Canola in the Willamette Valley
Despite the continued opposition to relaxing canola restrictions, 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 canola production in the Willamette Valley and prevent ODA from implementing its current rule and expanding canola production across the Valley.
FoFF has heard multiple times from legislators about the value and impact of being contacted by constituents. They need to hear from you in order to ensure they have an awareness of an issue and can weigh in effectively when an issue, and in this case canola, comes before the legislature. Phone calls are most effective during the legislative session which begins on February 4th, 2013. A personal email or letter is always appreciated.
Also, do let FoFF know who you’ve contacted so we can follow with targeted communications as we pursue legislation that would take the matter out of ODA’s hands and ban canola completely from the Willamette Valley.
Read an example of what you could say to your legislator.
Not sure who your legislator is? Find out and email them here>>>
Please contact FoFF’s Field Director, Leah, with questions.
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>>
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 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 Salem. The comment period closed on Friday, January 25, 2013 at 5 pm.
Stay of Temporary Rule Granted by the Oregon Court of Appeals!
Friends of Family Farmers is proud to report that 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 here>>
Actions You Can Take
- Submit your written comments to the official public record:
Mail to: Canola Hearings Officer, Department of Agriculture, 635 Capitol Street NE, Salem, OR 97301 or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Spread the word; engage your friends and family; educate yourself on the issue
- Contact you legislator to get canola on their radar as an important issue of constituents
- Write Letters to the Editors of the newspapers around the state (tips)
- Call ODA and ask them to leave the existing boundary in place: 503. 986.4552 Email Director Katy Coba directly
- Contact the Governor: 503.378.4582 Email the Governor’s office
- Sign up for our Newsletter and Action Alerts.
- Follow ODA’s website to see when the permanent regulation is posted
- Donate to the cause:
Current Canola Fundraising Campaign:
Heartfelt thanks to every individual who has made a donation so far, no matter how small or how large. The quick response from many of you has validated our efforts and shows us that this issue remains a real concern for you. Contributions to our canola fundraising campaign go towards the legal bills we have incurred trying to keep the Oregon Department of Agriculture from forcing canola production in the Willamette Valley. We are getting closer to achieving our goal of raising $10,000 but are not there yet. If you haven’t done so yet, please consider making a donation today. Read More & Link to Donate >>>
Media on the Canola issue
Link here to see the list of articles