Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
January 22, 2013
POLK COUNTY -- If you have an opinion on the controversial topic of allowing canola to be planted within the Willamette Valley, you have two more days to make your opposition or support heard.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture will close the public comment period on Friday for its proposal to loosen restrictions on planting the seed. A public forum was to be held in Salem early Wednesday (today).
ODA may implement a final rule in February.
Oil produced from canola seed is in demand for its utility in renewable fuels. The plant is also a desired rotation crop.
The potential for cross-pollination, however, could do drastic harm to the area's renowned, yet sensitive, $50 million specialty seed industry, opponents said.
"Canola can coexist with the agricultural community," said Greg Miller, executive administrator of the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association. "But this region is too important to put at risk."
The Oregon Court of Appeals granted a "motion to stay" an ODA provision to expand the allowable area to grow canola in the 3.68-million acre canola control district in the Willamette Valley; current rules amount to a general prohibition on canola.
Parts of northern Polk County and the east hills of Marion County are considered prime areas for growing canola.
ODA and a steering committee proposed an administrative rule in mid-December to allow canola to be planted on a maximum 2,500 acres in the Willamette Valley.
Farmers must enter into contract terms with ODA that spells out a number of conditions.
Plots must be larger than 25 acres and can be in any location, though at least 3 miles from existing vegetable fields. Other requirements include stopping the inadvertent spread of seed a quarter of a mile from the original field and for transported seed to be packaged or covered in vehicles.
WVSSA sent a letter last month to ODA to keep the current ban in the valley.
Matt Crawford, a Perrydale farmer and president of the Willamette Valley Oil Seed Producers Association, said the proposal is still too restrictive with many "holes."
A big problem is the overall size of the allotted acreage -- it's too small to adequately meet the demand of farmers who want to plant canola, he said.
During a window to register for canola planting last year, before the halt, "there were more than 2,000 acres that farmers wanted to plant on and that was just in the Perrydale-Rickreall area," Crawford said.
Still, it also represents major progress in negotiations between opponents and proponents from a year ago, he said.
"This does open up canola to be a free market crop," Crawford continued. "Which is what we've wanted all along ... if guys can grow it and it sells, it will work. If it doesn't work out economically, it will die."
What Do You Think?
* A public hearing on the state's proposal to amend its canola rules is scheduled for Wednesday (today) at 9 a.m. at Cascade Hall at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.
The public comment period closes on Friday. Written comments can be mailed to: Canola Hearings Officer, Oregon Department of Agriculture, 635 Capitol St. NE, Salem, OR 97301 or emailed to: email@example.com.