Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, March 20, 2015, Page 5, Image 5

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March 20, 2015
Regulators seek Blueberry growers advised to tread carefully
Market contending
authority to
with growing
revoke nursery supplies of crop
shipping permits
Capital Press
Capital Press
Farm regulators in Oregon
want the authority to revoke
shipping permits from nurs-
eries that risk spreading plant
Under Senate Bill 256, the
Oregon Department of Agri-
culture could block nurseries
from shipping if they don’t
comply with interstate stan-
dards for plant cleanliness.
The bill is intended as a last
resort for dealing with nurs-
eries that blatantly disregard
procedures meant to control
plant diseases, said Jeff Stone,
executive director of the Ore-
gon Association of Nurseries.
“It’s a nuclear deterrent, in
large measure, for folks who
are shipping infected plants
negligently,” he said. “There’s
a big difference in having a
problem and perpetuating that
While the vast majority of
nurseries take great care to
ensure they’re shipping clean
plants, the few companies that
disregard phytosanitary haz-
ards pose a danger to the rest
of the industry, Stone said.
Competitors could try to
stop shipments from Oregon
from entering their state if a
disease incident occurs, so SB
256 aims to alleviate such mar-
ket concerns, he said.
“There are a lot of people
who want our market share,”
Stone said.
ODA can currently halt in-
dividual shipments of nursery
stock, but the agency has lim-
ited resources to monitor thou-
sands of trucks that leave the
state each spring, he said.
Suspending or revoking a
shipping permit is a more ef-
ficient way of keeping poten-
tially diseased plants out of
commerce, he said.
Rather than inspecting
each load, ODA can simply
halt all shipments from a nurs-
ery until a disease problem is
back under control, said Gary
McAninch, manager of the
agency’s nursery and Christ-
mas tree program.
“A lot of this comes out
of the sudden oak death ex-
perience we had,” he said,
referring to a fungal pathogen
that led to federal regulations
on West Coast nurseries. “It’s
the one disease that causes the
most concern among states
that receive nursery stock from
The expectation is that
ODA will be in consistent
contact with a grower who is
“heading down this path” to-
ward revocation, Stone said.
Oregon’s nursery industry
prides itself on working close-
ly with regulators and OAN’s
board of directors requested
that ODA expand its authority,
he said. “We asked for this.”
As part of SB 256, the ODA
would also increase the maxi-
mum fees for nursery licenses
and upgrade its inspection pro-
cess to reflect national trends
in plant disease prevention.
The agency’s current pro-
posal would raise the cap on
license fees from $20,000 to
$25,000, but the OAN wants
the cap increased to $40,000.
The share of gross revenue
paid by nurseries known as a
“millage rate” — a mill is one-
tenth of a percent — would
grow from five mills to seven
mills under ODA’s proposal
and to 10 mills under OAN’s
amended version. License
costs for Christmas tree grow-
ers would also increase under
the legislation.
Actual fees paid by nurser-
ies would still be tiered based
on their size, said Lisa Hanson,
ODA’s deputy director, during
a March 11 hearing on the bill
before the Senate Committee
on Environment and Natural
OAN prefers a larger in-
crease in the license fee limit,
which would let ODA gradu-
Farmers should find a mar-
ket for their blueberries before
planting their first bush because
there’s no shortage of supplies,
experts say.
Blueberry production has
climbed in recent years, so new
growers need to find a niche
rather than assume buyers will
readily absorb more of the crop,
according to speakers at Ore-
gon State University’s recent
Blueberry School.
“If you are just sticking 20
acres in the ground because you
like blueberries, you’re going
to be eating a lot of them your-
self probably,” said Rod Cook,
president of Ag-View Consult-
ing, who tracks supply trends.
Inventories of frozen blue-
berries — traditionally an im-
portant sales channel for North-
west growers — have been
Courtesy of Oregon State University
mounting, with production out-
pacing sales, he said.
According to USDA’s most
recent statistics, more than
187.5 million pounds of blue-
berries were in cold storage in
late January, up 9 percent since
last year.
To put that in perspective,
there were fewer than 83 mil-
lion pounds of blueberries in
cold storage at the same point
in 2007, the last time OSU held
its Blueberry School.
While frozen inventories
have continued to trend higher,
the market should remain stable
if blueberry usage also increas-
es, Cook said.
“Big numbers don’t scare
me as long as we’re seeing
movement in big numbers as
well,” he said.
To compete in the current
market, new growers need
to evaluate and develop their
strengths — for example, if
they have experience with or-
ganic production or are situated
to capitalize on seasonal gaps in
supply, Cook said.
Farmers should also identify
their weaknesses, such as a lack
of labor or cooling equipment,
he said.
“The more planning you
do, the better off you’re going
to be,” said Jeff Malensky, vice
president of international sales
for the Oregon Berry Packing
BUYING 6” and UP
Alder, Maple, Cottonwood
Saw Logs, Standing Timber
Oregon Department
of Agriculture also
proposes license fee
ally bump up actual fees over
time, rather than having the
agency return to the legislature
for smaller hikes.
The bill would clarify the
agency’s inspection and certi-
fication authority to allow for
a “systems-based approach,”
which would rely on grow-
ers to show they’re following
sanitation and training pro-
tocols for plant health, said
The method is “document
heavy,” with the ODA auditing
nursery records to ensure they
follow the right steps, she said.
Under SB 256, the agency
would have more flexibility to
adopt plant health protocols
that are being implemented by
USDA, said Stone.
The systems approach fo-
cuses on preventing diseases
instead of tracking down their
origin after they’ve been dis-
covered, he said.
“The certification would
not hinge on us inspecting
plants, it would hinge on en-
suring the system is working,”
McAninch said.
Since the early 2000s, farm-
ers have increasingly been ex-
pected to document their field
and irrigation practices to ensure
a safe product, he said.
In the fresh market, retailers
have also become more selec-
tive as blueberry production
has grown, said Derek Peacock,
procurement manager for the
HBF International fruit market-
ing company.
Buyers want blueberries to
be traceable and are asking to
verify information about pesti-
cide usage and other practices
with third party auditors, he said.
It’s also important for farm-
ers to work with packers and
marketers to plan for when large
quantities become available,
Peacock said.
As long as farmers are pre-
pared to put in extra effort to
mitigate risks for suppliers,
“there is room in the market-
place for more fruit,” he said.
Though conditions are
tough, growers can still be prof-
itable if they economize skillful-
ly, said Bernadine Strik, berry
crops specialist at OSU.