Oregon House approves bill to ban canola crops in Willamette Valley

By Harry Esteve, The Oregonian

SALEM — A bill that would prohibit farmers from planting canola crops in some parts of the Willamette Valley passed the Oregon House on Tuesday, over objections by some lawmakers that the Legislature is overstepping its authority.

“We should not be overruling the Department of Agriculture and picking favorites of crop types,” said Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem.

But a majority agreed with Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, who said the seed threatens other specialty seed crops that are important exports for the state.

“This is a clear threat to a $50 million industry,” Gelser said. She recited comments from Japanese importers who said they would look elsewhere for grass seed and other products if canola is allowed to be grown in the valley.

Canola is grown primarily for its oil, which is used for cooking and, increasingly, biodiesel production. Gelser and other supporters of the bill said canola can cross pollinate with other seed crops, however, diluting their value.

House Bill 2427 bans growing canola in the valley until 2019. In the meantime, it provides money for a study of the crop by Oregon State University.

“It is a brief time out” for canola, and only in specified areas of the valley, Gelser said.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Published 6/25/13 in the Oregonian

Seed farmers try to beat the rain

By Alex Paul, Albany Democrat-Herald

This week, despite nearly daily rainfall and a forecast of more to come, swathers began chewing up grass seed fields.

“When the grass is ripe, you need to get it cut,” said Albany area farmer Glenn Miller. “The rain just makes the work a little harder.”

Miller said under normal weather conditions, it takes from 10 days to two weeks before the swathed grass is dry enough to be run through a combine.

“When it’s wet like this, it will be several days after it stops raining before we can combine,” Miller said.

Early season dry weather has brought the crop to the cutting stage a couple weeks earlier than usual, Miller said.

“The moisture can steam up through the swaths and cause some seed to sprout and that’s not good,” Miller said. “It really just depends on how long this weather lasts. We’ll have to wait and see how the yields turn out.”

Miller, 60, starting farming in 1972 and puts in about 2000 acres of Gulf variety annual ryegrass.

He said it will take about eight days to swath his fields.

According to the Hyslop weather station between Albany and Corvallis, rainfall in the mid-valley is still 10 inches behind normal – 11.16 inches compared to 21.77 inches.

Rainfall for the first three weeks of June is just 0.62 of an inch.

“It’s not uncommon to get rain this time of year,” said OSU Extension specialist Paul Marquardt. “But, due to the warmer weather in April and May, harvest is getting pushed up. Usually swathing might start in early July and things are usually dryer by then.”

Marquardt said rain actually affects the crop once it’s on the ground, not when it’s being swathed.

“You can get seed sprout that grows up through the swath and that can make it much more difficult to combine,” Marquardt said. “And, seed quality can decline.”

Marquardt added that the longer the swathed grasses are on the ground, the greater the chance there will be issues with pests such as voles or disease, such as fungus.

“It’s really not a good thing if the rain hangs around,” Marquardt said.

According to Oregon State University, Oregon is the world’s largest producer of cool-season forage and turf grass, with annual sales of more than $228 million.

Grass seed is produced on nearly 1,500 grass seed farms in Oregon.

There are more than 300 seed conditioning plants in Willamette Valley.

Published 6/22/13 in the Albany Democrat-Herald

Subcommittee passes revised canola bill

Capital Press

SALEM — A legislative subcommittee has approved a bill banning all but a smattering of canola production in the Willamette Valley until Jan. 2, 2019.

House Bill 2427 as amended also allocates $679,000 in general funds to study how canola production would affect the valley’s specialty seed crops.

The bill marks a departure from an Oregon Department of Agriculture rule issued in February that allowed up to 2,500 acres of canola production in the valley outside a restricted zone in the heart of the valley, where the bulk of Oregon’s specialty seed production occurs.

HB2427 calls for Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences to produce up to 500 acres of canola in the valley for research purposes for three years, keeping intact isolation distances between canola and specialty seed crops that equal or exceed industry-recommended isolation distances.

The bill calls for the college to develop information and recommendations regarding whether, and under what conditions, canola can be grown in the valley compatibly with other crops. And it calls for the college to complete its research and deliver a report to lawmakers no later than Nov. 1, 2017.

HB2427 also calls for the college to conduct field monitoring of the acreage used for the canola study for the presence of volunteer plants, diseases and insects for five years after completing the research.

In earlier testimony before the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources, specialty seed producers said widespread canola production will lead to an increase in insect, weed and disease pressure in the valley’s multi-million-dollar specialty seed industry, and ultimately run their industry out of the valley.

Producers hoping to grow canola commercially in the valley said it is a valuable rotation crop that can be produced in a way that doesn’t threaten the specialty seed industry.

Advocates for growing canola in the valley also contend the Legislature should not be regulating crop production, a job they said belongs with the state Department of Agriculture.

Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers, a group supporting a ban on canola production in the valley, said his organization supports the bill, but characterized the amendment offered June 18 as a compromise.

“The amendment that passed today is a big step back from the original canola prohibition proposed in HB2427 as introduced,” Maluski said. “It grandfathers in pre-existing producers who operate outside of the 2009 Willamette Valley Protected District boundaries, while the original bill would have banned them from growing it, and it would allow significantly more canola for research inside the protected area’s boundaries than has been grown before.”

The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources on June 18 moved the bill with a do-pass recommendation to the full Ways and Means Committee with only one objection.

HB2427 must now gain approval from the Ways and Means Committee, the full House and Senate and the governor before becoming law.

Published 6/18/13 in the Capital Press

Sprague Pest Solutions Named a Top 100 Company

Tacoma, Wash. – Sprague Pest Solutions (http://www.spraguepest.com/), a third-generation, family-owned provider of pest management services, was recently named to the Pest Control Technology Magazine Top 100 List, an annual compilation of the leading pest management companies in the United States. The list was included in the magazine’s May issue (www.pctonline.com).

For more, see Sprague Named A Top 100 Company

Senate passes ODA budget

Capital Press

SALEM — The Oregon Senate on June 13 passed the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s proposed 2013-15 budget with only 1 “no” vote.

ODA Director Katy Coba earlier characterized the budget as “probably the best budget we’ve had since I’ve been director.”

The budget increases the department’s overall funding from $84 million in 2011-13 to just under $95 million for the next biennium.

Full-time staff under the budget would increase from 343 to 351.

Earlier in the budget process, while in the joint Ways and Means Natural Resources Subcommittee, lawmakers added $500,000 to the department’s weed program, a program that was facing $518,896 in cuts under a previous budget proposal.

And the subcommittee increased the state’s wolf compensation and assistance fund from $100,000 in the current biennium to $200,000 for the next two years.

Lawmakers also continued to fund the state’s pesticide stewardship partnership program, putting $1.49 million into the partnership.

And lawmakers put $4.4 million into the department’s agricultural water quality program, including $1.9 million of general funds.

Lawmakers also provided the department a water-quantity position to work on increasing water supply development in Oregon.

Published 6/13/13 in the Capital Press

Experts say ryegrass seed exports have likely peaked

Capital Press

The robust growth in ryegrass seed exports seen in recent years has likely peaked due to diminished European demand and higher domestic prices, experts say.

“The party is over,” said Steve Tubbs, president of Turf Merchants, Inc., in Tangent, Ore. “In general, there’s not much good news at the export desk now.”

The value and volume of ryegrass seed exports surged in 2011, stayed strong in 2012, and saw a healthy uptick during the first quarter of 2013, according to federal trade data.

Higher sales in early 2013 likely represented the tail end of the upswing in exports, said Tubbs. The dimming prospects for exports are largely due to the market outlook in Europe, a major buyer of perennial ryegrass seed for turf.

Unseasonably low temperatures and adverse weather in Europe have hampered demand for perennial ryegrass seed, said Aaron Kuenzi, vice president and marketing manager at Mountain View Seeds in Salem, Ore.

“Spring business is weather-driven, even more than economy-driven,” he said.

Of course, the economic situation within the European Union continues to be troubled and the dollar has grown stronger against the euro, making U.S. grass seed more expensive in Europe, said Bill Dunn, executive vice president and general manager of Seed Research of Oregon in Corvallis, Ore.

“That may be the real sleeper in the deal,” Dunn said of the currency fluctuation.

Even without the change in currency values, grass seed has risen in price due to limited availability, he said. Growers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley have been planting more wheat and other crops that compete with grass seed.

“It seems like a lot more of everything and a lot less of grass,” Dunn said.

Fortunately, sales of grass seed in the U.S. are strong enough that companies won’t have to rely on exports to clear out inventories, said Tubbs.

“We think the good news is the supply and demand are very much in equilibrium,” he said.

While domestic demand for ryegrass seed appears sufficient, it’s strongest during the fall and spring seasons, said Sam Cable, export and seed position manager at Barenbrug USA in Tangent, Ore.

Exports, on the other hand, provide an outlet for grass seed throughout the year, he said. “It’s critical for cash flow for the entire industry.”

The prognosis for exports isn’t entirely negative, as the demand for annual ryegrass seed — primarily used for livestock forage, rather than turf — is healthy in emerging markets like China that are consuming more meat and dairy, Cable said.

“They get on buying streaks,” he said. “China needs a lot of milk. More milk than they ever thought.”

However, changes in Chinese regulations could cramp exports due to stricter permitting requirements that represent a “major shift in how they buy seed,” said Tubbs.

The fundamentally solid reputation of Oregon grass seed remains unchanged, though, so overseas buyers will continue to rely on the region for at least a decent portion of their supplies, Kuenzi said.

“They know they can count on the quality and consistency,” he said.

Published 6/12/13 in the Capital Press

Special Local Need Registration (SLN) for Colt AS Herbicide, EPA Reg. No. 34704-1019

Here is an approved Special Local Need Registration (SLN) for Colt AS Herbicide, EPA Reg. No. 34704-1019 for control of weeds in grasses grown for forage or hay in Idaho, manufactured by Loveland Products, Inc, SLN #ID-130010.

Idaho Dept of Agriculture Letter

Colt AS Herbicide EPA Reg. No. 34704-1019

Roger Batt
Pacific Seed Association

Seed Feeds The World – PSA TV Spot

Please see the You Tube video below that the Pacific Seed Association has produced.  Not only will this one minute commercial be used on social media, but it will also be televised across 13 states within PSA’s Geographic area.

Roger Batt
Pacific Seed Association


Farm Bill Seed Amendment – Update

State Friends:

Thank you to all of you who have weighed in with Congress on the amendment impacting seed imports. We are down to the wire in the Senate. If you have reached out before to your Senate offices now would be a good time to remind them that this amendment is important.

Here’s the latest:

We were able to reach an agreement with Sen. Boxer’s staff on changes to the amendment language. The attached modified amendment was submitted today [June 5, 2013]. Chairwoman Stabenow is still deciding which amendments will be part of the final package. The fact that we have sign-off from Boxer and bi-partisan support weighs in our favor but there are a lot of  amendments for her to choose from.

Please send the following message if you can:

We have worked on a bi-partisan basis to develop an amendment that will solve a pressing problem for the seed industry.  Please let Chairwoman Stabenow know that the Fischer-Carper amendment will ensure that your constituents  have access to the best seeds and technology when they need them.  

Jane DeMarchi
VP, Government and Regulatory Affairs
American Seed Trade Association
703-837-8140×328 (office)
301-706-3454 (cell)

Asulox Herbicide

For those of you in the Alfalfa Seed Industry, attached is a newly approved label for Asulox as an herbicide for Alfalfa Seed grown in Idaho.

Thank you,

Roger Batt
Pacific Seed Association