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November 24, 2017
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O ur V iew
Agriculture the most important use of water
1. Big Cliff
3. Green Peter
5. Blue River
7. Hills Creek
8. Cottage Grove
11. Fall Creek
13. Fern Ridge
Source: U.S. Bureau
and exporters. Six of the state’s
top 10 agricultural counties are in
the Willamette Valley, including
Marion County, the top producer
with more than $600 million in
For that reason, if no other,
we would expect Oregon leaders
to make the well-being of
Willamette Valley agriculture a
That’s why a couple of recent
studies should be concerning to
them and anyone involved in
A recently announced study
by the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers has set off a debate
among the region’s water users,
including farmers and ranchers.
In it, the Corps, with help from
the Oregon Water Resources
Department, has decided that
only 16 percent of the nearly
1.6 million acre-feet stored by 13
federal dams in the Willamette
Valley would be used for
irrigation. By contrast, 60 percent
would be set aside for fish and
The Corps is seeking
comments on that. Here’s
ours: More water is needed for
agriculture. A lot more.
Any limit on irrigation
represents a limit on agriculture.
Cropping patterns are constantly
changing. As water becomes
available, that means farmers can
grow higher-value crops and get
To cut off irrigation at such a
paltry amount tells farmers and
ranchers that they aren’t a priority
despite their success as stewards
of the land and economic drivers
for the state. It’s as though the
amount of water designated for
O ur V iew
other challenges, too
Regarding “Monarch habitat
restoration benefits farmers, envi-
ronment,” I read the above guest
comment by Robert Gilpin with
great interest, and who could not
applaud his efforts to urge farm-
ers to join in the restoration of the
monarch’s habitat. However well
intentioned, the article has several
problems that will be apparent to
anyone who has followed the de-
cline of the monarch species.
First, Mr. Giblin describes the
“complex reasons” for the mon-
arch’s decline including “loss
of habitat, weather and climate
change, predators, pathogens and
parasites and less overwintering
habitat in Mexico.” Oddly, not a
word about the connection of the
decline of the monarch and the
use of agricultural pesticides. Two
types of pesticides in particular:
the use of herbicides at field mar-
gins which allow the farmer to be
more efficient and control weeds,
but contribute to the acute loss of
habitat for milkweed and thus a
food source for the monarch larvae.
Mr. Giblin neglected to place any
blame for the loss of habitat on the
efficiency of our modern agricul-
Similarly glossed over was any
relationship between agricultur-
al insecticide use and a decline in
monarch populations. This over-
sight could be expected as he is
addressing an agricultural audience
and wouldn’t wish to either offend
anyone or place agribusiness inter-
ests or the American Farm Bureau
Federation in a poor light. How-
ever, anyone who has ever applied
pesticides is clearly aware that
insecticidal spray drift into mar-
gins can contribute to the decline
of both pollinators in general and
Secondly, the column did not
mention any connection between
GMO BT corn pollen and mon-
archs. Cornell University research
demonstrated the link between BT
toxin and monarch larval death
(Cornell Chronicle April 19, 1995).
Pollen that contains the BT toxin
from GMO corn can drift to milk-
weed habitat at field margins, turn-
ing it from a habitat of hopeful res-
toration into a lethal trap.
It is like there is a type of “polit-
ical correctness” within the agricul-
tural community that can’t seem to
bring itself to any kind of self-cri-
tique even when it is the elephant
in the room. Yes, there are manifold
reasons for the monarch’s decline,
but let’s be honest about it and be
willing to admit modern agricul-
ture’s role in the problem. At the
same time, I’m 100 percent in line
with Mr. Giblin’s desire to encour-
age farmers, homeowners and other
landowners to collaborate and help
restore a truly awesome species.
Camano Island, Wash.
When it comes to farming in
the West, all you have to do is
With water, the West has
blossomed. Take a look at
the vast Columbia Basin in
Washington and the Snake River
valley in southern Idaho. And the
Central Valley in California. And
all of Eastern Oregon.
Anywhere water is available,
the predominant color is green,
with high-value and high-yield
crops dotting the countryside.
Without water, the countryside is
brown or growing dryland crops
with much lower yields.
In Western Oregon, especially
the Willamette Valley, water has
been less of an issue. Owing
to a healthy annual rainfall,
many farmers have done well
without the benefit of irrigation.
With irrigation, others grow an
impressive variety of high-value
crops, from the nearly
$1 billion-a-year nursery industry
— the largest ag sector in the
state — to livestock and specialty
crops. The valley nurtures a
robust agricultural industry,
complete with food processors
agriculture was an afterthought.
Another study, by Oregon
State University, adds alarm to
our reaction to the Corps and
OWRD study. It predicts that
by the turn of the next century,
Willamette Valley farmers will
be irrigating more because of the
changing climate. It also found
that the lack of infrastructure
— pipelines and canals — to
distribute water around the
valley will limit irrigation. More
infrastructure can be built, but
more water can’t be made.
Another concern that came
out of the OSU study was that
the region’s growing population
will ultimately max out the
water supplies of several cities.
That means as more water goes
to flushing toilets and other
household uses, agriculture faces
the possibly of being squeezed
Agriculture should not be
seen as just another use of
water. It should be seen as the
most important use. Farmers
and ranchers produce the food
we all eat. Doing that requires
By CYNDIE SHEARING
For the Capital Press
Study opens door for solution to
esults of a recent study by Oregon State
University strongly suggests canola
production could coexist with specialty
seed crops in the Willamette Valley.
We hope farmers can see this as an
opportunity to put a longstanding disagreement
to rest, and work out a way to meet everyone’s
The valley is home to a variety of specialty
seed farmers. They grow high-value crops in
relatively small quantities.
The valley is also home to farmers who
want to grow canola, a relatively low-value
crop that can be grown in large quantities.
Canola production in Oregon’s Willamette
Valley has always been controversial.
Canola produces tiny, oil-rich seeds that can
be crushed for food oil or biofuel, and the seed
pulp is fed to dairy cows. It doesn’t require
irrigation and can be planted and harvested
with the same equipment used for grass seed
Farmers see canola as a valuable crop to
grow in rotation with grass and grains.
But specialty seed growers and the seed
companies that contract their acreage worry
that large-scale canola production could hurt
Vegetable seeds grown for garden and
commercial use have to meet strict genetic
requirements. Growers worry that canola could
cross pollinate with other Brassicas, such as
Actual contamination wouldn’t have to
occur, they say. The perception could harm
their reputation with buyers.
They also worry that large-scale canola
production will create pest and disease issues.
As a result, canola production in the valley
has been heavily restricted.
In 2013 the Oregon Department of
Agriculture decided to loosen those
The Legislature stepped in, placing a six-
year moratorium on most canola production
in 2013 at the request of the specialty seed
industry. It also commissioned a study of the
impacts of canola production on a 500-acre
test plot on the specialty seed industry.
According to the study, canola poses no
greater threat to specialty seed producers than
other Brassica species regularly grown in the
The results strengthen the case that canola
can coexist with other crops. And because the
study was commissioned by lawmakers, it
weakens the specialty seed growers’ argument
for strict regulations.
The OSU report has now been turned over
to ODA, which has another year to develop
recommendations for canola cultivation in the
The Willamette Valley Specialty Seed
Association has invited canola growers to
join in a map “pinning” system designed to
maintain isolation distances and avoid cross-
pollination among species.
It would still like some limit on production
to reduce pest and disease issues.
Canola farmers balk at limits on their
Brassica where none exist for radish or turnip
seeds grown for cover crops. They need
enough production to maintain a viable, food-
grade vegetable oil industry.
There seems to be some agreement that
farmers can work all this out, and present ODA
with a plan that it can regulate for both sides.
We like the idea of farmers working out
their differences among themselves. It’s a
solution that’s long overdue.
PHOTO: Bumble bees and a honeybees pollinate canola flowers. A Oregon State University report has now
been turned over to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which has another year to develop recommenda-
tions for canola cultivation in the region. Photo by Lynn Ketchum/OSU
ooking for some interest-
ing, lesser-known facts
related to Thanksgiving?
Check out the turkey trivia be-
Beard: Black lock of hair
found on the chest of male tur-
Flock: Large group of tur-
Hen: Female turkey.
North Carolina, Minnesota
and Indiana: Top three states for
Poult: Baby turkey.
Snood: Long, red, fleshy
growth that hangs down over the
Tom: Male turkey.
Wattle: Bright red appendage
on the neck.
28 days: Time it takes a tur-
key egg to hatch.
$49.12: Total average cost for
a classic Thanksgiving dinner for
10 people (less than $5 per per-
son) including a 16-pound tur-
key, according to the American
Farm Bureau Federation.
Speaking of trivia, the folks
at the Butterball Turkey Talk-
Line started a petition proposing
a Thanksgiving turkey emoji to
Unicode, the nonprofit organi-
zation that oversees the coding
standards for texting and emoji.
According to Thanksgiving
turkey emoji supporters, “Every
other major holiday has at least
one emoji. There’s fireworks,
champagne and noise-makers
for New Year’s Eve; cupid hearts
for Valentine’s Day; ghosts and
jack-o-lanterns for Halloween
and so much more. But Thanks-
giving, the most-celebrated holi-
day in the country, doesn’t have
an emoji that truly captures the
Get more fun facts and triv-
ia about farming and agriculture
by ordering a “Food and Farm
Facts” trivia card set for $10
online at http://bit.ly/2mvXxlk.
With more than 250 questions
on 46 playing cards, the set
brings a popular game element
to important national agricultural
statistics. In a classroom or liv-
ing room, the cards test players’
knowledge about agricultural
production, sustainability and
nutrition. Cards are aligned to the
American Farm Bureau Founda-
tion for Agriculture’s 2017 Food
and Farm Facts book.
Cyndie Shearing is director
of internal communications at
the American Farm Bureau