The Oregon Department of Agriculture has refined the boundaries of an existing control area in the Willamette Valley to allow canola to be grown in specific locations while protecting specialty seed crop production. Through a temporary administrative rule, ODA is attempting to balance the interests of both canola and specialty seed producers recognizing that both interests are important. The new boundaries go into effect upon filing, August 10, 2012.
“We are adopting a temporary rule to allow Willamette Valley growers to make important planting decisions by the first of September as requested by both specialty seed and canola growers,” says ODA Director Katy Coba. “In the meantime, ODA is simultaneously filing for permanent rulemaking that will allow for public input and possible future revisions. It is our intention to have a permanent rule in place by the time the temporary rule expires in 180 days.”
ODA’s statutory authority to create control areas is based on protecting the agriculture industry from diseases, insects, animals, or noxious weeds that may be a menace. ODA authority for control areas does not extend to protecting agriculture from market-based threats or concerns.
Under the administrative rule, the Willamette Valley is designated as a protected district, which includes the entire counties of Lane, Linn, Benton, Marion, Polk, Clackamas, Yamhill, Washington, Multnomah, and portions of Columbia County. This protected district will have two zones. One is a fully protected zone that prohibits the growing of canola and protects 84 percent of the amount of Oregon’s specialty seed production over the past three years. A second zone will allow canola production but requires that all canola and specialty seed producers use an electronic pinning system to provide information on what they intend to grow and where they intend to grow it.
“This second zone focuses on coexistence of specialty seed growers and canola growers,” says Coba. “Producers are encouraged to communicate with each other and work together to provide the necessary isolation to protect specialty seed crops while allowing canola production.”
As much as possible, ODA used recognizable landmarks in refining the boundaries such as highways, roads, and rivers to help growers easily determine which zone of the protected district they are farming.
The rule does not address the production of genetically modified canola within the protected district. GM canola has been deregulated by the US Department of Agriculture. Through a strong regulatory framework, USDA thoroughly evaluates GM organisms to verify they are just as safe for agriculture and the environment as traditionally-bred crop varieties.
“If that determination is made, it is USDA’s decision to deregulate the crop,” says Coba. “It is not within the purview of ODA to address GM organisms, nor does the agency have the expertise and resources to review federal decisions on deregulations. Since canola has been deregulated by USDA, ODA does not differentiate between conventional and GM canola or treat them differently.”
Overall, the protected district includes about 2 million acres in which canola is not allowed to be grown. Of the remaining 1.7 million acres in the protected district, only about 480,000 acres are actually suitable for canola production. Canola is a rotational crop that can only be grown two out of every five years. Therefore, it is not expected that a large amount of acreage in the Willamette Valley will be planted in canola.
ODA created the most recent canola control area through administrative rule in 2009 to protect specialty seed crop production by restricting the growing of canola. That rule required ODA review at the end of 2012. With input from an advisory committee consisting of representatives of the specialty seed industry and those who want to grow canola, along with guidance from the State Board of Agriculture, ODA has refined the boundaries of the protected district.Canola control area page
Media contact: Bruce Pokarney, (503) 986-4559.PDF version