Friends of Family Farmers – Promoting and Protecting Socially Responsible Farming in Oregon.

Canola in the Willamette Valley


August 2013 Update:

In the waning days of the 2013 Oregon Legislative Session, after multiple public hearings dating back to March, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 2427 with bipartisan support. The bill maintains an existing ban commercial production of canola until 2019 inside the 3 million acre Willamette Valley Protected District in order to protect one of the world’s preeminent vegetable seed producing regions, an effort widely supported by family farmers across the Willamette Valley.

The bill, which passed the Senate 18-12 after passing the Oregon House 37-22, replaces a policy adopted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture in February 2013 (see below for background) that would have allowed 25,000 acres of canola to be planted over the next decade in a region where the production of the plant for its seed has been administratively banned since 2005, and hasn’t occurred in decades. The bill retains canola restrictions established by Oregon Department of Agriculture in the Willamette Valley Protected District since 2009, while authorizing limited canola research under the oversight of Oregon State University for three years.

The Capital Press highlighted the issue in an article recapping the 2013 legislative session.

On August 14, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed HB 2427 into law.

Recent Background:

The Oregon Department of Agriculture adopted a permanent canola rule Thursday, February 7th. The Willamette Valley protected district has been divided into two zones; one in the center of the Valley where no canola production is allowed and the other has an annual cap of 2,500 acres of canola, plus an undetermined about of variances that can be given to canola growers ‘near’ the boundary.

Unfortunately, despite overwhelming amount of public comment against the rule, ODA has still not provided sufficient protections for vegetable seed and fresh market vegetable growers and others opposed to canola production in our truly rare Willamette Valley.  These producers must maintain the utmost seed purity to remain viable and ODA’s new rule does not protect them from substantial canola related risk factors. Unless ODA has figured out a way to control things like, wind, bees, birds, rain, bumps in the road, leaky farm trucks, the potential for genetic ’superweeds’, our farms and local food supply are still at risk.

The testimony of Bob McRenyolds, OSU Associate Professor Emeritus, Horticulture/Extension, presented to the House Agriculture Committee on March 19, 2013, provides an excellent summation of this issue. Read McRenyolds’ testimony here>>

FoFF has reviewed ODA’s final canola rule with a fine-toothed comb and finds it to be insufficient to protect many sectors of agriculture. Coexistence is just not possible.  Instead we are advocating for HB 2427, to prohibit commercial canola production in the Willamette Valley and prevent ODA from implementing its current rule and expanding canola production across the Valley.

Please contact FoFF’s Field Director, Leah, with questions.

The Issue

Allowing for canola production in the protected zone of the Willamette Valley would be ruinous for several high value industries, including the world renowned specialty seed and clover industries as well as for Organic and fresh market vegetable growers.

Canola is the trade name for rapeseed, a plant in the Brassica family of vegetables. It can be used as fodder for animals or grown for seed and then crushed into oil for bio-fuels or refined further for edible cooking oil. Sounds great but unfortunately, rapeseed is a very promiscuous plant that readily outcrosses with many other Brassica species including the wild mustard that is already a well established roadside weed.  Rapeseed seed pods are extremely prone to shatter thus persisting in fields where it has been previously grown and unintentional volunteers are very difficult to control.  Additionally, and most troubling for fresh market growers and organics is the fact that rapeseed is a host to several serious plant diseases and pests.

Rapeseed can be grown just about anywhere else in Oregon making the push to expand production in Willamette Valley very peculiar because this valley is an ecological gem and one of the few places left in the world where quality specialty seeds can be grown. It is known that conventional grass seed farmers are seeking a winter rotation crop to break up pest and disease cycles. This need and attempt to diversify makes the canola issue particularly complex. However, there are several alternative crops these farmers could grow like vetch, camelina and field peas that wouldn’t bring about the potentially devastating effects rapeseed would. Read More about why canola is a problem>>

Comprehensive Canola Resources Page>>>

Older news:

Back in August, we had success stopping the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s attempt to railroad a potentially devastating temporary rule, but we need to continue to keep the pressure up to address the proposed permanent rule.

The public hearing held September 28th, 2012 at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem brought widespread opposition to the proposed permanent rule.  A citizen organized rally took place in tandem to the hearing.  Read the Hearing and Rally Recap >>

The Oregon Department of Agriculture  decided to extend the public comment period for the proposed rule changes regarding canola expansion in the Willamette Valley.  The comment period, which originally closed October  5th was extended to November 2.

In October, ODA convened a Canola Advisory Committee to consider possible modifications to the proposed permanent rule. Friends of Family Farmers was invited and served on this advisory committee.  Please note that the Canola Advisory Committee is not tasked with coming to a consensus.

A public hearing on the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s latest rule proposal was held on Wednesday, January 23, 2013,Cascade Hall at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in SalemThe comment period closed on Friday, January 25, 2013 at 5 pm.

Court Action 2012:

Stay of Temporary Rule Granted by the Oregon Court of Appeals!

In August, 2012 the Oregon Court of Appeals granted a stay to the temporary rule that would have allowed canola into previously protected areas of the Willamette Valley. Despite the Court’s order that determined that ODA did not justify the need to issue a temporary rule and agreed with the plaintiff’s assertion that irreparable harm would likely result if rapeseed was allowed, ODA is choosing to push the issue in court.  Thus the Agency is forcing plaintiffs (and tax payers!) to spend money to prepare a case that clearly will not be relevant once the proposed permanent rule is official. Not to mention that the window to plant canola this year has passed. Read more about the 2012 temporary rule here>>

Actions You Can Take

Canola Fundraising Campaign:

Heartfelt thanks to every individual who has made a donation to our canoal campaign, no matter how small or how large. Contributions to our canola fundraising campaign have gone towards the legal bills we incurred trying to keep the Oregon Department of Agriculture from forcing canola production in the Willamette Valley, and our legislative efforts to pass HB 2427. If you support our work on this issue haven’t done so yet, please consider making a donation today. You can make a donation here >>>

Media on the Canola issue

Link here to see a list of past articles. For more current articles, find them on our ‘In the Media’ page.

Media Kit




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