dispatching employees and performing other management functions. Over the years, Wimmer has witnessed first-hand the company’s major transformations.

Marion Ag Service converted from the grain business to the fertilizer business because many farmers in the area stopped producing wheat due to low prices.

In 1994, the company took a “big step” in buying St. Paul Feed Supply, which added many new functions to the operation, such as selling liquid and dry fertilizers, returning to the grain business and broadening its base of chemistry sales.

Wimmer has also become familiar with many of the farmers in the region due to the company’s custom work of applying lime to their soil to correct the acidity.

“I know their fields and operations because we’ve had to work on getting people and product to those locations,” he said.

Last year, Marion Ag Service began operating a large new fertilizer facility near Aurora, including formulating and packaging product for national distributors that wanted to get away from manufacturing themselves.

“They don’t have to do a thing, they just have to go out and sell it,” Wimmer said.

“Each challenge is an opportunity if you have the ability to work through the situation,” Wimmer said. “It’s just adapting ourselves to where there’s a need.”

The Ag Connection award is in recognition of the Oregon Dairy Women’s “decades of far-reaching efforts to connect consumers with Oregon dairy production,” according to Oregon Aglink.

“They really have been the face of the Oregon dairy industry for many years,” said Tami Kerr, executive director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, as well as a past president and current member of Oregon Dairy Women.

Many Oregonians encounter the organization’s “Red Barn,” an “icon of the state fair” where volunteers sell ice cream and milk shakes, she said.

“I always say it’s the best quality and the best value at the Oregon State Fair,” Kerr said.

The all-volunteer organization provides scholarships to community college students, the children of dairy families as well as people studying in dairy-related fields.

Financial assistance is also provided to 4-H, FFA, Ag in the Classroom, Ag Fest, the Summer Ag Institute and the Adopt-A-Farmer program.

Since 1959, the nonprofit has been crowning Dairy Princess Ambassadors to travel to classrooms, fairs and other events to educate children about the dairy industry. Last year, the program reached 14,000 people.

Online

www.aglink.org/event/denim-diamonds/

Competing sites vie for Willamette intermodal facility

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Though the locations are less than 30 miles apart, supporters of competing sites for a Willamette Valley intermodal facility claim stark differences between the two.

Containers of agricultural goods would be unloaded from trucks at the Oregon facility, then loaded onto trains bound for major shipping ports along Washington’s Puget Sound.

Lawmakers approved funding for the project in 2017 with the intent of having trucks hauling containers avoid Portland traffic snarls on their way to port.

The choice between two Oregon towns — Brooks and Millersburg — will now be up to the state’s transportation regulators, who must decide which site will receive up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars.

Proponents of each location recently submitted their final proposals to the Oregon Department of Transportation, which has about four months to pass on its findings to the Oregon Transportation Commission, which oversees the agency and will make the ultimate choice.

Selecting which project to fund will involve a multi-step process, with ODOT, the Business Oregon economic development agency and a third-party reviewer all submitting recommendations to the commission, which doesn’t face a decision deadline.

“It’s a look whether it’s going to be sustainable, operatable over the long term,” said Erik Havig, planning manager at ODOT, noting that the applicants may be asked to supply additional data.

“It’s possible one gets it, or neither one,” he said.

The Oregon Port of Willamette, which proposed the facility be built on undeveloped farmland in Brooks, argues that its closer proximity to Portland is an advantage because the site is more likely to draw import containers bound for the metropolitan area.

Wherever it’s located, the facility will need to attract imports to make empty containers available to exporters, who otherwise may have to bear the cost of repositioning empties from elsewhere.

Ocean carriers own the containers and often have policies against releasing them to intermodal facilities farther than 200 miles inland, said Kevin Mannix, the Oregon Port of Willamette’s executive director.

“They don’t like losing control, so they like to have a relationship with businesses that are importing and exporting,” he said.

Brooks is within 185 miles of rail docks at the Port of Tacoma, while Millersburg is about 215 miles away, putting it “outside the zone of opportunity,” Mannix said.

The Linn Economic Development Group, which wants to site the facility in Millerburg, acknowledges in its proposal that some shippers in the northern Willamette Valley would be willing to truck goods to Brooks, but not as far south as Millersburg.

“By being able to capture additional volume originating in Yamhill and Clackamas counties, the Brooks location may observe an 11 percent higher volume of containers,” the application said.

However, because shipping goods by rail becomes more cost-effective over longer distances, and because trucks will be kept off Oregon highways for a higher number of miles, the total economic benefit of locating the facility farther south in Millersburg is greater, according to the Linn Economic Development Group.

“If the State’s goal is to maximize public benefits to residents through reduced pollution, highway wear and tear, and fewer accidents, then the optimal location would be Millersburg, followed closely by Eugene,” the report said.

The Millersburg location has the added benefit of already being zoned for industrial development, as it was formerly a paper mill, said Greg Smith, LEDC’s project manager.

The Millerburg proposal recognizes that the number of containers imported to the facility is likely to be far surpassed by the demand for empties.

However, the partnership with Northwest Container Services, which operates an intermodal facility in Portland, will help resolve that problem, Smith said.

“Whether you’re in Brooks or Millersburg or Eugene, that’s an issue you’re going to have to work on,” he said.

Study shows fungicides effectively limit hazelnut disease

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

While forecasters are predicting a record-high Oregon hazelnut crop in 2018, a newly published study suggests the industry might not be where it is today if growers did not use fungicides to manage a cankerous plant disease known as Eastern Filbert Blight.

The disease was first discovered north of Vancouver, Wash., in 1970, and by 1998 it had spread to the Mid-Willamette Valley where 99 percent of all U.S. commercial hazelnuts are grown.

Once a tree is infected with Eastern Filbert Blight, the disease can only be removed by pruning. Fungicides are also recommended to protect healthy plant tissue, though at the time growers wondered whether it made economic sense to spray mature orchards versus pruning alone.

Researchers at Oregon State University launched a 12-year trial from 2004 to 2015 to determine whether the annual cost of spraying fungicides was worth the financial return through sustained hazelnut production. The answer, they found, was a resounding yes.

“Fungicide use in hazelnuts not only limited (Eastern Filbert Blight) development but also protected future yield loss and gross financial returns,” the study concluded, adding that growers who spray fungicides annually should be able to recoup those costs after just a few years of finding the disease in their orchards.

Eastern Filbert Blight is a fungal disease in hazelnut trees that causes cankers in infected branches, where spores grow and are dispersed by rain. Trees usually decline in productivity slowly at first, then rapidly after 5 to 10 years.

Jay Pscheidt, a professor with the OSU Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and lead author on the study, said fungicides will not stop the disease, but does slow down its development. That is especially important as growers make the transition from susceptible hazelnut cultivars to newer varieties that are more disease-resistant, but need time to mature.

“It is the bridge between our susceptible cultivars and our resistant cultivars,” Pscheidt said.

Though hazelnut growers have planted nearly 40,000 acres of resistant trees, Pscheidt said about 30,000 acres of the old, susceptible orchards are still producing nuts, and the industry needs to maintain them until the younger blocks have a chance to grow up.

“We’re doing that with fungicides,” he said.

The OSU study was conducted at a 1-acre trial orchard at the university’s experimental field in Corvallis. Past research was limited to younger trees, Pscheidt said, and growers were eager to find out if fungicides could be effective in larger, more mature orchards.

“All of our research results were mostly on these little trees that we could cover really well,” Pscheidt said. “But it’s not like a mature orchard that’s 20 feet up, and you’re using an air blast sprayer.”

Researchers divided the orchard into 12 blocks of nine trees — eight Ennis trees, susceptible to Eastern Filbert Blight, and one Butler tree — giving each block three different treatments both with and without fungicides. Over the 12-year period from 2004 to 2015, total gross returns for non-treated trees were $30,150 per acre, while returns on trees treated with fungicide ranged between $33,804 and $35,972 per acre.

That means growers stand to make up to $4,274 more per acre more using fungicides to combat Eastern Filbert Blight than by simply pruning. More importantly, without fungicides, Pscheidt said mature hazelnut orchards may have died off faster than breeders can come up with new disease-resistant varieties, which may have stalled or even crippled the industry.

“If we didn’t have fungicides, we may not have had an industry,” Pscheidt said. “We still would have come up with resistant cultivars, but it would have been a real hard time between then and now.”

REAL Oregon announces its second class

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Another 30 participants are set to take part in the Resource Education and Agricultural Leadership program, better known as REAL Oregon.

The organization announced its second class on Oct. 5, including professionals in production agriculture, timber, agribusiness and state government. They will attend five monthly training sessions across the state, learning about the diversity of agriculture and natural resources in order to become better leaders and advocates for their industries.

REAL Oregon started in 2017, and is a collaboration between industry and other groups to create new leaders who will represent the agriculture and natural resource communities. It is modeled after a similar program in Idaho, which is now entering its 39th year.

Bill Buhrig, agronomist for Simplot Food Group in Ontario, Ore. and REAL Oregon board chairman, said participants for Class 2 were selected from a pool of well-qualified and diverse candidates touching all corners of the state.

“We had a great response to the program in its second year,” Buhrig said.

Class 2 will begin in November and end with a graduation ceremony in March 2019. The group will travel for training sessions in Ontario, Roseburg, Newport, Boardman and Salem, experiencing a wide range of Oregon’s geography and economy while building skills in communication, conflict resolution, media relations, public speaking, networking, board governance and public policy work.

Greg Addington, REAL Oregon executive director, said he is excited to watch the new group grow as leaders.

“This class will build on the solid foundation established by Class 1,” Addington said. “We are beginning to fulfill the vision of building a solid network of agriculture and natural resource leaders who will benefit the state for many years to come.”

REAL Oregon Class 2 members include:

Northwest/Willamette Valley: Jace Anderson, Anderson Land & Cattle, Sublimity; Liz Beeles, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Salem; Becky Berger, Berger International, Hillsboro; Kirk Burkholder, Burkholder Farms, Albany; Lance Christianson, Port Blakely U.S. Forestry, Molalla; Ayreann Colombo, Aquila Consulting Group, Portland; Jacqueline Duyck Jones, Larry Duyck Farms, Banks; Katie Glaser, Glaser Farms, Lebanon; Mallory Phelan, Oregon AgLink, Albany; Amber Pritchard, Harvest Capital Company, Sandy; Shane Ruddell, Ruddell Farms, Sweet Home; Anna Scharf, Scharf Farms, Amity; Abisha Stone, Strategic Economic Development Corp., Salem; Gilbert Uribe Valdez, ODA, Salem; Christina Walsh, Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences, Eugene; Dylan Wells, Autumn Harvest Inc., Woodburn; Karen Withers, AgCultured Consulting, Turner; Denis Sather, OSU, Corvallis; Lily Xu, Energy Trust of Oregon, Portland.

Eastern/High Desert: Angela Allum Smit, Vale Veterinary Clinic, Vale; Shon Rae, Central Oregon Irrigation District, Bend; Marie Cain, Threemile Canyon Farms, Boardman; Shannon Hoehna, SH Consulting, Weston; Amber McCollough, Green Diamond Resource Company, Klamath Falls; Robin Pickard, Athena Income Tax Service, Athena; Beau Reynolds, Northwest Farm Credit Services, Pendleton.

Coastal/Southern: Mark Garrigues, GreenWood Resources Inc., Seaside; Megan Huber, Northwest Farm Credit Services, Central Point; Jeff Minster, Starker Forests Inc., Blodgett; Joe Newton, Lone Rock Resources, Roseburg.

OSU College of Ag to honor range scientist

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences will on Nov. 6 present range scientist Dustin Johnson with its Award for Excellence in Extension Education.

The presentation will be during the college’s faculty and staff awards luncheon, which begins at noon Pacific at the Memorial Union Building Horizon Room on the OSU campus in Corvallis.

Johnson is based at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Burns. His expertise is in rangeland ecology and management, rangeland monitoring and invasive plant ecology and management, according to an OSU Extension news release. His primary applied research program centers on improving the efficiency and sustainability of ranchers industry in Eastern Oregon.

His efforts include training and assisting ranchers as well as public land management agency partners in developing and maintaining cooperative rangeland and grazing monitoring programs, engaging with diverse stakeholders to develop collaborative approaches to addressing complex natural resource and wildlife management issues, and developing science-based tools and strategies for functional restoration of rangelands and wetlands degraded by invasive plants, OSU Extension said.

Johnson has been with OSU Extension since July 2007. He is responsible for managing programs related to discovery and extension of science-based information related to agriculture and natural resources in Harney County. He also serves as co-county leader with OSU Extension, primarily providing budgetary oversight and program direction for the extension program in the county.

He previously worked for USDA Agricultural Research Service as a rangeland research technician and for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as a rangeland management specialist. He holds a master’s degree from OSU in rangeland ecology and management.

Settlement allows beehive solar project to go forward

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Construction of a controversial 73-acre solar farm and apiary will proceed in Oregon’s Clackamas County after farmland conservationists struck a settlement deal with the developer.

Earlier this year, the 1,000 Friends of Oregon nonprofit challenged the project’s approval before the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals after Clackamas County determined the development wouldn’t preclude commercial agriculture because beehives would be kept on the property.

Normally, conditional use permits limit solar arrays on farmland to 12 acres, but in this case, a county hearings officer found the panels would displace fewer than 12 acres due to the honeybee forage growing beneath them.

Under the settlement, 1,000 Friends of Oregon has agreed to withdraw the objection as long as the developer, Pacific Northwest Solar LLC, agreed to conduct a study of the how the dual use works, said Damien Hall, the company’s attorney.

The solar company also agreed not to oppose temporary rules implemented by Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission, which clarify solar sites can’t occupy more than 12 acres without an exception to the statewide goal of preserving farmland, said Meriel Darzen, attorney for 1,000 Friends of Oregon.

There’s no data in Oregon about co-locating an apiary with solar panels, so the facility served as a good opportunity for a pilot project, she said. “We think it’s an interesting concept.”

Meanwhile, LCDC has convened an advisory committee to examine whether to make the temporary rules permanent and whether to otherwise update Oregon’s land use regulations for solar facilities.

Solar facilities on Oregon farmland have increasingly been stirring controversy in recent years, with critics fearing that multiple 12-acre projects are being sited close together to sidestep regulations for larger projects.

“Cumulative impact is a big issue for the agricultural community,” said Jim Johnson, land use specialist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, during the committee’s first meeting on Oct. 4 in McMinnville, Ore.

The landscape for solar developments is different now than in 2010, when a previous rules advisory committee on solar regulations was held and much of the attention was focused on Central and Eastern Oregon, rather than the Willamette Valley, said Jon Jinings, community services specialist with the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

“We have some experience under our belt now,” he said.

A couple other developments have recently occurred on the legal front regarding solar facilities on farmland.

In Yamhill County, the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals has upheld the county’s denial of a conditional use permit for a 12-acre project that was opposed by the owners of a nearby vineyard.

In its Oct. 3 opinion, LUBA rejected claims by the developer, Yamhill Creek Solar LLC, that a county commissioner was biased against the project and that the county improperly weighed land use goals and policies when analyzing the proposal, among other claims.

“Given the deferential review we must apply to the county’s interpretative and evidentiary judgments, and the inherently subjective nature of evaluating whether the proposed use is consistent with a broad range of comprehensive plan goals and policies, the county’s ultimate conclusion that the balance of the applicable goals and policies weigh against the proposed use is not reversible on appeal,” the ruling said.

In Jackson County, a ruling that struck down the approval of an 80-acre solar project near Medford will be reviewed by the Oregon Supreme Court.

In 2017, the county was found by LUBA to have improperly granted the project an exception to Oregon’s goal of preserving farmland, which was upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals on different legal grounds in May.

On Oct. 4, Oregon’s highest court accepted a petition to review eight questions of law regarding solar land use regulations and has scheduled oral arguments for March 5 in Salem, Ore.

Lost Valley wastewater problems persist

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PORTLAND — Wastewater problems at a controversial Oregon dairy have persisted despite a federal trustee taking control of the operation last month, state farm regulators said during a hearing Friday.

Lost Valley Farm of Boardman, Ore., has repeatedly run into trouble with the Oregon Department of Agriculture since the facility began operating last year.

The financial problems of its owner, Greg te Velde, led him to file for bankruptcy protection to prevent creditors from auctioning off the dairy’s herd to make money available for debt repayment.

On Sept. 13, a bankruptcy judge ordered a U.S. trustee, Randy Sugarman, to take control of the dairy due to te Velde’s spending company money on gambling and otherwise failing to properly account for funds and loans.

The change in operators occurred shortly before te Velde faced a court-ordered Oct. 5 deadline to begin bringing the facility into regulatory compliance with wastewater rules.

Nina Englander, an attorney representing ODA in legal proceedings against te Velde, said in a circuit court hearing Friday she recognized the transition in operators explains some of the continued problems at the dairy but the state government wants to avoid future lapses.

Notably, wastewater recently overtopped one manure lagoon at the facility while the wind sprayed wastewater from another one, she said.

A pipe on the property was also found by ODA inspectors to be “spewing liquid manure” when the facility was being flushed, Englander said.

“I offer that as an example of the systemic problems going on,” she said.

The dairy must empty enough wastewater from its lagoons to make 75 acre-feet of storage capacity available by Nov. 13.

However, there were recently only 26 acre-feet of capacity in the lagoons, down from 47 acre-feet in August, Englander said.

Elizabeth Howard, an attorney representing the dairy operator, said that despite the setbacks, the facility had made “substantial progress” in meeting a remedies order issued by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Skye. The judge issued that order in August when te Velde was found to be in contempt of court for violating an earlier settlement deal with ODA.

The dairy has completed the switch to using recycled water — which is intended to reduce its generation of wastewater — and plans to soon begin applying manure from the lagoons to about 1,500 acres once the current crops are harvested, Howard said.

The manure application is contingent on soil tests and approval from ODA to ensure the field’s nutrients remain at a level that can agronomically be absorbed by crops.

Emptying the lagoons will be necessary to install the steel gauges required by the court’s remedies order, she said.

The dairy had also hit a “bump in the road” regarding the installation of water flow meters at the facility because it was difficult to figure out the exact sources of water and where it flowed, Howard said.

A water dye test that “turned it green and blue” has resolved that issue and flow meters will likely be installed within about a month, she said.

The facility expects to have a digital weather station installed by Nov. 13 and a new manager — Joel Edmonds, a dairy nutrient and management consultant — was recently hired to run the dairy, Howard said.

Getting the dairy into regulatory compliance is the top priority of the federal trustee, Randy Sugarman, she said.

“We’re going to do what needs to be done, period,” said Sugarman, who is a longtime certified public accountant with experience in agriculture.

Howard said the trustee does not plan to challenge whether the court-ordered remedies sanction for te Velde applies to him even though it’s “a gray area of the law.”

Eastern Oregon hunt raffle to benefit OSU ag scholarship

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

WALLOWA, Ore. — A conservation easement in the heart of Wallowa County farmland is being managed to grow large white tail buck deer for big game hunting — and philanthropy.

Landowner Woody Wolfe said he’s managed the river bottom to grow big white tail bucks for several years and with a handful of Land Owner Preference elk, buck and doe tags issued through Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, he has a few tags to share.

“In 2016 the largest white tail buck in the state was taken off my property by a neighbor,” Wolfe said.

At the time, Wolfe said, the buck ranked fifth in the Oregon black powder record book.

Chad Garrett has guided hunts on the Wolfe Ranch for several years and is well familiar with the Wallowa mid-valley land with views of the surrounding mountains.

“Woody has a lot of trophy game on his place,” Garrett said.

As he’s become known around the county, Garrett said he’s been asked to help local clubs and nonprofits raise money through hunt raffles, allowable under Oregon state gaming laws.

When Wolfe was approached by Wallowa County Center for Wellness for a donation he looked for advice from staff at The Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve that offers raffle hunt opportunities to local nonprofits. Then he turned to Garrett for help.

With a website and a PayPal account 100 tickets were sold at $100 apiece in six days. Garrett was paid for his effort, Wolfe said, and $8,500 went to the Center.

According to Garrett, the winner of that raffle was a man looking to kill his first white tail buck to qualify for the Super Slam of North American Big Game — the legal taking of all 29 of the traditionally recognized species of big game animals native to North America.

Wolfe said the experience got him thinking. With such a rapid response to the first raffle, what other worthy causes could he support by raffling some of his Land Owner Preference tags?

“If I could raise that money that with one tag or two, I thought about what cause do I feel is the most valuable to me?” Wolfe said.

The answer was a scholarship for a Wallowa County high school graduate pursuing a degree in agriculture at Oregon State University. As a sixth-generation Wallowa County farmer, agriculture is close to Wolfe’s heart.

“I think an education can facilitate people who want to go into agriculture, whether in ag service or production,” Wolfe said. “Ag is what has paid me back for the efforts I put forth — if it is a passion for someone else, I want to help create a return for that passion.”

Again Wolfe turned to Garrett for help. He set up a website and a PayPal account to facilitate raffle hunts and serves as the guide. After Garrett’s time, Wolfe said each scholarship award will be around $7,500.

This year two raffles are offered to raise money for the scholarship. Garrett said 100 tickets are available for $100 apiece for each hunt. The winner of each of the two raffles will receive a three-day guided hunt and lodging.

Garrett said the first scholarship will be awarded in 2019, but the money will not be available until the winner’s junior year, when he or she declares a major. The winner must also have maintained a 3.0 grade-point average those first two years of college to claim the scholarship.

Tickets are available at www.biggamerafflehunts.com through Jan. 1. The raffle drawing will be held Jan. 10. For more information call Garrett at 503-367-0207.

Former water district employee sentenced for embezzlement

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A former employee of the Santiam Water Control District in Stayton, Ore., will spend two years in prison for embezzling almost $24,000.

Patricia Anne Gilbert, 51, of Turner, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1 to two counts of felony theft in Marion County Circuit Court. She was sentenced to 24 months in prison, as well as $24,231 in fines and restitution.

Gilbert was hired by the district through a temporary agency and worked eight months as an office manager. The district provides municipal water for the city of Stayton, cooling water to NORPAC Foods, a food processing co-op, and irrigation water for 17,000 acres of farmland.

District Manager Brent Stevenson said Gilbert was provided a credit card with a $500 limit for incidental business expenses. She increased the limit without authorization, Stevenson said, and used the card instead for personal use.

Gilbert also stole three district checks, forged the dual signatures and made them out to herself, Stevenson said.

“Definitely, it was a setback. We’re a really small entity,” Stephenson said.

Once Stevenson learned of the embezzlement, he reported it to the Stayton Police Department. Charges against Gilbert were filed March 21. The district was able to recover the entire amount through insurance and bonding.

Looking ahead, Stevenson said the district will review its procedures and will no longer issue a credit card for incidental expenses.

“I’m happy that she’s prosecuted, and that it won’t happen to somebody else,” Stevenson said.

Brown moves to adopt pre-Trump federal water and air regs into state law

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM —Gov. Kate Brown wants to guard against a rollback of federal environmental rules by moving them into state law where the Trump administration couldn’t touch them.

Brown, a Democrat up for reelection next month, proposed legislation Wednesday that would have the state adopt all federal clean air and water standards as of Jan. 19, 2017 — the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated.

“As states, we can take a leadership role in preventing the erosion of core laws that protect our environment,” Brown said in remarks at an event at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry Wednesday. “Together, states must stand up to the Trump administration’s continuous attacks on our health and environment.”

Brown said that the Trump administration has already scaled back some rules that aim to keep the country’s air and water clean.

The administration has repealed or proposed elimination of about 46 regulations, according to Brown’s office, citing the Harvard Environmental Law Program Regulatory Rollback Tracker.

These include fuel efficiency standards and regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Oregon has one such plant.

The Environmental Protection Agency is also considering aspects of rules adopted in 2016 to require reduced emissions from public landfills. Landfills emit high levels of gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Nationally, they are the third-largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions.

Eight state attorneys general, including Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, sued the EPA over the proposed rollback in May “on behalf of (Oregon’s) citizens and residents to protect their health and well-being and to protect natural resources held in trust by the state.”

“It is widely assumed that the next wave of rollbacks will be to core safeguards of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act,” according to Brown’s press release.

“Over the past two years Oregonians have witnessed an unprecedented and aggressive attack on clean air standards, clean water standards, and federal efforts to fight climate change,” Brown said. “In Oregon, that rollback stops now.”

Nikki Fisher, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email that there would be no expected additional cost to state government as a result.

The announcement comes the morning after the first debate of Brown’s reelection campaign.

Her opponent, state Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, said in response to Brown’s proposal that he too would “defend Oregon and our clean air and clean water.”

“As governor, if the Trump administration attempts to roll back rules that safeguard Oregon’s environment, I will defend Oregon and our clean air and clean water,” Buehler said in a written statement Wednesday. “I have shown this repeatedly by breaking with my party on this important issue. I opposed the president’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and broke with my party to replace coal energy in Oregon with cleaner renewables like wind and solar.”

Buehler supported 2016 legislation that required Oregon to stop using coal-generated electricity by 2030.He also criticized Brown’s direction of the state Department of Environmental Quality, which regulates air and water.

In February 2017, Brown appointed Richard Whitman director of the agency. The previous director resigned in 2016 over a heavy metal air pollution scandal in Portland.

In January, state auditors found that backlogs in permits and inspections at the agency “endanger the state’s air quality and the health of Oregonians.”

“In addition to talking about federal environmental regulations, I would challenge Governor Brown to fix her own DEQ which has been mired in chaos and turnover, failing to protect and enforce our state laws,” Buehler said.

A spokesman for Brown’s campaign, Christian Gaston, claimed in an email Thursday morning that Buehler was “lying.”

Reporter Claire Withycombe: cwithycombe@eomediagroup.com or 503-385-4903. Withycombe is a reporter for EO Media Group working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, the Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

Public Lands Grazing Helps Ranchers, Sage Grouse, Study Says

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Grazing restrictions on public lands may have unintended consequences for greater sage grouse, according to a recent study. The imperiled birds depend on habitat on both public and private lands, and much of that habitat can be lost when ranching operations go under.

“We found that as the restrictions to public lands increased, (private) landowners have historically made decisions to alter their land use. Then there’s trigger points where they may sell those lands to higher intensity uses that would be bad for sage grouse,” said David Naugle, study co-author and professor at the University of Montana.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, found that curbing public land grazing by 50 percent could lead to more than 429,000 acres of lost habitat for sage grouse. While that might not sound like a lot, often private ranches provide important habitat for sage grouse to rear their young.

“(Private lands often) have these mesic, or wet, habitats. After the birds have nested in the dry uplands, the little puff balls come out of the eggs, and mama takes them down to these wet habitats. That’s where they find forbs and bugs. That’s how they put on meat and bones and feathers,” Naugle said.

One big threat to sage grouse is habitat fragmentation. That comes in many ways across the 11 western states where the birds roam. Cutting the birds off from prime rearing areas, by selling off ranches, could be a big blow to birds, Naugle said.

“Private lands are our interstitial tissue that connects our bigger public lands together — and of course wildlife doesn’t see fence lines,” Naugle said.

Protecting sage grouse has come down to a wide range of partnerships between conservationists, ranchers, politicians and state governments. In 2015, the federal government decided not to add sage grouse to the Endangered Species List, mostly because these partnerships were seen as a new way forward for species conservation.

It’s an idea many conservation groups have signed onto, as is the oft-used phrase, “What’s good for the bird is good for the herd.”

“Supporting ranchers as stewards of (sage grouse) habitat is an important thing for conservationists to focus on,” said Joe Fargione, science director for the Nature Conservancy’s North American region. The group also helped fund this study.

Sage grouse numbers have dwindled from a series of threats. In Oregon and Washington, their habitat has been fragmented by overgrazing. Juniper trees crowd out good mating grounds and serve as perches for birds of prey. Invasive species make the threat of wildfire more real. Elsewhere across the West, resource extraction — like oil and gas drilling and mining — have cut off habitat.

For ranchers, working to protect sage grouse now helps safeguard against potential strict land use regulations in the future, if the birds are ever listed as threatened.

One of the ranchers at the forefront of sage grouse conservation on Oregon’s private land is Tom Sharp. He’s removed juniper trees from his property, dealt with invasive weeds, added water troughs for cattle and wildlife. (He’s said a trail camera even caught a sage grouse jump on the trough and take a sip.)

“I think history will look back and say the sage grouse was really a good thing for ranching — both on public lands and on private lands,” Sharp said.

Sustainable ranching is important, he said, both for the land and to make sure the business is around for generations to come. “Ranching is one of those things that gets into the blood for generation after generation of families,” he said.

And the business is made more difficult when there are grazing restrictions — on public or private land. Often those restrictions come because plants and wildlife have been placed on the Endangered Species List.

“Revenue as a rancher is pretty much a numbers game. The smaller the herd, the smaller the revenue. The larger the herd potential, the larger the income potential. It has a direct correlation between restrictions and economic opportunity here,” Sharp said.

That’s something the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has also seen. Executive Director Jerome Rosa said, over the years, they have seen more grazing restrictions throughout the American West. Profits are low, beef prices are low, which leads to more ranches turning into developments, he said.

“As more and more of that development happens, there will be less and less areas for the sage grouse to be out on the landscapes,” Rosa said.

Other research David Naugle has focused on shows that where there’s sustainable grazing, there’s often a stable sage grouse population.

“When grazing is done sustainably, it’s the most compatible land use for wildlife,” Naugle said. “It maintains shrub communities, facilitates maintenance and expansion of native bunch grasses — all of the habitat ingredients that critters like sage grouse that are of high conservation concern require.”

Sage grouse are considered an indicator species; their health is indicative of the ecosystem’s bigger picture and the health of the more than 350 other types of wildlife that live there.

One of the states researchers found that could lose the most sage grouse habitat because of grazing restrictions was Washington, which could lose up to 30 percent of its wet habitat with big increases in grazing restrictions. The state has a very low sage grouse population as it is — it’s also more profitable there to be a farmer than a rancher, Naugle said.

“Finding creative ways to put cropland back into sagebrush grazing lands is a top priority (in Washington),” Naugle said.

The other two states that could see the most wet habitat loss, according to the study, are Wyoming and Montana.

The study shows how linked decisions on public and private lands can be, Naugle said. He thinks the future of wildlife conservation is up to public-private partnerships.

“There’s this balancing act between public and private land. How do we do the best thing for wildlife while still maintaining rural communities that provide grazing, which then provide this big open space that all of our wildlife depend on?” Naugle said.

Western Innovator: Researcher establishes grazing as fire tool

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Capital Press

Kirk Davies and his fellow rangeland scientists in southeastern Oregon for years produced studies showing earlier grazing reduces future fire risk while benefiting native plants.

Now they are working to figure out how to apply these lessons on the larger scale that the vast sagebrush steppe landscape often demands.

“With these findings established, now the challenge becomes prioritizing where to apply this in land management,” said Davies, lead rangeland scientist with USDA Agricultural Research Service in Burns, Ore.

Issues inherent in working on the usually large-scale range include coordinating and moving people, equipment and cattle; a limited number of cattle available; and some public opposition to public-lands grazing altogether, let alone as a management tool, he said.

“We are hoping to work with more landscape ecologists, looking at how it applies across the landscape,” Davies said. That would include investigating, long-term, how rangeland plant communities respond to fire whether they are grazed or not, and deriving a grazing approach to suit a location’s unique fire risk — deciding how much to graze and in which season, for example.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management Burns District has used targeted grazing to help reduce fine fuels, particularly annual grasses, District Manager Jeff Rose said. The effort is on a fairly small scale now, but the district is working with ARS to help scale it to a level that will be effective in larger landscapes, he said.

Fires haven’t yet materialized on treated, grazed, areas and it’s hard to predict where a fire will start, Rose said. “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it will work,” he said.

Davies and colleagues conducted research for years before publishing a 2009 paper documenting that grazing can help native plants.

“We saw that long-term ungrazed areas, when they were burned, were subsequently invaded by exotic annual grasses,” he said. “We found moderately grazed areas recovered to the native plant community. They didn’t have that invasion and were much better off.”

The 2009 study’s text said in part that even plant communities that aren’t accumulating fire fuels beyond historical levels may need low-severity, fuel-reducing disturbances to improve resilience to more severe disturbances.

Researchers in turn began looking into fire severity.

In ungrazed areas, “we found we had larger and hotter fires, and those fires caused higher mortality of desired native annual bunch grasses,” Davies said. “We also found ungrazed areas were much more likely to ignite with an ignition source and more likely to spread …with higher flame heights and faster-moving fire.”

Even areas that went ungrazed for just one or two years were found to have greater fire risk, he said. Moreover, grazing in the fall or spring ahead of peak summer fire season greatly reduced the risk of severe fire.

Findings from the researchers’ 2010 study included that moderate grazing reduces wildfire risk by decreasing fine fuels available for ignition, and limiting spread by reducing fuel continuity, the text said in part. While moderate grazing makes prescribed burning more difficult, it can help produce a mosaic burn effect that can reduce a fire’s speed and overall size.

Their other studies found that dormant-season grazing increased moisture levels to an extent that an area was at risk of fire some two months later into the summer season; and that winter grazing can reduce wildfire size, intensity and spread in shrub areas (both 2015); prefire grazing increases post-fire resistance to exotic annual grass invasion and dominance for decades (2016); and fall and spring grazing — especially spring — decreased ignition probability and a fire’s ability to spread by increasing fine-fuel moisture while decreasing fuel mass and height (2017).

“Essentially we are looking at the effects of grazing on fire risk, behavior and severity, and even post-fire recovery,” Davies said.

He researches rangeland comprehensively, from plants, soils, grazing and fire to weeds, encroaching vegetation — like Western Juniper — and various environmental conditions.

Name: Kirk Davies

Title: Lead rangeland scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Burns, Ore.

Age: 40

Hometown: Princeton, Ore.

Education: Ph.D., rangeland ecology, Oregon State University; dual B.S., rangeland resources, crop & soil science, OSU.

Family: Wife and three children

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