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Trump right and wrong on ‘French’ wine tariffs

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 08:26

PARIS (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump is partly right but far from completely correct when he says that France’s “big tariffs” make it hard for American vintners to sell their wines to the French.

Wrong because customs duties on imported wines are applied not by France but by the European Union. Right because American tariffs are “globally” less than what Europe charges, the French customs authority says.

Prices aside, wine made in the U.S. is apparently appreciated in the European Union — the world’s premier importer — and in France, where the value of wine imported has risen 200 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the French Federation of Wines and Spirits Exporters.

Trump went after France on several fronts in tweets Tuesday, including blasting tariffs on its emblematic wine.

“On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S.,” Trump tweeted. “The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”

French tariffs as such don’t exist. Tariffs are set by the European Union “in the same conditions” as wines imported from most countries and are applied by all EU countries, the French exporter group said in an email.

“This tariff has not evolved in 20 years,” it said.

The alcohol level helps determine tariffs on non-EU wine imported into European countries, with a higher duty as the alcoholic volume rises, Lionel Briand, communications chief for the French Customs office, said in an email. Alcoholic content is also factored into U.S. tariffs, along with the size of the wine’s container.

“American products are not submitted to a distinct duty but to the same duties as all third countries,” those outside the EU, Briand added.

As an example, a bottle of white American wine with 13 percent alcohol content imported into the European Union carries a customs duty of 10 euro cents (a bit over 11 U.S. cents). A bottle of white wine from the EU exported to the United States has a customs duty of 5 U.S. cents.

The gap in duties is narrower for red wine with an alcohol content of 14.5 percent.

Bulk wines are another story — the U.S. tariff is double the EU one, a break for American producers since bulk wine represents 25 percent of the volume of U.S. wine coming into the EU, according to the French exporter federation.

Still, “the level of customs duties applied by the United States to (imported) wine is globally weaker than EU duties for the same products,” Briand of the Customs office said.

And Americans clearly like French wine. The United States is the leading importer of French wines by value, taking in 1.67 billion euros worth of French wines between Aug. 2017 and July 2018, according to FranceAgriMer, which works under the French Agriculture Ministry. That is up 30 percent compared to five years ago.

Oregon company provides ‘cutting-edge’ bovine IFV treatments

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 07:52

HERMISTON, Ore. — An international company pioneering new techniques of in-vitro fertilization for cows has its headquarters in Hermiston.

The company has been operating in Hermiston since 2015 but in August re-branded from Cogent IVF to Vytelle. The company provides services to the region from its Hermiston headquarters but also has sites in Idaho, California, Texas, Paraguay, Uruguay and South Africa.

Business director Luciano Bonilla said Vytelle is unique in several ways, including its “cutting-edge” hormone-free collection process for unfertilized eggs. The lack of stimulating hormones is easier on the animals, allows for weekly collection and requires no shot schedule.

Farmers and dairies using in-vitro fertilization can benefit from multiple calves born per year that are the biological offspring off their highest-producing milk cows, or animals that are superior in other ways.

“Naturally, one cow can give one calf per year,” Bonilla said. “If they use this technique, they can get hundreds.”

Farmers and dairies using Vytelle’s services choose their best cows for harvest of unfertilized eggs, known as oocytes, which can be done by Vytelle technicians on the farm or at a collection location they have on GT Land & Cattle property. The process takes 10 to 15 minutes, after which the oocytes are taken to the Vytelle lab at 80383 N. Highway 395 and combined with sperm from a bull of the farmer’s choosing, using human-grade IVF equipment.

Vytelle technicians then grow the embryos in special incubators and a rotation serums over a seven-day period before freezing the embryos using a process unique to the company, or immediately impregnating the desired number of cows.

Eight people total work out of the Hermiston office. Aline Bonilla, the research and development laboratory manager, said clients of the Hermiston lab come from all over Oregon, but they serve an especially high number of dairies from the Tillamook area.

Aline and Luciano are originally from Brazil and came to the United States for Ph.D. study and work. While they previously worked in Wisconsin for Vytelle’s parent company WheatSheaf Group, Aline said there were partnerships the company had in the Columbia Basin area that made sense for them to start what was then Cogent IVF in Hermiston instead of Wisconsin.

She said while most bovine IVF companies use a complicated pricing structure that charges at different junctures, Vytelle’s production rate is so high that it only charges farms and dairies for the number of embryos it successfully creates.

“They pay for what they get,” she said.

For more information about Vytelle, visit vitelle.com or call 866-689-3477.

Less reservoir carry-over water, El Nino could challenge irrigators next year

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/14/2018 - 06:24

Capital Press

Idaho reservoirs will need more runoff in 2019 than they did this year for irrigation water supplies to be adequate. The goal is within reach but could be challenged by warmer- and dryer-than-normal conditions expected for winter and spring.

“We will need more runoff this year to have adequate supply for the 2019 season,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise. He spoke at the Idaho Water Supply Outlook conference in Boise Nov. 8.

A year ago, water carried over in reservoirs from the 2017 irrigation season, thanks to the heavy preceding winter, was plentiful and “made for easier planting decisions.” Minimal runoff was needed to ensure adequate irrigation supplies.

The Boise River Basin in 2019 will need 64 percent of average runoff to have a marginally adequate supply for irrigation, Abramovich said. A year earlier, the basin needed 51 percent. Water stored in the basin’s three reservoirs is at 101 percent of the long-term average compared to 136 percent a year ago.

Water volume in Owyhee Reservoir in southeastern Oregon is 84 percent of average compared to 159 percent a year ago. Runoff this year was about 34 percent of average. The Owyhee River Basin in 2019 will need 44 percent of average runoff to have a marginally adequate supply for irrigation, he said.

The Upper Snake River Basin in southeast Idaho and Wyoming in 2019 will need runoff that’s 69 percent of average to produce adequate water supplies for irrigation, Abramovich said. Runoff was 127 percent of average this past year. Current reservoir levels are 124 percent of normal.

The snow line usually is about 500 feet higher during El Nino years, he said.

Troy Lindquist, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Boise, said a majority of models predict an El Nino to develop over the last quarter of 2018. He said there is a 70 to 75 percent chance — some scientists peg an even higher likelihood — that a weak El Nino will develop.

An El Nino weather pattern is associated with warmer sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, a southward shift of the Pacific jet stream and increased potential for warmer temperatures in the northern half of the U.S.

U.S. potato exports down in opening quarter of marketing year

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 11/13/2018 - 05:12

Capital Press

U.S. potato exports fell in the first quarter of the July 2018-June 2019 marketing year, dragged down by retaliatory tariffs, Potatoes USA reported.

The marketing group in a Nov. 12 news release said frozen-potato exports fell 6 percent in volume and 5 percent in value from the year-earlier period. U.S. exports of dehydrated potatoes fell by 7 percent each in volume and value. Fresh-potato exports dropped by 12 percent in volume and 10 percent in value.

The declines reflect the impact of retaliatory tariffs from Mexico and China while competing products from the European Union continue to reflect low prices from the 2017 crop, Potatoes USA said. The group said the U.S. industry hopes the roughly 18 percent shortfall in the European crop this fall and resulting higher prices will help to improve U.S. exports through the marketing year.

Frozen-potato exports to Mexico face a 20 percent retaliatory tariff in response to tariffs the U.S. placed on imports of steel and aluminum from that country. Potatoes USA said this led to a 21 percent decline in U.S. exports to Mexico in the quarter as Canada and the EU gained significant market share. To Japan, its largest market for frozen potatoes, U.S. exports dropped by 3 percent from a year ago as the EU continued to gain market share. U.S. frozen-potato exports were off in Malaysia and Thailand by 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively, but were 6.4 percent higher in China.

Oregon Potato Commission President and CEO Bill Brewer said Mexico’s tariff on frozen potatoes reduced demand for the U.S. product.w

A recent trade agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada appears to be a good replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, though there are still tariffs in place and related issues to resolve, he said.

“We know what the possibility is, and we have seen a little bit of a shift in demand now. Whether it creates that much, we don’t know,” Brewer said.

U.S. exports of dehydrated potatoes in the quarter dropped by 29 percent to Japan, by 51 percent to China and by 62 percent to the Philippines, Potatoes USA said. China plans additional tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. dehydrated potatoes and 10 percent on frozen potatoes.

Fresh-potato exports in the quarter were dragged by a 20 percent drop to top U.S. export market Canada — which created the overall drop in exports despite increases of 39 percent to Mexico, 46 percent to Central America and 114 percent to South Korea, Potatoes USA said. Significant declines of fresh exports to the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand also contributed to the overall reduction.

Brewer participated in a trade mission to South Korea in early November. Oregon, Washington and Idaho have access to the South Korea market for fresh, table-stock potatoes starting with the 2018 crop year, he said.

It’s an additional export market for the Pacific Northwest and “a positive message to the potato growers that our international trade program is working,” he said.

Hazelnut yields fall short of expectations

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 10:23

Oregon hazelnut growers were anticipating a record-high crop in 2018, though it appears the harvest is coming in short of expectations.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service predicted 52,000 tons of hazelnuts in August, which would have beaten the previous record of 49,500 tons in 2001. Instead, local processors say they are looking at between 46,000 to 48,000 tons, which is higher than last year’s total of 32,000 tons but still not on par with increases in handling capacity.

Larry George, president and CEO of George Packing Company in Newberg, Ore., said he does not know exactly why hazelnut yields did not meet record forecasts. He said it looks like one of the primary new nut varieties, named Jefferson, did not perform as well as previously thought when the orchards were planted in 2007.

“I think the new varieties, for whatever reason, we just overestimated what their production would be,” George said.

George said it is also possible growers harvested fewer early season orchards due to low prices caused by economic turmoil overseas, including Chinese tariffs and currency devaluation in Turkey, the world’s leading producer of hazelnuts.

“We’ll know in a few weeks,” he said.

Whatever the reason, a less-than-expected hazelnut crop does not bode well for processors such as George Packing Company, which has invested millions of dollars to increase capacity. Hazelnut acreage has roughly doubled in Oregon over the past decade, up to 72,353 acres, spurred by new varieties such as Jefferson, Yamhill and McDonald that are resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight.

With the growth in acreage, George said there was a rush to expand alongside the orchards. Nearly all U.S. commercial hazelnuts are grown in Oregon, and George Packing Company is the industry’s largest processor and marketer.

But the volume simply has not arrived yet, George said, creating an overcapacity on production lines.

“You have this massive excess capacity and no huge volume to run,” he said. “We were excited about a record crop. We’re not the only ones who made significant investments, but it just never materialized.”

Patrick Gabrish, vice president of sales and marketing for Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, a member-owned co-op representing 150 local hazelnut farmers, said he is not overly concerned about lower yields. He is quick to point out that 33,000 acres of orchards still have not reached nut-bearing age. When they do, he said the spike in volume may help to stabilize prices and develop new markets.

“There’s going to be plenty of crop to work with over the next few years,” Gabrish said.

Both Gabrish and George raved about this year’s crop quality, aided by a dry harvest season that minimized mud and mold. Months of drought, however, also emphasized the need for growers to adopt irrigation and nutrient programs to maximize yields through difficult summers.

Nik Wiman, orchard specialist for Oregon State University, said growers with dryland hazelnut orchards should consider adding drip irrigation if they can. Meanwhile, the university continues to research nutrient requirements for new trees, as well as how best to defend against emerging pests and diseases, such as bacterial blight and the Pacific flatheaded borer.

“Everything we have is based on the old (nut) cultivars,” Wiman said. “We’ve been doing everything we can to update the nutrient requirements for the new trees.”

This year was already challenging for the hazelnut industry as a perfect storm of global factors combined to drive down prices for growers. First, China slapped a 15 percent and 25 percent retaliatory tariffs on the product from the U.S. in response to the Trump administration’s escalating trade war. Then, the Turkish lira plummeted in value, allowing the country to flood the market with cheap hazelnuts.

For the first time, growers accepted a three-tier price system at 62 cents per pound for in-shell hazelnut varieties, and between 81 and 91 cents per pound for “shell-out” varieties, which command more value for larger kernels.

That is lower than last year’s price of 96.5 cents per pound for all hazelnuts, and $1.18 per pound in 2016.

Terry Ross, executive director of the Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association, said they system was meant to encourage growers to plant more shell-out varieties to tap into newer and potentially more lucrative markets.

“There is a lot of potential,” Ross said. “The future is bright.”

Dairy Goat Day challenges beginners, experts

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 22:38

PLEASANT HILL, Ore. — For newer goat owner Marit Vike, Dairy Goat Day was an opportunity for her and her husband to learn more information about their animals — and celebrate their anniversary.

Vike has had goats for four years, after her goat enthusiast friends inspired the couple to get their own. Although they consider the goats as pets and do little milking, Vike said she was most looking forward to health and pasture management seminars.

Vike was one of more than 50 attendees at Dairy Goat Day, which was sponsored by Oregon State University Small Farmers Extension Program and Emerald Dairy Goat Association (EDGA) in Cottage Grove. Attendees traveled from around the Willamette Valley, as well as from Central and Southern Oregon and Washington.

“We are so happy to be paired with OSU this year,” Laura Lounsbury, EDGA president, said. “They have been a big asset to us in putting everything together.”

Last year, Lounsbury suggested to the association that they should host an educational day to “ramp up numbers for our nonprofit group and encourage 4-H kids.” She was inspired by the Northwest Oregon Dairy Goat Associations’ annual conference, and attended OSU’s goat education event.

“It made sense to combine our efforts,” Melisa Fery, OSU Small Farms Extension Program agent, said. “(The program) is all about community education and helping landowners or small acreage owners meet their goals.”

She said that the program puts out needs assessments and workshops to ask farmers what they need to know to work more efficiently. The seminar topics were chosen by EDGA and Small Farms Extension, and were geared toward both beginners and life long learners.

“Our hope is that everyone, beginner or expert, can take away a few new pointers,” Lounsbury said.

Seminars included: Adventures with Pack Goats, Common Diseases of Goats, Getting Started with Milk Certification, Cheese Making for the Home Dairy, Managing Internal Parasites, Livestock Guardian Animals, Raising Goats for Meat, Pasture Management, Finessing Freshening: The 123s of Milking, Herbal Goat Foundations and Handling Goat Emergencies the Herbal Way.

During lunch, a demonstration by Becky Gee with EDGA showed attendees “how to build an inexpensive milk stand from PVC.”

Fery taught the general pasture management class. She said that “many Oregon pastures are overgrazed” and there are simple strategies to change that. She liked that it was applicable to people with goats as well as other livestock.

Katherine Drovdahl, with Fir Meadow LLC, was another instructor. She taught both Herbal Goat Foundations and Handling Goat Emergencies the Herbal Way. She said she wanted attendees to start “thinking like a vitalist” and learn ways to handle simple and scary emergencies with herbal remedies.

“I hope they leave more educated and encouraged to try new methods,” she said. “This information saves money and they learn to be independent. If there’s an emergency at midnight, it’s easier to find some dandelions than it is to go to the vet.”

Lounsbury said she was excited about this year’s growth — double the attendance from last year — as well as the variety of different topics.

“The Emerald Dairy Goat Association is committed to sharing knowledge of goats with others,” she said. “It is also a fundraiser for our nonprofit to keep our group alive, as well as encourage 4-H kids in the goat project.”

Teagan Moran, OSU educational program assistant, said these collaborations happen when a need is identified. She said people have reached out to her before who have experience in milking but wanted to branch out to meat goats, and events like these connect the community to skill share and network.

For Fery, after all the planning, she enjoyed watching attendees network and learn from each other.

“Knowing they’re getting some quality educational seminars today,” she said. “Anything they glean and apply to their farms is good for everyone. Good for water quality, soil and (the) animals.”

BLM Says It Plans To Pull Back On Controversial Plan To Spay Wild Mares In Oregon

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 11/09/2018 - 08:32

The Bureau of Land Management says it intends to roll back plans to spay wild mares in Oregon.

In a motion filed in federal court Wednesday, the BLM said it doesn’t have the authority to “unilaterally reverse” an official record of those plans, but that it intends to file a motion to redact the language with the Interior Board of Land Appeals in the coming days. 

Animal rights groups celebrated the latest move by the BLM, which planned this month to move forward with a controversial plan to surgically remove the ovaries of wild mares to deal with unhealthy populations of wild horses on public land in Oregon. Animal rights groups have criticized the procedure, calling it inhumane.

“The BLM made the right decision to abandon these barbaric experiments and instead listen to the strong interest the public has in seeing our wild horses protected and treated humanely,” said Brieanah Schwartz, government relations and policy counsel with the American Wild Horse Campaign, a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the BLM.

“We now hope that the agency will reconsider all plans to conduct this inhumane research and focus instead on humane, scientifically recommended forms of population management, including PZP fertility control.”

At least one animal rights group remains cautious about the BLM’s latest move in court, saying it doesn’t go far enough in stopping the BLM from moving forward with sterilizations in the future.

At issue in the lawsuit, filed by animal rights groups including the American Wild Horse Campaign and the Animal Welfare Institute, is the groups’ right to observe and document the BLM’s treatment of wild horses during the procedures.

“The BLM’s sharp limitation on public observation of this government activity thwarts the important newsgathering objectives that Plaintiffs aim to achieve by observing and documenting the BLM’s treatment of federally protected wild horses,” the lawsuit states. “And thus violates Plaintiffs’ rights under the First Amendment of the U.S.”

While the BLM’s latest move may signal a shift, Theresa Barbour, research and legal consultant with the nonprofit Citizens Against Equine Slaughter, said the real issue is over the legality of the sterilizations.

“Even if they won, it would not stop these experiments from happening,” Barbour said. “It would only force BLM to provide better viewing opportunities for the public.”

Barbour said she’s concerned that any legal win in this case would not set a legal precedent barring the BLM from attempting to move forward with similar plans later.

“It never feels like a complete victory because they’re not saying ‘we’re never going to try this again,’” she said. “It’s a victory this time for the horses. Not necessarily for the future.”

Are Oregon’s cougars being overhunted? Experts disagree

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 08:16

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A fatal cougar attack has reignited debates over hound hunting and cougar management in Oregon. Groups of Oregonians, particularly hound hunters, say that Oregon’s cougar population is growing out of control. Cougar advocates, on the other hand, say that Oregon is over-hunting cougars, which research suggests can lead to an increase in problem encounters.

But before you can figure out if Oregon’s cougars are being over-hunted or under-hunted, you need to know how many cougars there are in the state.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates there about 6,600 cougars here, and possibly as many as 7,600. That’s three times higher than the numbers reported in Washington or Idaho. It’s even slightly higher than the estimate for California: 4,000 to 6,000 cougars are thought to roam the massive state.

But hunting groups, ranchers and Oregonians who live in cougar country say the Oregon’s cougar count severely underestimates the state’s actual population. Conservationists argue it’s too high. Biologists and wildlife officials from other states say it’s a lot more complicated, and more than just a question of numbers.

One of the big reasons Oregon’s number is so much higher than its neighbors’: Oregon’s estimate includes kittens, which rarely survive to adulthood, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Oregon does not count the juveniles of any other game species, like elk or bighorn sheep.

“The fact that they don’t clarify themselves every time says that they want people to assume there are 6,600 big cats running around the state,” said John Laundré, a predator ecologist at Western Oregon University. “They don’t include babies for other ephemeral species, like ducks or deer.” And only adult animals can be hunted.

Derek Broman, ODFW’s state carnivore biologist, said whenever he gives a presentation he makes it clear that all ages are included in official population estimates. But there’s no mention of that on the department’s cougar webpage, and you have to look deep into the cougar management plan find adult cat estimates. A brochure specifies that the population includes all age classes, but never offers adult numbers.

Even if you exclude kittens and juvenile cougars from population estimates, Oregon still reports some of the highest densities of adult cougars in the country.

Washington’s research into cougar densities dates back nearly two decades and includes seven study areas. Across those areas, the state has documented consistent findings: Roughly two cougars for every 100 square kilometers, said Rich Beausoleil, the bear and cougar specialist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said Washington’s cougar-density numbers are consistent with what other studies — except Oregon’s — report.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s surveys found adult densities twice that, depending on the ecosystem.

“I’ve not seen such high densities anywhere in the world,” said Rob Wielgus, former director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, commenting on a controversial density survey conducted by Oregon.

Beausoleil has spoken to ODFW about the state’s population estimates before, and has criticized the design of Oregon’s studies, which he says will naturally overestimate regional populations. Derek Broman says ODFW controlled for overestimation and stands by their data.

It’s not unusual for cougar surveys to arrive at different conclusions, said David Stoner, a cougar biologist at Utah State University. Cougars are extremely hard to study because they’re so hard to find.

ODFW says these surveys confirm their statewide population estimates, which they calculate using a model. They estimate statewide density by mapping cougar deaths, and then add expected birth rates. They also tweak the numbers depending on food availability in the region.

Laundré said the growth estimate used in the study is an optimistic “best-case scenario” one: “A model is only as good as what you put into it. I could make their model show that there were only 3,000 total animals or 10,000 total animals.”

All of this might seem like an internal debate about the best way to count cougars. Everyone agrees that at one point in the 1960s there were only 200 or so cougars in the state, and today there are several thousand. The cats are in no danger of going extinct.

But a lot rides on accurate population estimates. Not only do these numbers tell management officials if populations are growing or shrinking, they’re used to help set hunting quotas for each region. Some scientists found that when cougars are over-hunted, problem encounters with humans and livestock increase.

Wielgus, who has left Washington for the Bend area, was one of the first to identify such a link.

“In the 20 years of research I did with WDFW, we conducted the largest study of cougars ever done anywhere. We found that heavy retaliatory killing or preventive killing actually causes increased problems,” he said.

It works like this: Female cougars have smallish overlapping territories that seem to fluctuate with prey abundance. Male cougars have larger, non-overlapping territories that encompass multiple female ones.

Only large, older males are capable of holding down these territories, “and you don’t get to be a 10-year-old male by attacking humans or livestock or pets.”

But Wielgus found that those 10-year-old males were far more likely to be killed by hunters. “And we found that when you remove an older male, you have two or three teenage males come in to take their place. And those are the ones that are responsible for most bad encounters between cougars and people, as well as the majority of livestock and pet depredations.”

This movement of younger animals also means it can be difficult to tell if a population is declining due to overhunting or staying the same.

Wielgus is a controversial figure in the predator management community, in part for research indicating that hunting wolves can increase attacks on livestock. He says he was silenced and forced out of his position at Washington State University because of his work.

A smattering of papers have attempted to debunk his cougar research, but even more have supported it. One of the most recent was a massive, 30-year look at hunting and problem cougars in British Columbia. For their part, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stands by Wielgus’ research and their own: Today, they manage cougars specifically to avoid the consequences of over-hunting.

“Our management philosophy is to manage for the social stability of the animal. We want to promote territoriality,” Beausoleil said.

WDFW’s data shows that when more than 14 percent of a cougar population is harvested in a given region, the population starts to skew young, territories dissolve, and problem encounters increase. To avoid this, they split the state into 49 game management units, and each unit allows 12 percent to 16 percent of cougars to be taken. When one of those units reaches that quota, it closes, and hunters can go to an adjacent unit. It’s not a perfect system: Sometimes, it can take a while to close a unit, and more cougars are killed.

At first glance, Oregon seems to be following Washington’s no-conflict guidelines: On average, Oregon’s hunters take less than 14 percent of the state’s big cats each year. But unlike Washington and Montana, where there are dozens of game management units used to set cougar quotas, Oregon’s cats are divided into just six large regions, which makes it more difficult to track regional densities.

The statewide quota for 2018 is 970 human-caused deaths — a whopping 27 percent of the state’s estimated 3,500 adults. Per the cougar management plan, the quota serves as a mortality cap, and not a target. The statewide quota has never been filled, but some of the game management units regularly approach theirs.

Zone A, which includes the region where the hiker was attacked, covers the North Cascades and the coast. As of Nov. 6, its humans have killed 167 of the 180 allowed cougars. ODFW estimates there were 989 cougars of all ages in Zone A in 2015. If half of those were adults, then roughly one third of adult cougars in the region were killed: Research suggests that’s a number high enough to cause conflicts with humans.

Overhunting cougars can have impacts on cougars’ societies, too. Once thought of as loners, recent research has revealed cougars’ social lives to be much more complex than previously thought.

Mark Elbroch, the director of the puma program at wildcat conservation organization Panthera, studies cougar communities. He’s found that the mountain lions within one male’s territory function like a society: They interact non-aggressively and seem to frequently share food, a favor that’s apparently returned in the future.

“You can imagine that overhunting will have huge impacts on these social networks and organizations, on the glue that holds them together as functioning groups,” Elbroch said.

And anecdotally, he’s seen the impacts of removing one large male from that society. After one of his study males was killed by hunters, he noticed a nearby male start to encroach on the old territory, just enough so that it crossed paths with a female and her two cubs. The female charged the strange male, and died. Her cubs lasted a little while, but eventually both died.

“One could argue that one bullet killed four mountain lions,” Elbroch said.

ODFW’s Derek Broman is dismissive of the “social chaos” hypothesis. He says the department has conducted its own research, and “there’s no information to suggest chaos and turmoil. Death and mortality is a common occurrence, even outside of human influence.”

Oregon officials may dispute the idea that their management practices lead to more problem cougars. But the state does remove more such animals than neighboring states. In 2017 there were 462 such complaints, and 175 cougars were killed. Those numbers remain fairly stable from year to year, though they’ve risen dramatically in the Willamette Valley.

In comparison, about 100 cougars are killed in California each year for attacking livestock. In 2016, 46 nuisance cougars were killed in Washington.

Hunters say that the best way to combat these problem cats is to increase hunting. But unless a large number of cougars are removed over a large area, more will just move in to take their place. That’s why some are calling for a return to hound hunting.

The theory is this: Hound hunters, unlike normal hunters, can be selective. If their dogs tree a cougar, the hunter can choose if it’s going to be a worthwhile trophy. If the animal is small or female, the hunter can pull their dogs off the tree, and the cougar can live.

This, say hound hunting advocates, creates a population of scared cougars, who will run away as soon as they hear a human in the forest.

Laundré and Elbroch are skeptical that hound hunting leads to scared cougars, but other biologists think it’s not impossible.

“Hound hunting doesn’t have to be a lethal pursuit,” Stoner noted. “You have the ability to pursue multiple animals over the course of a season, and can in theory select a nice tom.”

Unfortunately, that selectivity targets large toms, the exact animals many biologists say are necessary for maintaining cougar social stability. Indeed, when hound hunting was banned in Oregon, the average age of cats killed dropped.

In the end, biologists say it’s important to remember that the only way most people will ever interact with a cougar is through their livestock or pets.

“Cougars aren’t fearsome,” said Laundré, who has tracked and collared more than 250 cougars. “I’ve never had a cat behave aggressively.”

As Teddy Roosevelt noted after chasing a cougar with hounds and stabbing it to death, “He was more afraid of us than the dogs.”

Dairy, berry producers scream for ice cream

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 06:05

Jeff Heartley and Doug Wells took their time Tuesday at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, tasting nine different vanilla ice cream samples and evaluating each based on criteria including appearance, flavor and texture.

It’s a tough job, but hey, somebody has got to do it.

“The texture on this one is nice and creamy,” remarked Wells, who along with Heartley works in ice cream production at Umpqua Dairy Products in Roseburg, Ore. “The first one I tried was a little icy.”

Wells is just six months into the job at Umpqua Dairy, and was one of 63 participants who registered for the first Ice Cream Science, Technology and Supply course hosted by OSU at the Food Innovation Center Nov. 6-7.

Sarah Masoni, product and process development director at the Food Innovation Center, said she hopes the program will lead to more high-quality ice cream made in Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest, which in turn would provide more opportunities for local dairy farmers and berry growers to sell their ingredients to market.

“Whenever we can create value-added food products, that means we’re bolstering the economy and creating jobs,” Masoni said.

In fact, the class was funded by a $17,775 grant awarded by the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association to the OSU Agricultural Research Foundation in 2017. Association Director Tami Kerr said the proposal for an ice cream lab and educational workshop was outside the box, though the board agreed it was something that would ultimately benefit producers.

“If processors can produce new and improved ice cream, ultimately that should help with sales, consumption and milk prices,” Kerr said.

Oregon has about 210 dairy producers statewide. Milk was the fourth-most valuable agricultural commodity in 2017, at $469.3 million.

The milk needed to make ice cream is one thing. New flavors are another potential agricultural market, and that is where Oregon berry growers are seeking to bolster sales of their own.

Darcy Kochis, marketing director for the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, said the OSU class was a chance to build connections between farmers and producers looking to buy more local fruit, or add flavors.

“This is a great opportunity to hit a market that is already buying some fruit, but would maybe do some more,” Kochis said. “If we’re spreading the word, hopefully there will be a buzz around Oregon blackberries and raspberries, and they’ll catch on to that.”

Oregon is the top producer of frozen blackberries, black raspberries and boysenberries in the country. The commission represents approximately 300 growers, located predominately in the Willamette Valley.

Kochis said they are especially excited about Columbia Star, a new thornless blackberry variety introduced in 2014.

“The fruit looks beautiful,” Kochis said. “A lot of people are growing it.”

Day one of the two-day workshop was led by Bruce Tharp, of Tharp’s Food Technology, an international training and technical consulting business based in Pennsylvania that specializes in the ice cream industry. Tharp discussed the basic science and principles of making ice cream, such as how to reduce air bubbles and ice crystals in the final product to enhance smoothness and quality.

“Frozen desserts are the only food intended to be consumed frozen.” Tharp said. “That makes it complicated.”

After a short series of lectures, Tharp had the group evaluate nine vanilla ice cream samples in a blind taste test, with containers covered by tinfoil to conceal the brand. In quality assurance, he said the key to ice cream is consistency.

“If we follow all the rules that we’ve been talking about, we get happy consumers,” he said.

Northwest pushing large pear crop

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 11/08/2018 - 05:41

WENATCHEE, Wash. — August through October pear harvest is over and now the Pacific Northwest pear industry is about three months into packing and shipping a near record crop of 20.4 million, 44-pound boxes.

The crop is 29 percent larger than a year ago and 5.5 percent behind the record 21.6-million-box crop of 2013.

“Prices are good compared to last year while movement is not,” said Brian Focht, manager of the Washington and Mid-Columbia Pear Marketing Associations, in Wenatchee.

The Nov. 2 average of industry asking prices, in Wenatchee and Yakima, was $23 to $28.90 per box for size 70s and 80s of U.S. No. 1 Bartlett and $22 to $26.90 for 90s, according to USDA.

The price for d’ Anjou U.S. No. 1 was $24 to $30.90 for 70s and 80s and $24 to $28.90 for 90s. Bosc U.S. No. 1 was $26 to $30.90 for 70s and 80s and $24 to $28.90 for 90s.

“Those are good ranges. That’s very similar to this time last year. Most likely a little lower because of the size of the crop, but prices are good,” Focht said.

“Movement started out slower than we would like but has been picking up,” said Kevin Moffitt, president of The Pear Bureau Northwest in Portland.

As of Nov. 2, 20.6 percent of the crop had been shipped versus 25.7 percent a year earlier with a much smaller crop, Moffitt said.

Movement has been slow because California, always in the market before Washington and Oregon, had a large crop with slow movement causing retailers to take their time switching over to buy Northwest Bartlett, Moffitt said.

California had 2.75 million, 36-pound boxes of pears versus 3 million a year ago, he said.

Warm weather in the Midwest, New England and Canada slowed fall pear sales and a lot of grapes and summer fruit stayed in the market longer, Moffitt said.

The table grape crop was huge and that delayed up front sales displays of pears in grocery stores, Focht said.

Given this year’s pear crop is so much larger than last year’s movement comparisons “don’t tell us much,” Focht said.

This year’s d’ Anjou pear crop in the Wenatchee Valley was larger which contributed to it being better quality than recent seasons, said Greg Rains, horticulturalist and fieldman for Blue Star Growers Inc., in Cashmere.

Quality also was improved by cooler temperatures caused by summer wildfire smoke, he said.

Heat and a light crop load increases odds of cork, a fruit decay also driven by calcium deficiencies, Rains said. Grower were more aggressive this year on pear psylla control, he said.

Wenatchee Valley monitoring stations showed a 20 percent reduction in sunlight due to smoke from summer wildfires, said Lee Kalcsits, tree fruit physiologist at the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.

That reduced light stress on pear trees, he said.

Oregon ranchers volunteer to test new wolf deterrence strategy

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 12:31

Two Eastern Oregon ranchers have volunteered to test a new strategy aimed at preventing further conflicts between wolves and livestock.

Rodger Huffman, president of the Union County Cattlemen’s Association, and Cynthia Warnock, president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Association, will work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop site-specific wolf plans at their respective ranches, emphasizing the use of non-lethal deterrents up front to minimize predation.

The proposal was outlined by a group of stakeholders tasked with finding common ground on a five-year update of the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, which is now three years past due. Participants in the work group include a mix of farming, ranching, hunting and environmental interests, led by Deb Nudelman, a professional mediator hired from Portland.

ODFW staff wrote a draft seven-step strategy, which they presented back to the group during a conference call Nov. 5. It essentially calls for wildlife biologists to meet with farmers and ranchers on the ground, selecting non-lethal wolf deterrents such as range riders, alarm boxes and electrified fencing based on individual operations and geography.

If wolves continue to attack livestock — what the state terms “chronic depredation” — then ranchers could ask ODFW to kill the offending predators. Producers would not be eligible for a kill order if they do not have a conflict deterrence plan in place, though they could still apply for state compensation for lost or dead animals.

Wolf advocates say the site-specific plans will prioritize and make the best use of non-lethal tools, while ranchers hope the proposal gives them a quicker and clearer path to dealing with problem wolves.

“I think we all want to make sure that whatever end product we have is as clear and transparent as possible for everybody,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Questions, however, continued to loom among the group about whether ODFW has the money or manpower to implement such a program. That is where Huffman and Warnock come in, agreeing to test the strategy at their own ranches in the heart of Oregon’s wolf country.

Huffman, who ranches in Union, Ore., where wolves from the Catherine pack are active, said it remains to be seen who will pay for non-lethal tools and whether ranchers themselves would bear the added cost.

“I think it comes down to (ODFW) staff, and where they are at the time,” Huffman said. “It may be a whole new program within the agency, when it’s all said and done with.”

Before wolves returned to Oregon, Huffman said he checked on cattle once every few weeks. Now, he checks on cattle at least three times per week, and sometimes even that is not enough. ODFW has investigated one dead calf on Huffman’s property, in 2016, though by the time they found the animal after five days it was too late to confirm it as a wolf kill.

“There really wasn’t much left of it,” Huffman said.

Warnock’s ranch near Imnaha, Ore. is also frequented by wolves in far northeast Wallowa County.

Apart from funding, the group also disagrees about the timeline for chronic depredation, which ODFW is proposing at three confirmed kills within a 12-month period under Phase III of the wolf plan. Environmentalists also say ODFW should not automatically default to killing wolves if the threshold for chronic depredation is met.

The next work group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27 in Pendleton.

Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden Wins 11th Term

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 09:39

Republican Congressman Greg Walden won an 11th term in Congress on Tuesday, after spending more on the campaign to keep his seat than ever before.

Early returns showed Walden holding a significant lead in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District with 56 percent, versus 40 percent of votes for Democratic candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and 4 percent for Independent Party candidate Mark Roberts.

McLeod-Skinner conceded the race around 9:30 p.m.

“Decency, compassion, and empathy are bipartisan,” McLeod-Skinner said in a concession statement. “Our campaign has brought people together.”

Walden is Oregon’s only Republican in Congress, and McLeod-Skinner was his most significant challenger in recent memory. She is his first challenger to get more than 30 percent of the vote in the 2nd Congressional District.

Walden’s office has said forestry reform and combating opioids are two of his top priorities right now.

Walden spent more on this campaign than ever before, and outpaced McLeod-Skinner 4-to-1 in fundraising, as of campaign finance reports filed in mid-October. Walden reported about $4 million in spending, with close to $5.2 million received, while McLeod-Skinner reported raising and spending about $1 million.

The 2nd Congressional District runs east of the Cascades, from Oregon’s northern border to its southern one. It is one of the largest sweeps of land represented by a single person in Congress, but it’s also among the least populated districts. Despite this, Walden has consolidated power in Washington and within the GOP over his 10 previous terms. He’s stuck closely to the policies of President Donald Trump over the last two years, and he’s the sitting chair of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Democrats strengthen grip on Oregon Legislature

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 06:03

SALEM — Democrats gained key seats in the Oregon House and Senate Tuesday night, securing a long-coveted “super majority” in each chamber.

That means that Democrats will hold 60 percent of the seats in each chamber when the Legislature convenes in January.

That composition may make it easier for Democrats to pass legislation considered more partisan such as tax increases or restrictions on carbon emissions.

But it’s unclear whether moderate Democrats will get on board with more controversial or progressive priorities, but the development also erodes the political clout of Republicans in the Legislature.

All 60 seats in the House were up for election this year, while 17 Senate seats went before voters.

Democrats picked up three seats in the House, defeating Republican incumbents. They now hold 38 seats.

Courtney Neron beat Rep. Rich Vial, R-Scholls, Rachel Prusak beat Rep. Julie Parrish, R-Tualatin, and Democrat Anna Williams beat Rep. Jeff Helfrich, R-Hood River.

Democrats also picked up at least one seat in the Senate, giving them 18 seats.

Democrat Jeff Golden defeated Republican Jessica Gomez in southern Oregon’s third Senate district in a race to replace retiring Republican Alan DeBoer.

After Tuesday’s election, where voters rejected two tax-related ballot measures, lawmakers also won’t be hemmed in by limitations on taxing groceries or by stricter voting requirements to change tax expenditures like credits, exemptions and deductions.

There were several competitive races in House this year, with some Democratic candidates raising and spending more than $800,000.

Cash flowed freely in contests in Happy Valley, Hood River and Polk County, where the major party candidates spent more than $1.3 million in each race.

A contest between incumbent Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R-Hood River, and Democratic challenger Chrissy Reitz, a former nurse and the chair of the Hood River School Board, proved competitive and expensive.

Together the candidates spent about $1.4 million in 2018, according to campaign finance records. As of 11 p.m., Reitz was ahead by less than 100 votes, according to Secretary of State records.

Reporter Claire Withycombe: cwithycombe@eomediagroup.com or 503-385-4903. Withycombe is a reporter for the East Oregonian working for the Oregon Capital Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

With win, Brown looks ahead to four years

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 06:02

On Tuesday night, Kate Brown ended a record-breaking year for campaign spending and anticipating what could be her last four years in public office.

The Democrat defeated Republican Knute Buehler, a surgeon and state legislator from Bend, in a race that was decided quickly after balloting ended Tuesday night.

Her election means a continuing press on environmental issues and on education. With no election ahead of her, she faces a term with a firmer hold on the office and less of a need to grasp political advantage.

The two spent more than $30 million combined in their bids for Oregon’s top desk, noted especially by major donations to Buehler from Nike co-founder Phil Knight. By late Tuesday, elections officials had counted 1.4 million ballots.

Brown, from a lectern at the Hilton Portland Downtown, told supporters that voters showed how elections in Oregon aren’t all about who raises the most money.

“No one person should be able to buy the governor’s office,” Brown said to cheers.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. and, although first results trickled in around 8 p.m., Brown was declared winner by 8:20. Buehler conceded after 8:30, telling supporters at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland that he was as disappointed as they were.

“My voice will not be leading this state for the next four years and I certainly accept that decision,” he said. “But let’s also be very clear: the status quo in this state is not tolerable.”

Polls leading into November showed the two candidates virtually neck-and-neck. In her nearly 8-minute victory speech, Brown said her stances on education, affordable housing and health care won over Oregonians.

“This election shows that when Oregonians are given an opportunity to invest in our classrooms, to build affordable housing, to protect healthcare, it’s not a toss-up. It’s not even a close call,” she said.

But, afterward, Brown conceded she worried it could have been much closer.

“I knew the race was going to be close, and thought it would be close all along, but to take this solid of a lead made me really happy,” she said.

Victory secured Brown her second term as Oregon’s governor. She succeeded to the job in 2015 after the resignation of former Gov. John Kitzhaber. Brown, 58, then won a special election in 2016.

It also secured Brown a governance with a Democratic supermajority, as the party seized at least three seats in the Oregon House by Tuesday night.

“It’s just really cool to be able to pick up races in the state House and the Senate and really be able to make a huge difference over the next two years in Oregon, and keep Oregon moving forward,” Brown said.

Brown’s victory was lauded by environmental groups and some unions. Doug Moore, executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, said Brown’s re-election kept the climate in good hands.

“Climate change was on the ballot, and climate change won with Kate Brown,” he said.

Joe Baessler, political director for Oregon’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents government workers, said Brown’s leadership is better for affordable housing initiatives and public employees.

“She didn’t get enough credit for it, but she had a litany of great accomplishments,” Baessler said, noting that he hoped to see strong progressive policies in Brown’s next term. “We have agencies that are barely able to accomplish the tasks they’re mandated to because they don’t have the resources.”

Work to do

Brown appeared ready to get started on her next term during her victory speech. She said as much as she was flanked by two dozen schoolchildren and her husband.

“Make no mistake. The fight isn’t over. We’ve still got lots of work to do,” she said. “We’ve never had someone so divisive in the White House or someone with such less respect for the truth or for the people impacted by his decisions.”

In the weeks up to the election, Brown has outlined several directions she would take her second term — hoping to bolster education, combat climate change, reduce homelessness and more — and she may just have four years to do it.

Brown, who started her career in 1991 and has run for office eight times, said she does not plan to run again in 2022. She said she wants to spend more time with her husband, Dan Little, and do things that make her happy.

Governing will remain her focus until then. She aims to increase funding for initiatives to bring about more affordable housing and tamp homelessness.

“Every Oregonian deserves access to a warm, safe, dry, affordable and accessible place to call home,” she said before election night.

On climate change, Brown said Oregon needs to become a global leader to reduce carbon emissions. The issue has become more important as the Trump administration has cut back environmental regulations. She pointed to rising drought conditions and wildfires.

“Oregon has to step up — states have to step up — when you have a federal administration that is literally ignoring this problem and ignoring science and ignoring realities of what’s happening on the ground,” she said.

On health care, Brown said her goal is to get 99 percent of Oregon insured.

And, after the performance of Oregon’s public schools became a hotspot late in the campaign, Brown said she hopes to reinforce education and career training in the state.

Brown said specifically highlighted she has spent a lot of time with Colt Gill, director of the state Department of Education, and she plans to keep meeting with district superintendents throughout the state. She wants to understand and replicate successes in the state, like in Eagle Point, where she said schools lowered absenteeism and raised graduation rates.

When asked about legacy policy, Brown pointed to Future Ready Oregon and other programs that offer jobs training and technical skills.

“That means closing the skills gap between workforce that we have and the workforce that we need to fuel the economy of Oregon’s future,” she said.

Brown plans to tackle these goals with a team that resembles the team now. She told the Oregon Capital Bureau in an interview that she does not plan to shuffle staff, although it is common for people to leave after an election cycle. Chief of Staff Nik Blosser, who came on in January 2017, will remain.

On her upcoming budget, to be released in December, Brown wouldn’t disclose much. She said this budget will be easier to balance than last, when the state faced a deficit creeping toward $2 billion. This time around, she said, it’s a manageable $800 million, fully due to funding the Oregon Health Plan.

‘On the shoulders of giants’

During her victory speech, Brown gave special thanks to former governors Ted Kulongoski and Barbara Roberts.

“I’d like to say I’m standing on the shoulders of giants,” she said.

Roberts, who was Oregon’s first female governor, said she has been impressed with Brown’s time as governor. Brown said she did not have months to craft a budget or legislative agenda in her first term, rather inheriting one from Kitzhaber.

“It was very complex, very complicated, very demanding,” Roberts said.

Brown acknowledged she has a starkly different demeanor than Kitzhaber, who was known for a forceful style of leadership.

“I’m not a podium-pounder. That’s just not who I am,” she said. “I think public policy, that is built from the ground-up and not the top-down, is much more effective. It’s much more resilient, it’s much more respectful, it is much more reflective of our communities.”

When asked about her first term, Brown pointed to legislation such as motor voter, the Coal to Clean energy policy and women’s health care that is being used as a model in states around the country, she said. And her collaborative approach led to the passage of the largest transportation bill in state history.

Roberts said Brown has accomplished a lot, despite what some choose to see.

“People look at her and see this physically small woman, but her mind is not small,” Roberts said. “She is very bright.”

And while she doesn’t plan to slam her fist on a table until the Legislature passes her agenda, Brown said she has learned in her first three years about what it takes to be an effective governor.

Through it all, Brown said she has leaned on the advice of Roberts and Kulongoski. When she leaves Mahonia Hall for good, Brown said she would try to be a similar well of sage wisdom, especially for women politicians.

“They have given me really solid advice, and really helped me keep my chin up in what has been a really tough campaign cycle,” she said. “I hope I can provide that to folks in the future, if future elected leaders in Oregon are interested in my advice.”

Reporter Troy Brynelson: troy@salemreporter.com. Reporters Aubrey Wieber, Paris Achen, Claire Withycombe, and Rachel Alexander, all operating as the Oregon Capital Bureau, contributed to this report.

Farmers and artisan markets regroup for the winter in Boise - Idaho Statesman

Oregon Cranberry News via Google - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 20:55

Idaho Statesman

Farmers and artisan markets regroup for the winter in Boise
Idaho Statesman
You'll find winter greens and produce from gourds to nuts, regional flavors such as Oregon cranberries, maple syrup and more. Also, holiday decor, locally raised meats, food carts and more. If you're nuts for fruitcake, the market holds a baking ...

Oregonians pick a governor, weigh in on initiatives

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 08:43

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon voters will be picking a governor and deciding the fate of several high-profile measures, including one that would repeal the first-in-the nation immigrant sanctuary law.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has faced a tough challenge from Republican Rep. Knute Buehler. Public polls show Buehler behind Brown by a slim margin.

Supporters of Measure 105, the sanctuary repeal measure, say the law shields people who have committed crimes from potential deportation. Those who back the sanctuary law say it was passed to address racial profiling.

Other measures include Measure 106, an initiative that would ban state funding for most abortions and Measure 103, which asks people in Oregon will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to ban future taxes on groceries.

Oregon is an all vote-by-mail state. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day

Bartels Packing auction set for Dec. 11

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 04:44

With no prospective buyers for its defunct beef slaughter and processing facilities, Bartels Packing of Eugene, Ore., will proceed with an auction of its assets on Dec. 11.

The company shut down earlier this year but a court-appointed receiver, Richard Hooper of Pivotal Solutions, met with several potential buyers who were interested in taking it over as an ongoing enterprise.

Bartels Packing was a common bidder on organic and grass-fed cattle in the region, so its exit from the market was seen as detrimental for local livestock producers.

Over the summer, one prospective buyer submitted a “letter of intent” to purchase the facilities but a final sale never materialized. Last month, Hooper obtained permission from a judge to auction off Bartels Packing’s assets, with the provision that the event could be called off if a buyer was found.

In his most recent account of activities submitted to the court, Hooper said there were no longer any prospective buyers and the auction would carried out as planned on Dec. 11 by the James G. Murphy Co.

When reached by phone, Hooper said he couldn’t speculate as to why no buyer ultimately decided to pursue the deal.

A preview of the equipment will be held at three Eugene locations on Dec. 10, and the actual auction will be conducted as a photo slide show the following day. More information is available on murphyauction.com.

At the time of its closure in March, Bartels Packing laid off more than 140 employees and owed $4.6 million to cattle suppliers and feedlots. The company expected to repay its total $8.3 million in debt because its assets were worth an estimated $14 million.

“We have experienced significant difficulties over the past several months which have caused our business to falter including, among other things, a continuing decline in sales, accumulation of finished goods inventory, the recent and unexpected loss of one of our largest customers, the coming due of our line of credit and a shortage of sufficient working capital necessary to operate as a viable business,” the company said.

Wild horse sterilization blocked by judge

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 11/06/2018 - 04:41

An experiment aimed at sterilizing mares from a herd of wild horses rounded up in Eastern Oregon last month has now been blocked by a federal judge.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had gathered more than 800 horses from the Warm Springs herd management area in October, with plans to return about 200 to range after half the females had their ovaries removed.

Wild horse populations are a point of contention in the area, as ranchers say they cause resource damage that leads to cattle grazing restrictions.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman in Portland agreed to enter a preliminary injunction against the experiment on Nov. 2, though the court docket doesn’t explain his reasons for the ruling.

According to the plaintiffs — including the Animal Welfare Institute, American Wild Horse Campaign and the Cloud Foundation — the judge agreed that their free speech rights would be violated if BLM excluded them from watching the sterilization procedures.

Mosman also found it was “arbitrary and capricious” for BLM not to study the social acceptability of the experiment, as planned during an earlier study, the plaintiffs said.

“Hopefully, BLM will rethink their decision to move forward with the most inhumane and impractical management tool imaginable,” said Ginger Kathrens, the Cloud Foundation’s executive director, in a statement.

Tara Thissell, public affairs specialist for BLM, confirmed the injunction has prohibited the spaying portion of the study, which will be put on hold pending the outcome of the litigation.

Study shows crops, forage may benefit from solar panel shade

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 10:43

Researchers at Oregon State University may have accidentally stumbled upon a new use for solar panels on farms and ranches.

Not only can solar power lower energy bills and increase efficiency, but the shade afforded by photovoltaic panels might also boost agricultural production on non-irrigated farmland, retaining more moisture for crops and livestock forage.

The question now is whether solar panels can be situated to reap the benefits without hindering farm practices, such as spraying fertilizer, tilling fields, grazing or operating machinery during harvest.

Chad Higgins, associate professor in the Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering at OSU, said the study began serendipitously in 2015 after he noticed more lush, green grass growing underneath solar panels installed several years earlier by the university on a six-acre sheep pasture near campus in Corvallis.

“(The solar array) wasn’t designed as an experiment when it was put in,” Higgins said. “But we did notice that some changes were occurring underneath the solar panels with the pasture grass, in particular in the late autumn. We wanted to understand that.”

Higgins and his team divided the pasture into several test plots, and installed microclimate tools to measure the differences in air temperature, humidity, wind and soil moisture beneath the panels, versus areas exposed to direct sunlight. None of the grass received irrigation water.

Between May and August, data showed plots that were shaded by the solar panels maintained higher soil moisture and grew nearly double the amount of grass, especially toward the end of the season. That is because grass uses water more slowly and efficiently when it has less light to grow, Higgins explained.

“It’s like a tortoise and hare race,” Higgins said. “The plants that experience the full brunt of the sun use their water resources as quickly as possible. They grow to the extent they can, and then they die. On the other hand, the plants in the shade take sips of water because they are less stressed, and they keep chugging along.”

Higgins said the shaded plants were three times more efficient with water than the rest of the pasture. The findings were published Nov. 1 in the scientific journal PLOS One.

Higgins said he wants to expand the project moving forward to include more high-value crops, such as berries and vegetables. His next challenge is coming up with a design for installing solar panels on farms and ranches that would not burden traditional agricultural practices, or take farmable land out of production.

One possible solution, he said, is lifting panels up off the ground by installing them on posts, and tilting them at an angle that would allow farm equipment — such as tractors, sprayers and combines — to pass without damaging the machinery.

“There are classical engineering things that need to be done still,” Higgins said. “I see those as the practical challenges to make it viable as an agricultural practice.”

Higgins, who founded the Nexus of Energy, Water and Agriculture Laboratory at OSU, said this research could change the way farmers and ranchers think about managing light for agronomic benefit.

“Opening ourselves up to managing light in the same way we think about managing water or nutrients or soil gives us a heck of a lot of flexibility in what we do,” he said.

Capitol Tree ready for trip to D.C.

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 07:46

SWEET HOME, Ore — The Capitol Tree is ready to make its way to D.C.

An 80-foot tall Noble fir was cut and loaded onto cradles on a long trailer following ceremonies in the remote forest of the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District Nov. 2.

Despite what one person called a “very drippy, wet Oregon day,” more than 50 people selected to attend the tree cutting ceremonies joined Forest Service and others despite sometimes heavy rain.

The cutting ceremony was just the first of more than 30 events planned in coming weeks. Following at street fair and parade in Sweet Home this coming Friday, more special celebrations are planned in 10 other Oregon cities before the tree, only the second ever Capitol or “People’s Tree,” begins a 3,000-mile journey to the West Lawn of the Capitol, where tree lighting ceremonies are planned for Dec. 5.

“The Capitol Tree is truly the ‘People’s Tree,’ “ said Glenn Casamassa, the Forest Service’s Northwest Regional Forester. “There’s literally a long journey ahead.”

Casamassa said the tree represents the “connectivity” between the Forest Service and public, noting the Northwest region annually issues more than 56,000 Christmas tree permits annually.

Mo McElroy, a member of Choose Outdoors, a group that helps coordinate annual Capitol Christmas Tree celebrations, told of her experiences during community gatherings held when previous trees have made their way to Washington, D.C.

“It’s amazing,” McElroy said of the response by people in communities during previous trips. “The tree is greeted by thousands and when we get to D.C. its celebrated by thousands. This is the spirit of love.”

“This is really the beginning of Christmas,” echoed Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker.

Sweet Home Mayor Greg Mahler referred to his city’s historic reliance on the timber industry, saying, “This is really a tribute to our roots.”

Given special tribute was Nikki Swanson, the Sweet Home District Ranger credited with her lobbying efforts to have this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree harvested from her ranger district. She noted the noble fir, the first-ever selected as the Capitol tree, was selected from five possible trees by the Architect of Capitol earlier this year. According to Swanson, he deemed the tree “by far the most beautiful tree.”

During the caravan to D.C., Swanson will post a daily blog. Ongoing information will be posted on the Capitol Christmas Tree Facebook page and at www.capitolchristmastree.org.

Forest Service officials noted the 80-foot tree was relatively young, an estimated 36 years. It was located on a Forest Service road eight miles up a dirt/gravel road.