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Governor declares drought in third Oregon county

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 13:30

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a drought emergency Thursday in Harney County, bringing to three the total number of counties to receive a drought declaration in 2018.

The governor previously declared drought in Klamath County in March, and Grant County in April.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly all of southeast Oregon is experiencing moderate to severe drought. Winter snowpack has completely vanished in the Harney Basin, and is rapidly diminishing across the rest of the state.

Drought conditions in Harney County are expected to get worse in the months ahead, Brown said.

“To minimize the impacts of drought on the local economy and community, I’m directing state agencies to work with local and federal partners to provide assistance to Harney County,” she said.

By declaring drought in Harney County, the Oregon Water Resources Department may be able to issue temporary relief for agricultural producers such as emergency water use permits, water exchanges, substitutions and in-stream leases.

County officials requested a drought declaration on May 14, citing the potential for widespread and severe damage to farming, ranching, natural resources and tourism. The extended weather forecast also calls for higher-than-normal temperatures, and less-than-normal precipitation heading into summer.

Klamath Tribes sue to protect endangered suckers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 11:52

The Klamath Tribes are suing three federal agencies over management of endangered shortnose and Lost River suckers in Upper Klamath Lake.

The tribes filed the lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and National Marine Fisheries Service, arguing conditions in the lake have led to plummeting fish populations.

Don Gentry, chairman of the Klamath tribal council, said the suckers are vital to the tribes’ culture and subsistence. However, fish harvests decreased from more than 10,000 to just 687 between 1968 and 1985, prompting the tribes to voluntarily suspend fishing to avoid pushing the species into extinction. Today, just two fish are harvested every year for ceremonial purposes.

Both the shortnose and Lost River suckers were listed as endangered in 1988. The fish are managed under a 2013 joint biological opinion that also regulates flows down the Klamath River for coho and chinook salmon, and water for irrigation to the Klamath Project.

According to the lawsuit, the Bureau of Reclamation has allowed water level in Upper Klamath Lake to dip below minimum conservation levels for fish on several occasions in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The tribes are asking the court for an immediate injunction both to provide enough water for the sucker fisheries, and correct deficiencies in the 2013 biological opinion.

“The science makes it clear that this was the only option left to us to address the water and fish emergency in the lake,” Gentry said.

This year is already posing several challenges in the Klamath Basin. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a drought emergency in March, while regulators are also sending more water downstream to keep a parasite known as C. shasta from infecting juvenile salmon.

The bureau still has not announced a water allocation for irrigators in the Klamath Project, which has farmers and ranchers on edge.

In a statement released by the Klamath Water Users Association, Brad Kirby, general manager of the Tulelake Irrigation District and KWUA president, said the lawsuit shows the tribes have chosen “a strategy of isolation from the irrigation community.”

“We will intervene and oppose any action that could affect the already limited Klamath Project water supply,” Kirby said. “Consultation is already happening.”

Mark Buettner, a fish biologist for the Klamath Tribes, said 2018 may very well prove a tipping point for Upper Klamath Lake suckers.

“Too many fish are dying before they’re old enough to reproduce,” Buettner said. “Most of the younger fish are offspring of older fish that are nearing the end of their lifespans. We’re basically looking at a biological bottleneck.”

Yet Mark Johnson, deputy director for KWUA and a former fisheries biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, said higher lake levels have not helped to protect sucker fish over the last 25 years.

Scott White, executive director of the KWUA, said the lawsuit could have “devastating impacts on good and honest people and our regional economy.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California, outlines conservation levels for suckers in Upper Klamath Lake at different times of the year, taking into account factors such as spawning habitat, water quality and protection from predators.

The Klamath Tribes have a responsibility to protect their treaty resources for current members and future generations, Gentry said.

“The Klamath Tribes look forward to continuing the valuable work we’re doing in partnership with state and federal officials, ranchers and others toward water quality improvements, water conservation and habitat restoration,” he said.

Clemency decision may be imminent for imprisoned Oregon ranchers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 09:09

A decision may be imminent on presidential clemency for two Oregon ranchers serving five-year minimum mandatory sentences for arson, according to farm groups seeking their release.

Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son, Steven Hammond, 49, were convicted in 2012 of setting fire to rangeland close to their ranch near Burns, Ore., for which they were initially sentenced to prison terms of three months and one year, respectively.

However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned those more lenient sentences at the urging of the U.S. government, finding the ranchers had to complete the full five-year minimum terms for arson required by federal law.

The Hammonds reported to prison in early 2016 to begin serving the remainder of their time, but protests of their plight culminated in the standoff between federal agents and armed occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The father and son asked for clemency from President Barack Obama shortly after resuming incarceration, but it now appears their request has gained traction under the Trump administration.

Protect the Harvest, a nonprofit representing agriculture and hunting interests, has learned the Hammonds’ request for clemency has in recent weeks come under review by the Office of the White House Counsel Don McGhan, said Dave Duquette, the group’s national strategic planner.

“It’s moving much quicker than we anticipated it moving,” he said. “That’s a good thing, from what I’ve heard.”

The Hammonds have sought a commutation of their sentences but are hoping for a full pardon, which is within the president’s power to give, Duquette said.

“If they only get a commutation, then they’re still felons,” and subject to a prohibition on owning guns, among other restrictions, he said.

Jerome Rosa, executive director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, said he recently broached the subject with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during a visit to Washington, D.C.

Just as Congress recently affirmed that air emissions from livestock weren’t intended to be regulated under the Superfund statute for hazardous waste, so too rangeland fires weren’t intended to be punished as arson, he said.

Zinke agreed with this sentiment, giving the sign of the cross while vowing to give his blessing for their release to President Donald Trump, according to Rosa.

Local employees of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is overseen by the Interior Department, seem to have developed “hard feelings” in the matter and supported the Hammonds return to prison, he said.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and Oregon Farm Bureau are planning to submit a court brief in a civil lawsuit urging that the Hammonds grazing privileges be restored, Rosa said.

Duquette said he believes the Hammonds’ dispute with federal officials in the region originated because the government wanted to buy their property for inclusion in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

However, he said, it’s unfortunate that in the public’s mind, the occupation of the refuge has become entwined with the Hammonds, who did not support the takeover.

Pardoning the ranchers would be a show of goodwill by the new presidential administration, Duquette said. “It shows they’re getting things done and trying to right the wrongs that were done before.”

Oregon wetland inventory raises regulatory concerns

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 05:51

An inventory of Oregon’s wetlands is intended as an “early warning system” to prevent regulatory conflicts but some lawmakers worry it effectively expands government jurisdiction over farmland.

The Oregon Department of State Lands is developing a statewide wetlands inventory map using multiple sources of information to show where wetlands are located.

The question is significant for farmers, who must obtain fill-removal permits from DSL before starting major ground-disturbing projects within wetlands.

However, current inventories maintained by the federal government and local governments are incomplete, raising the possibility that landowners may not know they’re filling or removing material from a wetland.

A statewide wetland inventory would reduce the likelihood of such “false negatives,” said Bill Ryan, deputy director of operations for DSL.

In 2016, for example, a Willamette Valley farmer began replacing hay barns destroyed in a fire with local government permission, only to have DSL claim he was building in a wetland.

One of the criteria to determine the existence of a wetland is whether the property contains hydric soils, which form when ground is regularly inundated with water for lengthy periods, Ryan said during a May 21 hearing before the House Agriculture Committee.

“The Willamette Valley in particular has a lot of these hydric soils,” he said.

Hydric soils will serve as a “wide net” for analyzing lands, but the agency will rely on the area’s current hydrology and other technical factors to decide whether it’s currently a wetland, Ryan said.

Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, said he was concerned about DSL going beyond what’s currently considered a wetland by the federal government, particularly since development on farmland is already restricted under Oregon’s land use system.

The agency should be careful not to exceed the boundary of its statutory authority in developing the statewide wetland inventory, Clem, the committee’s chair, said. “I would put this whole program under review.”

Other committee members also expressed worries about the inventory.

While obtaining a fill removal permit in a designated wetland is possible through the purchase of mitigation credits, that’s not always financially feasible, said Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio.

“Being able to afford it is something totally different,” she said.

Rep. Brock-Smith, R-Port Orford, said landowners may lack the personnel to deal with the permitting process, while Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, requested an economic impact study of the statewide inventory and its effects.

While certain wetlands may be missing from the national inventory map maintained by the federal government, that doesn’t mean that federal agencies don’t have authority over them, said Ryan of DSL.

Areas not on the federal map can still be regulated under the Clean Water Act and state officials would use the same parameters to decide whether property contains a wetland, he said.

The goal of the statewide inventory is to show people where the agency has wetland authority so they don’t unintentionally break the law, Ryan said.

“That is really what this inventory is for,” he said. “We’re not increasing our jurisdiction at all.”

The Oregon Farm Bureau wouldn’t necessarily oppose DSL’s mapping project but it’s concerned about how broadly the agency is defining wetlands, said Mary Anne Cooper, the group’s public policy counsel.

The statewide inventory would presume many properties are wetlands until the landowner proves they’re not, she said.

“We think they’ve taken a very expansive view of their jurisdiction and have not honored some of the carve-outs that legislators have made to reduce their jurisdiction,” Cooper said.

Environmental groups challenge Oregon timber sale over voles

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 05:20

Three environmental groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service to stop an 847-acre logging project on the Umpqua National Forest in southern Oregon, about 22 miles southeast of Cottage Grove.

Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and the Benton Forest Coalition filed the lawsuit May 16 in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., arguing the Quartz Integrated Project threatens a small tree-dwelling rodent called the red tree vole, which is prey for the northern spotted owl.

“It is incredibly disappointing to again witness the Forest Service targeting mature forests to solely benefit private timber interests,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands.

The lawsuit also names Alice Carlton, Umpqua National Forest supervisor, as a defendant. Kimberly Briggs, district ranger for the Cottage Grove Ranger District, signed off on the Quartz project in 2017, which was designed to improve the health of tree stands, increase fire resiliency, maintain meadow and aquatic habitats and provide for a timber sale.

The project includes 847 acres of commercial tree thinning, 374 acres of surface and ladder fuels treatment and 48 acres of meadow restoration. Most of the logging would be done by cable systems and helicopters.

In its environmental analysis and biological opinion, the Forest Service found that logging will likely impact the northern spotted owl, downgrading 349 acres of nesting, roosting and foraging habitat and removing 305 acres of dispersal habitat. However, the project “is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the spotted owl and is not likely to adversely modify spotted owl critical habitat.”

Red tree vole surveys were also conducted during the fall of 2016. According to the lawsuit, the Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team found 75 vole nests in the forests slated for logging, but the Forest Service decided to proceed with the project.

The red tree vole is already in a tough position, Cady said, due to past logging in Oregon’s Coast and Cascade mountain ranges. The North Oregon Coast population of voles is considered a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, from the Siuslaw River north to the Columbia River, due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

The Bureau of Land Management also lifted survey and management guidelines for the species in 2016.

“The Forest Service must do all it can to ensure its survival and cancel reckless timber sales like Quartz,” Cady said.

A spokeswoman for the Umpqua National Forest said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

Bandon Historical Museum offers Free Summer Sundays

BANDON - Free Summer Sundays at the Bandon Historical Society Museum will begin Memorial Day weekend courtesy of the sponsorship of First Interstate Bank and the Best Western Inn at Face Rock.

Agencies warn of cougars following fatal attack on cyclist

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 08:49

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Local and federal agencies are warning residents in western Washington and central Oregon to be on the lookout for cougars.

The Bend Bulletin reports the Sunriver Police Department and the Bureau of Land Management both issued warnings Saturday after sightings of the animal were reported in Sunriver and a cougar attacked cyclists in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

The cougar attack resulted in the death of one cyclist. It was the first time a cougar had killed someone in Washington in 94 years.

While there is no record of a wild cougar killing a human in Oregon, population growth in the state has brought more humans into contact with the big cats.

Cougars are the largest species of cat found in Oregon.

Pest alerts on rise following mild winter

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 07:08

Insect and fungal pest numbers are exceeding last year’s levels, keeping Rich Guggenheim busy.

“It has been a busier year,” the University of Idaho Extension Canyon County horticulture educator said. “The mild winter meant people were able to see things going on, without the snow. And because it was mild, some of the diseases and pests over-wintered well. So there are more. And because it has been warmer this spring, they are coming out earlier.”

The Caldwell, Idaho-based Guggenheim, who is a Pacific Northwest Pest Alert Network contributing author, starts teaching clinics in mid-May. Interest in the clinics is strong.

“This year, we’ve already had several hundred calls,” he said. The phone calls about clinic participation started around February, he said.

Volunteer scouts with the pest network in the Treasure Valley of southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon — tvpestalert.net — also got off to an early start posting information and sending photographs.

Codling moths, fire blight, pear blister mites, peach leaf curl and peach tree borers have sparked red alerts on the network since late April. Predictive, less urgent yellow alerts appeared for lygus bugs in alfalfa seed and for sugar beet root maggots.

“Because all of these diseases and insects rely on degree days, the warm temperatures and mild winter mean there are more of them,” Guggenheim said. Degree days, a measure of ideal growing temperatures, arrived earlier.

Pest occurrences are running two weeks ahead of normal, he said, citing a Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness report. Some weeds, too, are showing up earlier.

Although there are more problems, there also is greater awareness that can lead to prompt treatment this year, Guggenheim said.

He expects more-than-usual pest activity into late summer.

“When it gets really hot, in some cases the plants slow their growth but the insects stay happy,” Guggenheim said.

But with hot weather can come irrigation-related, humid microclimates in which fungus such as powdery mildew can take hold, he said.

For some insect and fungal occurrences, “the relief is mainly frost,” Guggenheim said.

Oregon AgLink auction and dinner moving to Salem

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 06:15

Oregon Aglink, a nonprofit volunteer membership group dedicated to promoting Oregon agriculture through education, will hold its 2018 Denim and Diamonds auction and dinner on Nov. 16 at the Salem Convention Center.

For the last 20 years, the annual event was held in Portland, but this year the organization decided to switch venues to better accommodate travelers from across the state.

“We want guests to have a chance to focus on a delicious dinner and the award ceremony,” said Mallory Phelan, Oregon Aglink executive director. “The less time attendees spend navigating traffic, the more they can enjoy an evening of networking and fundraising with other professionals committed to promoting agriculture through education.”

About 500 people have attended Denim and Diamonds each of the past three years. Lori Pavlicek, former event organizer and owner of 4B Farms in Mt. Angel, Ore., said pivoting to the Salem Convention Center was an obvious choice, eliminating the concern of Friday rush hour traffic around Portland and providing guests with a more centrally located venue.

Founded in 1966 as the Agribusiness Council of Oregon, Oregon Aglink works to highlight the importance of agriculture statewide and bridge the urban-rural divide. Denim and Diamonds features silent and live auctions presented by Wilco, with proceeds to benefit the Oregon AgLink Foundation and programs.

For more information, contact Leah Rue, Oregon Aglink community engagement coordinator, at leah@aglink.org.

PNW sweet cherry forecast down 22.7 percent

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 06:05

RICHLAND, Wash. — The Pacific Northwest growers expect a 20.4 million-box sweet cherry crop this season. That’s down 22.7 percent from last year’s record 26.4 million, 20-pound boxes.

If weather allows high quality, it should mean higher prices than the dismal July returns last year when a glut caused wholesale prices to tumble below an unprofitable $16 per box.

A possible U.S.-China trade deal ending a 15 percent Chinese tariff on U.S. fruit would also be a big help, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima. The PNW shipped 3.2 million boxes of cherries — 13 percent of its crop — to China last season, he said.

The tariff is on top of a 10 percent duty and a 13 percent value-added tax, he said. It’s already affected California shipments along with a shorter pest protocol quarantine, he said.

“I heard rumblings all weekend that the U.S. might end its steel and aluminum tariffs on China, and this wasn’t just the news but from importers in China,” Thurlby said.

The PNW cherry crop was forecast at 203,900 tons at the annual meeting of the Five State Cherry Commission in Richland, Wash., on May 16. Washington is forecast at 169,000 tons with 90,000 of that from the Wenatchee District and 79,000 from Yakima. Oregon is expected to produce 32,000 tons, Idaho and Montana 1,400 tons each and Utah 100 tons.

Harvest is expected to start about June 3 in Mattawa, Wash., and end in August in Wenatchee, Wash., or Hood River, Ore. Peaks are estimated on June 24 and July 16. The forecast is for 8 million boxes of cherries in June, 10 million to 11 million in July and 2 million in August.

Last year, June produced 7.7 million boxes. That followed three previous record-volume Junes of 12.3 million, 11.9 million and 9.9 million.

2017 values are not yet available, but Washington’s sweet cherry value of production in 2016 was $471 million, and the average price per 20-pound box was $28.10, according to the National Agricultural Statistic Service.

Oregon’s sweet cherry value of production in 2016 was $68.8 million, and its average price per 20-pound box was $16.70.

This spring cool, wet weather and an extended bloom hampered pollination and led to a lighter fruit set of early varieties in the southern half of Central Washington. Growers are concerned about the extent of fruit drop in early variety Chelan cherries right up to harvest, Thurlby said.

Potential harvest spread between Wapato in the Yakima Valley and Chelan, 150 miles to the north, is the best in 15 years, which should reduce pressure on sales, including during the Fourth of July period, he said.

Coming off a record 9.6 million 18-pound-box crop last season, California may not reach 3 million boxes this year because of insufficient winter chill, freeze damage and poor pollination. Picking began April 20 and may finish about June 8, just as Washington begins picking.

“A little gap is OK but when it’s too long with lose shelf space and we don’t want that,” Thurlby said.

Oregon lawmakers mull preventing ‘too big to fail’ livestock operations

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 05/21/2018 - 14:22

SALEM — The regulatory problems facing a controversial Oregon dairy have raised questions among lawmakers about avoiding “too big to fail” livestock operations in the future.

Negative publicity has continued to mount for Lost Valley Farm of Boardman, Ore., which in 2018 has faced a $10,600 fine, a lawsuit filed by state farm regulators and financial troubles resulting in bankruptcy proceedings.

The 7,300-acre farm is home to nearly 14,000 head of cattle.

The Senate Interim Committee on Environment and Natural Resources summoned the state’s top agriculture and water regulators for a legislative hearing on May 21 to begin analyzing what went wrong.

The hearing was cut short after an hour because the full Senate was expected to convene, but Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said the matter will likely be revisited during legislative committee days in September.

“I would like to see what we can do to prevent this from happening again,” said Dembrow, the committee’s chair.

The state government should be wary of confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, that are “too big to fail” due to the large numbers of animals involved, he said.

In the case of Lost Valley Farm, the dairy’s size has been used as an argument against its forced closure, since cows will continue generating milk and waste regardless of a court order.

“I think most of us will agree this is a story of failure,” said Dembrow, adding that it’s unclear whether it’s a “failure of personalities or the whole CAFO program?”

The testimony of Alexis Taylor, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, focused on the permitting required for dairies and how Lost Valley Farm navigated this process.

Dairies make up 206 of the 516 CAFOs inspected by the agency, which issues a civil penalty in fewer than 1 percent of the 880 inspections its employees conduct each year, Taylor said.

Lost Valley Farm is the most extensively monitored CAFO in Oregon, with groundwater from 11 wells being tested for pollutants, she said.

The ODA has acted quickly in regard to the dairy’s wastewater problems — within roughly a year, the agency has repeatedly notified the company of violations, issued a hefty civil penalty and sought a temporary restraining order that resulted in a settlement, Taylor said.

The court judgment, entered in March, provides an additional option for the agency: The dairy can be punished for contempt of court for violating the agreement, she said.

Such drastic measures are rarely necessary in regulating CAFOs, Taylor said. “It’s really when an operator is unable or unwilling to be in compliance.”

Weekly inspections of the Lost Valley Farm facility have continued since the settlement, but ODA is discussing further steps with attorneys from Oregon’s Department of Justice, she said.

“I think we are at a point the operation is not able to comply with the permit,” Taylor said.

Any regulatory action is separate from the company’s bankruptcy proceedings, she said.

The dairy’s owner, Greg Te Velde, has filed for bankruptcy in California, where he’s asked a judge to allow for the dairy, cattle and property to be sold for more than $100 million.

The company’s largest creditor, Rabobank, instead wants the herd liquidated as soon as possible, arguing it’s losing value.

Tom Byler, the director of the Oregon Water Resources Department, said the dairy was allowed to use groundwater under an exemption for livestock watering despite being located in a restricted area.

The operation’s long-term potable water needs remain unresolved, since proposed water transfers have been blocked by administrative protests, Byler said.

However, a neighboring farm is foregoing groundwater withdrawals, alleviating immediate concerns about groundwater levels in the area, he said.

When asked by Dembrow whether the stockwater exemption was “exceptional” or a “misuse” in this case, Byler said he’s not sure what Oregon lawmakers envisioned when they created the exemption in the early 1900s.

There were no “mega dairies” back then, but that doesn’t mean large livestock uses didn’t exist, he said.

Chad Allen, president of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, drove to the hearing in Salem from his farm in Tillamook but was unable to testify.

Allen said he wanted legislators to understand Oregon is a “leader” in the arena of CAFO regulation and that ODA acted aggressively in reacting to problems at Lost Valley Farm.

“The system clearly works,” he said.

The unforeseen circumstance of addiction played a major role in the dairy’s dysfunction, which isn’t likely to be a problem for other Oregon dairy operators, Allen said.

Greg te Velde, Lost Valley’s owner, was arrested last year for methamphetamine possession and patronizing a prostitute and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Rabobank has argued in court papers that his erratic behavior was caused by addiction, for which he’s sought drug treatment.

While the state’s CAFO regulations functioned properly, the case has certainly been a gift to critics of the dairy industry, Allen said.

“I think we’ll be throwing water on this for a while in terms of getting it to cool down,” he said.

Don Kruse, well-known Oregon farmer, dies at age 87

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 05/21/2018 - 14:04

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Don Kruse, a long-time area farmer who was instrumental in the expansion of his family’s farm to 500 acres of row crops and orchards, died May 13.

Kruse was 87.

Due to his health, he had been forced off his tractor and into retirement about 5 years ago. After a recent hospital stay, the ambulance that was giving him a ride back to his assisted living facility apartment detoured to Kruse Farms Market, Bakery & Gift Shop that is a mile west of Roseburg. He was able to look out over the crops one more time and family members said the visit “perked him up.” He died six days later of heart-related issues.

As a youth, Kruse helped his father, Bert Kruse, on the farm that was originally a 20-acre parcel purchased in 1923. After graduating from Roseburg High School and spending one term at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Kruse returned home to farm full-time. He became a partner in the business with his father and then when Bert Kruse semi-retired early in the 1970s Don Kruse became partners with his own two sons, Denny and Jeff. His daughter Karen and his grandson Evan also work in the family business.

“I think you’re born with some of that ability,” Denny Kruse said of his father being a successful farmer. “He had the intuition to do things right. He wasn’t one of those people who used science to figure everything out. He used his gut reaction to respond to whatever the situation was.

“Farming was his life and I think in his later years when he wasn’t working anymore, he could look back and see what he had accomplished,” Denny Kruse added.

Kruse Farms originally specialized in growing about a half dozen crops for the wholesale market. Truckloads of produce were hauled to distribution warehouses throughout Oregon.

Larry Geraci, a produce salesman and manager in Portland and later in Medford, Ore., did business with Don Kruse and his farm for almost 60 years.

“Don was one of the better growers out of a lot of good growers in that area,” Geraci said. “When you would give him an order, you could depend on him to make it good. He grew quality products. When you would tell people it was Kruse corn, Kruse peaches, Kruse cantaloupes, they would know it was a quality product.”

In the mid-1980s, Kruse Farms purchased a produce stand and expanded its business to the retail market that soon added a bakery and gift shop. The farm went from growing a few crops on a large scale to about 60 crops, each on a smaller scale.

In an interview with this reporter in 2009, Don Kruse said he wouldn’t make any changes, even if he could, in his life.

“We had some bad years on the farm,” he said in that interview. “But in those tough years, we kept saying the year of the farmer was coming. It did get here. If I was going to do life over again, I wouldn’t change my life at all.”

Although busy on the farm, Don Kruse also found time for community service. He was a member and a strong advocate of the Farm Bureau. He was a member of the Roseburg School Board for 17 years and of the state Board of Education for 10 years. He was also a member of the Douglas County Fairgrounds board, representing agriculture, for 12 years, was a board member of South Umpqua Bank, now Umpqua Bank, was a board member of the Douglas County Farmers Co-op and was a member of the Vocational Agriculture Advisory Committee for Roseburg High School. His farm made many food donations to the local food bank.

The Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce named Kruse its 1982 First Citizen of the Year.

“When somebody would ask him to contribute, to serve on a board, he would always rise to the occasion,” Denny Kruse said of his father. “He would take time out of work to do those things. Community service was in his personality. He always wanted to help people. If there was a need, he would help.”

Family members said a celebration of life for Don Kruse has been scheduled for 1 p.m. June 21 at Redeemers Church in Roseburg.

“Don was a good one,” Geraci said. “His name and the Kruse Farms name is known throughout agriculture in the state of Oregon.”

Ruling: Marijuana potential doesn’t prevent rezone

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 05/21/2018 - 06:45

A property’s capacity to grow marijuana doesn’t mean it’s suitable for farming and cannot be rezoned for residential purposes, according to Oregon’s land use adjudicators.

The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals has rejected the argument that potential marijuana cultivation on a 33-acre property near Coburg is a profitable farm use that should prevent it from being split into 10-acre lots.

Lane County approved the designation of the property as “nonresource land” and changed it to a “rural residential” zone, but the decision was challenged last year before LUBA by the Landwatch Lane County farmland preservation group.

Soils on the 33-acre tract are considered Class VI, which the USDA considers to “have severe limitations that make them generally unsuited to cultivation.”

Landwatch Lane County argued that marijuana could still be grown on the property regardless of the soil class because it’s often planted in “cloth pots or buckets,” contradicting the county’s determination that the land isn’t suitable for agriculture.

The landowner, Bill Sproul, argued that nothing in Oregon’s land use goal of preserving farmland would require landowners to “commit a federal crime and risk forfeiture of their property to the federal government.”

LUBA has agreed with Sproul that marijuana production “can occur equally well on a parking lot as it could on 80 acres of high value farmland.”

Although marijuana is defined under Oregon law as a crop and can legally be grown on the property under Lane County’s code, cultivation of the psychoactive plant is “entirely separate and disconnected from the land” that’s meant to be protected, according to LUBA.

The board also rejected Landwatch Lane County’s argument that livestock can be raised on the property, which a previous owner used for alpaca farming until 2004.

While the conservation group pointed to the previous landowner’s advertisement that the property can generate up to $120,000 per year, Sproul said the alpaca farm “totally failed” at being “commercially viable.”

Despite these conflicting claim, LUBA ruled that Landwatch hadn’t “so undermined” Sproul’s evidence as to render the county’s decision unreasonable.

Finally, LUBA dismissed the argument that adequate water exists on the property for irrigated agriculture since there’s no evidence that water rights can be obtained to use seasonal water sources on the property.

Oregon farm seeks $2.5 million for wrong strawberries

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Mon, 05/21/2018 - 05:20

An Oregon farm claims to have suffered $2.5 million in damages from planting an incorrect variety of strawberries sold by a nursery in California.

Townsend Farms of Fairview, Ore., has filed a federal complaint accusing Norcal Nursery of Red Bluff, Calif., of delivering nearly 1.6 million strawberry plants with “poor yield and inferior berry quality.”

The Oregon farm claims it ordered the Tillamook variety of strawberries and accepted six shipments of plants from the California nursery in 2016 and 2017, for which it paid about $167,000.

Whereas the Tillamook cultivar is “ideally suited” to Oregon’s climate and produces “high yields of large, well-shaped, richly colored excellent flavored berries,” the plants from Norcal were “inconsistent” with these attributes, the complaint said.

Genetic testing confirmed the strawberries were of another, unnamed variety that Townsend had to plow under and replace with the correct cultivar, the complaint said.

“Further, as a result of the low yield, inferior quality and loss of growing cycles, Townsend Farms has incurred lost profits that would have resulted from the sale of its strawberries,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that Norcal violated its contract, breached an express warranty and acted negligently in shipping the strawberries, causing damages of at least $2.5 million.

Capital Press was unable to reach a representative of Norcal Nursery as of press time.

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Oregon pursuing legal options to stop dairy violations

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 08:02

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two months after settling with the state’s second-largest dairy the Oregon Department of Agriculture has given up faith that it can comply with its permits.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports agriculture officials said Thursday they plan to work with the Department of Justice to pursue “every legal option to stop violations to the confined animal feeding operation permit that may threaten the environment.”

That could include suing to shut down the dairy located near Boardman.

Lost Valley Farm allegedly started violating its environmental and agricultural permits within months of opening. The violations have come regularly since then, including six since an April settlement with the state when it promised to do better.

Farm owner Greg te Velde has asked a bankruptcy judge for permission hire a real estate broker to sell the dairy and nearly 7,300 acres for $95 million.

Oregon Shows Limited Progress In Reducing Food Insecurity

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 07:59

Oregon has shown limited progress in reducing food insecurity over the last three years, according to a new report.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy says more than a half-million Oregonians now suffer from food insecurity. That means they either went hungry or didn’t know where their next meal was coming from at some time during the past year.

U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show food insecurity actually declined 3.9 percent in Oregon over three years. But Janet Bauer with OCPP said those declines are statistically insignificant.

“Oregon has a long way to go in addressing food security,” she said.

She added that many Oregonians are struggling to put food on the table.

“We cannot say with confidence that food insecurity has gone down in Oregon,” Bauer said. “It’s just as likely that the situation has not improved as it has marginally improved.”

Over the last decade, Oregon’s national ranking for food insecurity has improved from close to the worst, to now 14th.

But Congress is poised to consider a bill that would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, on which many families rely for food.

Bauer said the latest version of the Farm Bill in Congress doesn’t address food shortages adequately. 

“We should be investing more in food assistance programs and taking steps to relieve the economic stress of working families,” she said.

Bauer thinks it’s clear many working families are under severe economic pressures and have to make tough choices about whether to pay the rent, keep the lights on or buy food.

Oregon rancher, county intervene in grazing challenge

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 05:43

A federal judge is allowing an Oregon rancher and county government to intervene as defendants in an environmentalist lawsuit against grazing in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The complaint was filed earlier this year by the Greater Hells Canyon Council environmental nonprofit, which claimed the U.S. Forest Service insufficiently studied the impacts of grazing on the Spalding’s catchfly, a threatened plant.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan has ruled the Forest Service may not adequately represent the concerns of McClaran Ranch, which grazes cattle in the forest, or Wallowa County, which relies on agriculture for its tax base and economy.

The ranch and the county have distinct interests that may be impaired by the lawsuit and thus are entitled to intervene in the litigation, Sullivan said.

According to the complaint, livestock trample the Spalding’s catchfly and consume its flowers and seeds, thereby hindering reproduction of the perennial plant, which has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 2001.

Cattle also introduce and spread invasive weed species that compete with the Spalding’s catchfly, whose populations are particularly at risk of displacement due to their tendency to “clump,” the plaintiff argues.

The environmental group alleges the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to study eliminating grazing from areas where the Spalding’s catchfly is vulnerable to grazing, among other claims.

The Forest Service has filed an answer to the lawsuit denying violations of NEPA and other federal statutes and arguing the complaint should be dismissed partly because the nonprofit failed to raise its objections during administrative proceedings.

In his request to intervene, rancher Scott McClaran said his family has raised livestock in the region for nearly 100 years and has developed strategies with the Forest Service to minimize negative effects on the Spalding’s catchfly and other native resources.

The ranch depends on grazing within the four allotments of the 44,000-acre “Lower Imnaha Rangeland Analysis” project area that’s at the center of the lawsuit.

“A decision that limits, restricts or prohibits livestock grazing on some or all of these allotments would hinder the environmental benefits from the rotational grazing among pastures on the ranch and allotments,” he said. “It would also negatively impact the economic viability of McClaran Ranch and threaten the ability of the McClaran family to maintain the ranching lifestyle that has been central to my family for generations.”

The lawsuit could set a legal precedent affecting grazing in other areas where the Spalding’s catchfly grows, which could seriously impair Wallowa County’s economy, according to a declaration from Todd Nash, a rancher and county commissioner.

“Such an economic impact would affect the county’s ability to maintain the quality of the services the county must provide to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of its residents,” he said.

Teen who started $40M Columbia Gorge fire to return to court

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 09:32

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Vancouver teenager charged in juvenile court with starting an explosive wildfire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge by tossing a lit firecracker into the woods is set to return to court Thursday.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports a hearing will be held to determine the details of his restitution.

The teen pleaded guilty in February to eight counts of reckless burning of public and private property and other charges. District Judge John Olson sentenced the teen to more than 2 ½ months of community service and five years of probation.

The September blaze grew to 75 square miles and forced evacuations, caused the extended shutdown of a major interstate highway and sent ash raining down on Portland for days.

The fire and its aftermath have cost nearly $40 million and that figure could still rise.