To meet a court-ordered deadline, environmental regulators are racing to update mercury pollution limits in Oregon’s Willamette River Basin that may affect agricultural erosion rules.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that’s naturally found in soils but is also emitted by fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes. In Oregon, mercury from coal-burning power plants thousands of miles away in China, deposited through rain and dust, is also a significant source.
Agricultural practices are implicated as a source of mercury pollution due to the erosion of soils containing the element.
Currently, there’s a “minimal” amount of awareness among Oregon farmers about the link between erosion and mercury pollution, said Eric Horning, a farmer near Corvallis.
“It’s not a common topic of conversation,” Horning said. “There’s going to have to be an education process.”
Mercury may soon become a more relevant subject for growers in the Willamette River Basin due to upcoming regulatory decisions.
Last year, a federal judge ordered the region’s water quality standard for mercury — known as a total maximum daily load, or TMDL — to be revised by April 2017 due to an environmental lawsuit that faulted how the limit was calculated.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality has now pulled together a committee, which includes representatives of the agriculture and timber industries, to advise on the revision process.
The state agency’s TMDL for mercury, which it’s updating with new data, is overseen the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.
The Oregon Farm Bureau is troubled by the lack of input that DEQ is accepting about its estimates for the amount of mercury that’s deposited in the Willamette Valley and released into waterways.
Agriculture and other industries aren’t being given enough opportunity to review and weigh in on the agency’s assumptions about mercury sources, said Mary Anne Cooper, the organization’s public policy counsel and an advisory committee member.
Farmland is a major land use in the region, so it’s likely to be considered a “big player” in controlling mercury pollution, she said.
“I think this is probably going to be one of the most meaningful TMDLs for agriculture, certainly in recent memory or even ever,” Cooper said.
During a Feb. 15 meeting in Portland, DEQ officials told committee members their primary role was advising on how the TMDL will be implemented to reduce mercury levels.
The technical work of calculating the TMDL will mostly be decided by the DEQ and EPA due to time constraints, though the public will be able to comment on their findings, officials said.
However, assumptions about the sources of mercury are closely linked to the implementation of controls, since both involve crop types and farm practices, said Cooper.
Since sedimentation from farmland will likely be considered a significant source of mercury, the “fix” may involve a DEQ directive on managing soil erosion, she said.
Agricultural water quality regulations are overseen by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, but the concern is that DEQ may provide that agency with prescriptive instructions to reduce mercury pollution, Cooper said.
Such a directive could be burdensome for farmers and discourage innovation in erosion control, she said.
However, the ODA cannot realistically become much more drastic about controlling sediment, which is already a major focus of its agricultural water quality program, said Paul Measles, an agency hydrologist and committee member.
“The staff we have and the amount of places we can look at any one time isn’t going to change,” he said.
Erosion control in the region could be improved, but farmers are constrained by regulations in what they can do to reduce streamside sedimentation, said Horning, who is also a committee member.
Work to reduce bank erosion can be quickly performed with a front-end loader but generally requires cumbersome permitting from state and federal agencies, Horning said.
“It’s frowned upon and it shouldn’t be,” he said. “It should be embraced.”
JOSEPH, Ore. — A conditional use permitted on Wallowa County ranchland this winter would allow two cattle producers to offset their power costs with energy generated on their shared irrigation pipeline.
The Triple Creek Ranch sprawls across the upper Wallowa Valley north of Wallowa Lake, abutting the Schaafsma Ranch. Ditch water diverted from a nearby creek runs through a pipe and irrigates pasture on both ranches. If the project is built, excess pressure from the pipeline will generate energy sent to the power grid via power lines less than 20 feet from the generator.
Kyle Petrocine of Wallowa Resources, the local organization coordinating the project, said there are operational benefits to both ranches.
“The ranches will share the net metering credit generated and have lower operational costs due to lower power costs,” Petrocine said.
Ranch owner Lori Schaafsma said if the project goes through, power will only be generated during the irrigation season. She said the energy credits earned through power generation can only be used by the partnering ranches.
The cost saving could be considerable. While Schaafsma said their power bill runs about $3,000 a year, Scott Shear, manager of the Triple Creek Ranch, said his ranch spends roughly $20,000 on electricity annually.
The cost savings are high, but so is the initial outlay for permitting, siting and construction.
Schaafsma said she and her husband, Tom, have long been interested in harnessing power off of their irrigation pipeline, but need grant funding to pay for installation.
“We had always talked about it, but when we were told how much it would cost it was way more than we could afford,” Schaafsma said.
Funding for hydro projects, Petrocine said, is always a hold up
“Hydro is still fairly expensive, even for small-scale projects,” Petrocine said.
To help pay for the project Petrocine said he is applying for grants this spring and targeting fall of this year for installation.
The proposed power plant on the upper Wallowa Valley ranches will be the third hydro project Wallowa Resources has fostered; the first two were installed on a ranch in the mid-Wallowa River Valley between Lostine and Wallowa on the Spaur Ranch in 2010 and 2016. Now that Wallowa Resources has made hydro a priority, Petrocine said he anticipates overseeing two projects a year. From concept to installation, each project takes about two years. Permitting alone takes about six months, including the conditional use permit granted by Wallowa County Jan. 30.
“Now that we have our ducks in a row things will be accelerating,” Petrocine.
Energy Trust of Oregon has funded feasibility studies for these Wallowa County projects, including a few that didn’t pencil out.
A large chunk of funding for a $219,000 project at the head of Wallowa Lake was received through a Pacific Power’s Blue Sky Grant — a fund supported through ratepayers who dedicate a portion of their bill to renewable energy development. County Commissioner Susan Roberts said Pacific Power granted $60,000 for the installation of a power plant that will generate around 150 kilowatts a year, saving the project’s owner, the Wallowa Lake Service District, a municipal water and sewer entity managed by Wallowa County, about $15,000 a year in energy costs.
The log cabin style pump house will be in Wallowa Lake State Park’s campground, Petrocine said, and will have an interpretive sign explaining how a spring on the mountainside powers the turbine.
Construction on the hydroelectric plant at Wallowa Lake State Park will begin in October or November, after the tourist season, Petrocine said.
Just an update from the CMC meeting just held in DC. No new action was taken on the volume regulations. The Committee and all of us really, are waiting on the USDA to act on the recommendations.
The 2017 regulation has been posted in the Federal Register and the comment period has closed. We are waiting on the Secretary to finalize and sign.
Sometime soon the 2018 order will be posted in the Federal Register for comments. And then the Secretary will finalize and sign.
I think that the CMC members and attendees made it clear to the USDA officials present that we need action quickly so that growers can make growing decisions to control costs. It was duly noted by Oregon growers that the growing season has already begun!
In other news, the 2017 crop was smaller than previously estimated in January, now that actual numbers have been reported. Mother Nature really helped us out on that front. In making the 2018 forecast, most all growing areas expect to be back up to their normal production.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California officials are warning people not to eat the Mexican cactus known as nopales sold at certain stores over concerns they may be tainted with unapproved pesticides.
The Department of Public Health said Wednesday that routine samples last month found contaminated nopal cactus pads at six markets and distribution centers across the state.
Products packaged under the names Mexpogroup Fresh Produce, Aramburo or Los Tres Huastecos should be thrown away. Officials say most tainted nopales have been removed from store shelves and destroyed. But it is possible that some may have been sold to other retail locations in California, Nevada and Oregon.
No illnesses have been reported. Officials warn the pesticides can potentially cause poisoning, neurotoxicity and permanent nerve damage.
DENVER (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is pressing ahead with a massive overhaul of his department, despite growing opposition to his proposal to move hundreds of public employees out of Washington and create a new organizational map that largely ignores state boundaries.
Zinke wants to divide most of the department’s 70,000 employees and their responsibilities into 13 regions based on rivers and ecosystems, instead of the current map based mostly on state lines.
The proposal would relocate many of the Interior Department’s top decision-makers from Washington to still-undisclosed cities in the West. The headquarters of some of its major bureaus also would move to the West.
The concept — supported in principle by many Western politicians from both parties — is to get top officials closer to the natural resources and cultural sites they manage. The Interior Department oversees a vast expanse of public lands, mainly in the West, that are rich in wildlife, parks, archaeological and historic sites, oil and gas, coal and grazing ranges.
It also oversees huge dams and reservoirs that are vital to some of the West’s largest cities and most productive agricultural land.
Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, suspects the plan is an attempt to undercut the department by pressuring senior employees to quit rather than relocating, leaving positions unfilled and creating confusion about who regulates what.
“I think it’s a very thinly disguised attempt to gut the Department of Interior and its bureaus,” he said.
Grijalva also questioned the value of moving more department employees West, saying more than 90 percent are already in field offices outside Washington.
Grijalva and Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin of Virginia, also a member of the Natural Resources Committee, on Wednesday accused Zinke of withholding key information from lawmakers and trying to implement the plan piecemeal while avoiding full scrutiny from Congress.
Congress has the final say over the proposal.
And a bipartisan group of Western governors complained to Zinke two weeks ago that he shut them out of the planning for the reorganization. The Republican-dominated Western Governors Association expressed concern that organizing the department around natural features instead of state lines would weaken their states’ influence on department decisions.
Zinke’s spokeswoman, Heather Swift, said Wednesday that moving more Interior Department employees to the West has received overwhelming backing from Congress and state governments, and that managing by ecosystems, instead of state borders, has “a lot of support.”
Six Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee told Zinke last month they support the reorganization. They said it would improve agency efficiency and responsiveness.
The Interior Department has been unusually tight-lipped about the plan and has not said how many of its Washington-based employees would be moved, where in the West they would land, when they would go, or how much the overhaul would cost.
Swift said the department has briefed both Republican and Democratic congressional staffers and state officials on the proposal. She also said the department does not have a final plan.
But the agency has already compiled a tentative map of the new regions, provided to The Associated Press by the Western Governors Association. And budget documents released Monday show the department is already taking steps to implement it.
The department requested $17.5 million in 2019 to get the plan started and to move an undisclosed number of employees from their Washington headquarters to the West.
The budget documents included only a broad outline of the proposal and did not address in detail how it would affect the department’s basic responsibility — managing natural resources.
In an email to the AP on Wednesday, Swift said boundaries based on rivers and ecosystems would allow resource managers to do a better job and coordinate more closely because nature doesn’t follow political boundaries. She used a deer herd as an example.
“In just one season alone, the herd might pass through a national park, state land, a wildlife refuge and private land — and along its migration, it could wander through two or three different states,” she said.
Zinke has compared his proposed regional boundaries to the ideas of John Wesley Powell, a famed one-armed Civil War veteran and Grand Canyon explorer. Powell argued — unsuccessfully — that Western state boundaries should be drawn along river systems, not arbitrary survey lines, because of the importance of water in the largely arid region.
Donald Worster, an environmental historian and author of “A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell,” said Zinke’s plan bears only a faint resemblance to Powell’s.
“Powell had a very clear definition of the ‘problem’ his map was supposed to fix,” Worster said in an email to the AP. “Zinke is far less clear.”
Zinke’s tentative map lumps together some very different areas and divides others that have features in common, Worster said. Zinke also treats river systems and ecosystems as the same things, but they are not, he said.
“His patched-together and conceptually muddled maps do not encourage one to hope that real science will be given more visibility and authority in the (Interior Department),” Worster said.
Lynne Scarlett, who was deputy secretary of interior under President George W. Bush, said the reorganization could cut both ways.
Focusing on large, regional ecosystems could help the department pay more attention to the connections among land, water, wildlife and people, said Scarlett, now a policy executive for The Nature Conservancy. But the department’s bureaus have different and very specialized responsibilities, and it’s important to preserve their individual missions, she said.
“There’s no perfect management solution. Every solution that one thinks about involves trade-offs,” she said.
HAMILTON, N.J. (AP) — With giant inflatable whales, signs that read “Drilling Is Killing,” and chants of “Where’s our meeting?,” opponents of President Donald Trump’s plan to open most of the nation’s coastline to oil and natural gas drilling have held boisterous rallies before public meetings held by the federal government on the topic.
That’s because the public cannot speak to the assembled attendees at the meetings. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is meeting one-on-one with interested parties, and allows people to comment online, including typing comments on laptops the agency provides. People can also hand BOEM officials written comments to be included in the record.
What they can’t do is get up at a microphone and address the room. That has led drilling opponents on both coasts to hold their own meetings before the official ones begin. The latest will take place Wednesday in Hamilton, New Jersey, just outside the state capitol of Trenton.
“They’re dodging democracy,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action environmental group, which will hold a “citizens’ hearing” before the BOEM one begins. “The government works for the people. I understand it’s uncomfortable to have a bad idea and be held accountable for it, but that’s what they’re proposing.”
Trump’s decision last month to open most of the nation’s coast to oil and gas drilling horrified environmentalists, and many elected officials from both parties oppose it. But energy groups and some business organizations support it as a way to become less dependent on foreign energy. An Interior Department official quoted on the BOEM home page announcing the drilling plan praised it as a way for the U.S. to achieve “energy dominance.”
Tracey Blythe Moriarty, a BOEM spokeswoman, said the “open house” format lets people speak directly with agency staff to learn about the drilling proposal, adding, “We find this approach to be more effective than formal oral testimony.”
Many attendees at past meetings disagree.
Environmentalists rallied on the steps of the California state capitol in Sacramento before a BOEM hearing there, citing damage from a 1969 oil rig spill in Santa Barbara and a broken oil pipe in Refugio Beach three years ago. People upset at not being able to speak publicly chanted “Where’s our hearing?”
The agency set up informational displays at its Feb. 8 meeting, including one titled “Why Oil Is Important.”
“Californians have adamantly exposed expansion of oil drilling,” because of its effects on wildlife, oceans and beaches, David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay in San Francisco, told The Associated Press this week. “So the outcry here against the administration’s outrageous proposal is no surprise.”
Before a Feb. 8 meeting in Tallahassee, Florida, drilling foes invoked the Deepwater Horizon disaster that fouled the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and said they want to ensure that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s promise to exempt Florida from the drilling plan — the only exception publicly announced — remains in place.
In Oregon, some meeting attendees said BOEM staff were unable to answer their questions about the drilling plan, and were frustrated at being directed to a row of laptops to type out comments.
The Trump administration wants to sell off publicly-owned utility transmission lines. The most recent budget proposal also suggests a move that could raise rates for Bonneville Power Administration customers.
The proposal isn’t sitting well with Northwest politicians, Bonneville Power Administration customers, or clean energy advocates.
A similar plan also faced strong opposition when the Trump administration proposed selling off the BPA’s transmission lines last May. This time around there’s an additional plan to generate revenue: changing how BPA sets its power rates.
That could mean customers will pay more, said Scott Corwin, the executive director of the Public Power Council, which represents many BPA customers.
“It looks like it’s a regional hit to businesses and residents here without any added benefit,” Corwin said.
The idea to privatize the BPA’s transmission assets has been considered off and on for decades.
The BPA operates about three-quarters of the high-voltage transmission systems in its territory, including Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Changing how the BPA sets its rates also isn’t a new idea. The George W. Bush administration wanted BPA to sell its power at market rates.
BPA charges for power and transmission at cost. The current budget proposal hopes to raise up to $200 million by changing those rates — possibly by requiring a market-based rate or increasing it to the rates other utilities charge.
Corwin said the administration’s actual plan to change the rates is vague.
“It is concerning that there’s a presumption that they would change the rates just to raise money on the backs of Northwest electricity consumers,” Corwin said.
Corwin said the proposal is likely illegal because current power contracts, which go through 2028, are explicitly at-cost rates.
Sean O’Leary, spokesman for NW Energy Coalition, said selling off the publicly-owned transmission lines would fragment the grid. He said it would also make it more difficult to integrate renewable energy.
“When you’re in a region that already has the cleanest power, just about the cheapest power, and its paying for itself, there’s really not a problem to solve,” O’Leary said.
The budget proposal includes the sale of assets from two other federal power marketing administrations and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The BPA system is funded by its users. It delivers power from 31 hydroelectric dams throughout the Columbia River Basin and the Columbia Generating Station, the region’s only nuclear power plant. It provides about 28 percent of the electric power used in the Northwest.
The proposal would actually require an act of Congress — but Northwest congressional delegates strongly oppose the idea.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the proposal a “misguided scheme.”
“Oregonians raised hell last year when Trump tried to raise power bills for Pacific Northwesterners by selling off Bonneville Power, and yet his administration is back at it again. Our investment shouldn’t be put up for sale to free up money for runaway military spending or tax cuts for billionaires,” Wyden said in a statement.
A bipartisan group of Northwest house members sent a letter opposing the proposal, four days before the Trump administration released its plans.
“If market rates were imposed, Northwest public power utilities would see no value in continued BPA service. The consequence would be to leave the federal government holding non-economic assets, as well as a financial responsibility for fish mitigation costs that approach $1 billion per year,” the representatives wrote in the letter.
SALEM — Early organization has proved advantageous for supporters of a bill establishing minimum contract protections for all Oregon seed growers, which the House unanimously approved Feb. 13.
Under House Bill 4068, dealers must pay farmers market prices for seed by certain deadlines enforced by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Grass seed crops have received similar protections since 2011 under a statute aimed at preventing “slow pay, no pay” problems, but other types of seed were excluded from the legislation.
Before the idea of expanding the contract protections was brought to the Oregon lawmakers, the specifics were hashed out by farmers, seed dealers and trade groups.
By the time HB 4068 was introduced, all the details had been hammered out and the bill sailed through the House Agriculture Committee without any opposing testimony or even an amendment.
The lack of complication has served the bill well in 2018, when several other proposals have been killed off for being too grandiose or intricate to properly examine in a little more than a month.
Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, briefly explained the bill’s purpose on the House floor and praised it for adhering to the “spirit of the short session” — it’s “narrow in scope” and has been “thoroughly vetted” by the affected parties, he said.
Anna Scharf, whose family farm near Amity, Ore., was instrumental in advocating the bill, Post said.
The concept for expanding contract protections to clover, meadowfoam, radish, turnip, mustard and other seeds was initiated by Scharf in 2017.
Initially, she sought to simply add other seed types to the class of crops protected under the 2011 statute. However, the proposal “unraveled” because the payment terms for grass seed didn’t align with those of other seeds, Scharf said.
For a year, the Oregon Farm Bureau and farmers “worked out the kinks” with seed industry stakeholders and arrived at a proposal that lawmakers could embrace as “bipartisan” and “not political,” she said.
“It shows they’re willing to acknowledge that farmers growing proprietary crops have a necessity and a right to be paid in a timely manner,” Scharf said. “We aired out our differences and figured out a law we could live within.”
Because most specialty seeds are proprietary, they can’t be sold on the open market if the contracting seed dealer fails to pay, she said.
If HB 4068 is similarly successful in the Senate — which is likely — the playing field between growers and dealers will be more level, Scharf said. “It’s a game changer. I can’t tell you how excited I am about it.”
Scientists are cautioning wheat farmers in northeast Oregon about the early return of a pernicious, stunting disease that can reduce yields by as much as 41 percent.
Christina Hagerty, an Oregon State University assistant professor and plant pathologist at the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center, said soil-borne wheat mosaic virus has arrived four weeks earlier than last year at a disease resistance nursery near Milton-Freewater, Ore.
Already, Hagerty said she has met with five farmers about the virus and she expects more phone calls in the weeks to come.
“I think that we’re probably in for another mosaic virus year,” she said. “It’s not ideal.”
The virus, carried by a soil-borne organism, appears to be spreading around the region. Since it was discovered in the Walla Walla Valley in 2008, it has expanded from a five-mile radius to a 25-mile radius stretching into southeast Washington.
“This organism can spread any way you can think of soil spreading,” she said. “The good news is the breeders, private and public industry are working really hard to develop some good options for genetic resistance.”
Hagerty said the early arrival is likely due to warm weather in January. Symptoms are primarily seen in leaves and include yellow streaks, mosaic patterns, splotching and stunted growth.
Hagerty said farmers who recognize any of these symptoms should send a sample to either the OSU plant clinic in Hermiston, Ore., or Washington State University plant clinic in Pullman, Wash., for diagnostic testing.
“The window to diagnose is as short as eight weeks,” she said. “If they get a positive, there’s not a lot they can do this year, but they will know it is in the field and that will inform their variety selection for the following crop year.”
Soil-borne wheat mosaic virus does not respond to fumigation, and Hagerty said genetic resistance is the best tool for farmers dealing with the virus in their fields.
“We may be dealing with (the virus) on a more annual basis,” she said.
For questions or a list of genetically resistant wheat varieties, contact Hagerty at CBARC, 541-278-4186.
Oregon wheat farmer Darren Padget says the time was right for him to join the officer team of U.S. Wheat Associates.
His son is home on the farm and his wife supports him, Padget told the Capital Press.
“I’ve had the opportunity to host a few trade teams over the years, and I live in close proximity to Portland, two hours away,” he said. “So I’ve seen the work U.S. Wheat’s done firsthand, and had the opportunity to travel overseas with them on the Asian crop quality tour. I think it’s time well-spent.”
Padget will become U.S. Wheat secretary-treasurer at the organization’s June meeting in Seattle. U.S. Wheat is the overseas marketing arm of the industry.
Trade issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North American Free Trade Agreement are top priorities, Padget said.
Padget said he is impressed with U.S. Wheat and its staff.
“There’s a lot of people that have been there for decades on behalf of the U.S. farmer,” he said. “It’s quite impressive.”
A fourth-generation farmer in Grass Valley, Ore., Padget keeps a dryland wheat and summer fallow rotation, producing registered and certified seed on 3,400 acres.
Padget previously held positions on the Oregon Wheat Growers League board of directors and executive committee for seven years, serving as president in 2010. He chaired the research and technology committee of the National Association of Wheat Growers and served on the Mid-Columbia Producers board of directors, and was an officer for 10 years.
Padget will go to South Korea with the Wheat Marketing Center in late March.
Also at the U.S. Wheat meeting in June, Doug Goyings of Paulding, Ohio, will become vice chairman, and Chris Kolstad of Ledger, Mont., will become chairman. Current chairman Mike Miller, of Ritzville, Wash., will become past chairman.
“It’s just a good organization that not a lot of members understand completely how it works,” Padget said. He added with a chuckle, “I’ve got a lot to learn.”
SALEM — Oregon’s forestry and environmental regulators would study “sequestering” carbon as a possible alternative to penalizing emissions under a bill before the House Agriculture Committee.
Lawmakers are currently debating a controversial and prominent “cap-and-trade” proposal under which companies that exceed a ceiling on carbon emissions could buy credits from those that fall below it.
Timber companies and several lawmakers are advocating for a less publicized carbon-related bill that would require the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Forestry to evaluate using “natural ecosystems” to absorb and store carbon while promoting economic development, as well as using tax incentives for companies to reduce carbon emissions.
Under House Bill 4109, the study would also examine “regional approaches” to reduce carbon emissions “other than adopting or participating in a greenhouse cap-and-trade system.”
Oregon’s annual wildfires emit more carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, fine particulates and volatile organic compounds than industrial sources or vehicles, said Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, the bill’s chief sponsor.
Supporters of HB 4109 argue it would encourage discussions about thinning over-stocked federal lands that are prone to catastrophic forest fires.
There’s also an opportunity to direct harvested timber toward novel products such as “cross-laminated timber,” or CLT, which is used for larger-scale buildings.
These objectives can be accomplished without sacrificing “viewsheds” or native fish — otherwise, projects would just wind up in court, said Ken Humberston, a member of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.
However, the bill encountered some mild criticism from the Nature Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit.
While the group supports carbon sequestration to fight climate change, the science isn’t yet conclusive as to the best return-on-investment for carbon sequestration, said Catherine Macdonald, its Oregon conservation director.
The study should be expanded to include Oregon State University and to examine the most effective methods to increase carbon sequestration, she said.
A work session on HB 4109 is scheduled for Feb. 15, which is the legislative deadline for the proposal to be approved by the House Agriculture Committee.
NEW YORK (AP) — An Oregon woman who had worms coming out of her eye is being called the first known human case of a parasitic infection spread by flies.
Fourteen tiny worms were removed from the left eye of the 26-year-old woman in August 2016. Scientists reported the case Monday.
The woman, Abby Beckley, was diagnosed in August 2016 with Thelazia gulosa. That’s a type of eye worm seen in cattle in the northern United States and southern Canada, but never before in humans.
They are spread by a type of fly known as “face flies.” The flies feed on the tears that lubricate the eyeball, scientists said.
She had been horseback riding and fishing in Gold Beach, Oregon, a coastal, cattle-farming area.
After a week of eye irritation, Beckley pulled a worm from her eye. She visited doctors, but removed most of the additional worms herself during the following few weeks.
The worms were translucent and each less than half an inch long.
After they were removed, no more worms were found and she had no additional symptoms.
Eye worms are seen in several kinds of animals, including cats and dogs. They can be spread by different kinds of flies.
Two other types of Thelazia eye worm infections had been seen in people before, but never this kind, according to Richard Bradbury of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was the study’s lead author.
The report was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
SALEM — To give the issue more consideration, lawmakers have shelved a bill intended to clarify that Oregon water law allows transfers between storage reservoirs.
Water transfers among reservoirs stopped being permitted by state regulators due to a changed legal interpretation, which is problematic for the water managers such as the Tumalo Irrigation District in Central Oregon.
The irrigation district was unable to transfer its storage water from Crescent Lake to instream uses and to transfer water from the Tumalo reservoir to smaller ponds to correct pressure problems.
Senate Bill 1558 would have established that such transfers are allowable, but the proposal has failed to survive a legislative deadline to stay alive in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said that “stakeholders” involved in the issue have agreed it’s “too complicated to be dealt with quickly.”
The problem will undergo a “prolonged discussion” before next year’s full legislative session, which lasts for roughly half a year, he said. The 2018 short session will wrap up in early March.
“We want to make sure there are no unintended consequences from the changes we were making,” Dembrow said. “Needless to say, when you’re dealing with water, things get complicated pretty quickly.”
ONTARIO, Ore. — Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. is reporting a large decline in the number of genetically modified creeping bentgrass plants in Malheur County.
The plant, used on golf courses, was genetically engineered by Scotts and Monsanto Co. to withstand applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
It took root in Oregon’s Malheur and Jefferson counties after escaping field trials in 2003. A small number of the plants have also been detected in Canyon County, Idaho.
Some farmers and irrigation districts worry the plants could clog irrigation ditches and affect shipments of crops to nations that don’t accept traces of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Danielle Posch, a senior research specialist with Scotts, told members of the Idaho-Oregon onion industry during their annual meeting last week that the number of GMO bentgrass plants found in Malheur County last fall dropped by 42 percent compared to the same time in 2016.
“In 2017, we saw a significant reduction in the total number of glyphosate-tolerant creeping bentgrass plants,” she said.
Similar data for Jefferson County isn’t yet available.
Posch said the reduction in Malheur County was likely due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval last year of a special local need label for the use of glufosinate to control the plant.
Glufosinate is the most effective herbicide for controlling the GMO bentgrass but before the special need label, it couldn’t be used over waterways.
The plants require nearly constant moisture and can be found mostly near canals and irrigation ditches. But before the label was issued, glufosinate could only be used during a short window before and after the canals were dry.
The plants are harder to kill during those times because they aren’t growing and taking up the chemical, Posch said.
She said the company is cautiously optimistic that the use of glufosinate during the growing season is the reason for the large reduction in the number of GTCB plants.
“It makes biological sense that the chemical would be making the significant difference,” Posch said. “It’s been a great tool for us.”
Being able to use glufosinate over waterways has made a huge difference in the battle to control the plant, said Malheur County farmer Les Ito, a member of a working group of farmers, irrigation district representatives and others that is coordinating with Scotts in its efforts to control the plant.
“We needed something that could work at the water level,” he said.
Ito said he was initially skeptical about Scotts’ commitment to control the plant, but the company so far is living up to its word.
“We all feel we need to continue to hold Scotts accountable,” he said. “But they are following through on what they said they would do and I believe they have our best interests in mind. I feel a lot better about it than I did before.”
Ito said it’s unlikely the plant will ever be eradicated from the county “but we can manage it pretty well and we’ll need their help.”
The cranberry industry, soured by a huge surplus, suddenly has a new worry: The USDA will remove too many berries from the market this year.
The Cranberry Marketing Committee is asking the USDA to order handlers to give away or dispose of 5 percent of the 2017 crop, instead of the 15 percent the committee recommended last summer.
Mother Nature has been swifter to act than the USDA. The U.S. harvest was about 10 percent smaller than expected. The marketing committee and Ocean Spray, which controls a majority of the cranberries, agree that a combined 25 percent reduction would be too much for growers to financially absorb in one year.
“If USDA ignores the (committee’s) recommendation to lower the restricted percentage, it risks the unintended consequences of overcorrecting the industry’s supply issues,” Ocean Spray CEO and President Randy Papadellis wrote to USDA this month.
The USDA, largely embracing the industry’s request, proposed in January a mandatory 15 percent volume reduction. The agency has not made a final decision.
The cranberry committee in August sought federal intervention to reduce a surplus that was projected to reach 115 percent of annual sales. The fall harvest, however, was smaller than anticipated across the U.S., with the exception of Oregon. The industry blames drought and deer damage, along with farmers cutting back on production because of low berry prices. Harvests also fell short of projections in Canada.
The cranberry committee and Ocean Spray now say the industry can still meet its volume-reduction goal with a 5 percent cut. A 15 percent reduction on a small crop could drive this year’s returns below what some small farmers and handlers could sustain, according to Papadellis.
Not all cranberry farmers see it that way. Some growers say the small crop and a 15 percent reduction would speed up bringing supply and demand in line. In fact, while asking for the 2017 volume control to be scaled back, the cranberry committee is petitioning the USDA to order a 25 percent cut in the 2018 crop.
Washington farmer Malcolm McPhail, an Ocean Spray grower, said he understood the short-term advantage of scaling back 2017 volume controls, but the small crop was probably a fluke, he said.
“We were lucky,” McPhail said. “There’s no good reason for crops to be down two years in a row. Next year, we’ll have another big crop, and we’ll be right back in the thick of things.”
Volume reduction has strong support from the industry’s cranberry committee, but some growers and handlers, particularly outside the Ocean Spray cooperative, oppose a mandatory cut in supply.
The cranberry surplus is largely in the form of juice concentrate, but the marketing order would also require disposing fresh fruit.
California-based Mariani Packing Co.y, makers of dried-fruit products, asserted in comments to the USDA that withholding raw fruit would not be in the public interest. The smaller 2017 crop likely will mean a shortage of raw cranberries and sweet dried cranberries, according to the company.
Organic cranberries would be exempted from the order.