By MITCH LIES
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