Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
The Agriculture Quarterly
Winter 2014
Pesticides, partners, and stewards
By Bruce Pokarney

One of the most scenic drives in Oregon is the Hood River Valley when all the fruit orchards are in bloom during the spring. With a majestic mountain as a backdrop and the mighty Columbia River nearby, all seems idyllic. But when the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) literally began testing the waters, it found elevated levels of organophosphates in the Hood River watershed. 

That was 14 years ago. Local growers such as Brian Nakamura learned that concentrations of chlorpyrofos and azinphos-methyl exceeded water quality standards. Pesticides used in their orchards were important tools to control insect pests and diseases, but the growers also realized the chemicals didn’t belong in the local creek. Ultimately, they feared a government regulatory hammer would drop on them and restrict their ability to grow fruit. 

More than a dozen years later, detections of organophosphates in the Hood River watershed have dropped by more than 90 percent. How has that happened? The Pesticide Stewardship Partnership Program, known to participants as PSP.

“The success of the PSP in the Hood River Valley is well documented with over 10 years of monitoring data,” says Nakamura. “The growers should be proud of the results. The collaboration and cooperation developed through the PSP has helped with several other projects, both water and non-water related.”
Similar success is reported in six other watersheds of the state where this voluntary program has been applied. The 2013 Oregon Legislature took notice and provided enough funding to establish two more PSPs. This relatively new approach may be a recipe for the future where pesticide use and water don’t always mix.

“The Pesticide Stewardship Partnership Program is absolutely the right way to take a problem that has been identified through data, bring the appropriate players to the table to look at the problem, and figure out voluntary ways to reduce or eliminate the problem,” says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. “Where we have had successful PSPs, the landowners are excited.”

Monitoring, partnering, and allowing voluntary measures by growers–these are the effort’s core elements. This stewardship program makes the users of pesticides a big part of the solution, and it hopefully can be replicated across the state.

A meeting of the minds

Hood River is the birthplace of the Pesticide Stewardship Partnership concept. Date of birth: 1999. Once DEQ monitoring discovered high pesticide levels in the watershed, it was obvious to local growers something had to be done. DEQ mulled the commonly prescribed process of water quality regulations, which might have brought in ODA’s Agricultural Water Quality Management Program. Instead, the local grower-shipper organization got together with OSU Extension and Research, the soil and water conservation district, the watershed council, irrigation districts, and enlisted the support of local tribes. This new coalition approached DEQ with hopes of finding a new way to solve the pesticide problem before it got onto the regulatory track. DEQ was receptive. Right away, growers implemented best management practices.

“They started a monitoring program so they would have data on the presence and amount of pesticides in the local creeks,” says Steve Riley, ODA’s Pesticide Stewardship Specialist. “Then they implemented spraying practices like turning the nozzles off at the end of the row during an application and becoming better aware of pesticide drift issues. They also dovetailed some alternatives to pesticides, including a mating disruption program for codling moth. The growers were trying to get away from relying so much on the more toxic pesticides. The orchardists still needed chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates, but wanted to reduce the exposure to fish and other aquatic organisms.”

A grant from the American Farmland Trust and the US Environmental Protection Agency allowed the Hood River Grower-Shipper Association (now known as Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers) to create and publish a manual of best management practices that was distributed to all growers in the valley. The manual also included alternative spray programs. OSU Extension provided technical and outreach seminars that continue today.

“Repeatable, verifiable data is a key component of the PSP,” says Nakamura, a long-time pear and cherry grower. “We pressed DEQ for reliable water quality testing and wanted to make sure the pesticide levels reported in the water were accurate, and that future monitoring would reflect any changes, whether positive or negative.”

The proof is in the data. Levels of chlorpyrifos are below water quality standards or not being detected at all in Hood River. 

On the heels of Hood River, the Pesticide Stewardship Partnership Program spread to nearby Wasco County– another intensive fruit growing area. 

“We felt we should check Mill Creek and Three Mile Creek for pesticides as our farming practices were much the same as those in Hood River,” says cherry grower Ken Bailey of The Dalles. “We have been successful in handling pest problems primarily because of being part of the Pesticide Stewardship Partnership.”

For Wasco growers, the issue was malathion in the watershed. They wanted to reduce its use and did so. The same process of monitoring nearby streams, showing the pesticide levels to growers, and allowing them to voluntarily take steps to reduce those levels led to success. The introduction of the spotted wing drosophila– a potentially devastating insect pest of fresh fruit– produced a spike in malathion levels in 2011 as growers responded with old and familiar chemistry. But after monitoring data was provided to OSU Extension and the growers, voluntary actions pushed those levels back down.

“The growers made better use of weather stations to make sure spraying was done at the right time under the right wind conditions,” says Kevin Masterson, DEQ’s Toxics Coordinator, who manages the PSP Program. “They were careful to do aerial spraying farther away from the creek and were doing more ground application of the pesticides. We saw an immediate decrease in malathion in 2012 and another 57 percent decrease this year. Growers are still using malathion, but they are using it more efficiently, using less per acre, and using other, less toxic products more often.”

As a bonus, ground application appears to do a better job of controlling drosophila.

Farther east, a PSP was formed in the Little Walla Walla watershed near Milton-Freewater. Growers wanted their fruit to be certified Salmon Safe. In order to get there, they needed to reduce the presence of diuron. Monitoring results document a consistent decline in detected pesticides.

“This program allows our local produce to correct any identified water quality issues without having to go through the traditional regulatory approach,” says Troy Baker of the Walla Walla Basin Watershed Council. “When a water quality issue arises, our local PSP is able to identify a solution and make a corrective action in a timely manner. Through the monitoring efforts, we can document the improvements from the corrective actions.”

PSP projects have also been established in watersheds west of the Cascades in Clackamas, Yamhill, Molalla-Pudding, and Amazon Creek in the Eugene area. In these locations, the challenge of having a diversity of crops as opposed to the simplicity of working with fruit orchards on the east side has made it harder to reach the level of success in Hood River, Wasco, and Walla Walla. Mix in pesticides from forestry and urban use, and it becomes even more complex.

“We are looking in a more refined way on the west side by monitoring stream segments and sub-watersheds where we see the highest number of detections in the greatest amount,” says Masterson. “We want to find the hot spots and work more closely with landowners in that small area, get success there, and then expand out.”

Agricultural chemical distributors are a partner on the west side. Wilco has been involved in the Molalla-Pudding by facilitating communication and relationships between local growers and state agencies. In the Long Tom watershed near Eugene, Sure Crop Farm Service has also been actively involved in the Amazon Creek PSP by encouraging growers to participate.

East or west, the key steps in partnership projects are the same: Monitor the water for current use pesticides from drift and runoff; identify streams with elevated pesticide concentrations or high number of detections; collaborate to implement voluntary management practices; and, follow up monitoring to determine improvements over time.

Investing in the program

The Oregon Department of Agriculture regulates pesticides in the state and administers the Agricultural Water Quality Management Program, established through Senate Bill 1010 nearly 20 years ago. It made sense for ODA to support the Pesticide Stewardship Partnership Program and add it to its toolbox as a way to effectively deal with pesticides in the water. In many ways, the PSP resembles the SB 1010 approach of identifying water quality issues– in this case, pesticides– and working with landowners to address those issues.

“Where we see pesticides at a level of concern in the water and can establish a PSP to resolve the issue, that’s the goal, “says ODA Director Coba. “We’d like to solve it in a voluntary way without bringing in a regulatory-style program.”

Using a collaborative inter-agency approach, a water quality pesticide management team was established in 2007 that brought together ODA, DEQ, OSU, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Health Authority. Each agency has some authority and responsibility to address pesticides in water. The team has used PSP monitoring data to help direct agencies’ efforts to where problems exist.

“Our responsibility now is to assess the data and to help influence local stakeholders to take action if there is a problem,” says ODA’s Riley.

Federal funding channeled through DEQ provided the opportunity to test drive the PSP. Much of that funding is drying up. Without an infusion of new dollars, expanding the program to other watersheds is a difficult challenge, much less keeping existing projects alive. The success of the Pesticide Stewardship Partnership Program to date was enough to convince the 2013 Oregon Legislature to provide $1.5 million towards the effort over the next two years.

“For the program, 2013 is a milestone,” says DEQ’s Masterson. “Support for the legislative package didn’t just come from the agencies, but organizations like the Oregon Environmental Council, the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, and a number of other groups. The funding comes in the nick of time.”

The package is a combination of General Fund dollars and money from fees paid into ODA’s Pesticide Program– evidence that the fee payers are committed to the PSP process.

Two new PSPs will be developed over the next two years, locations to be determined. The funding will also support existing PSPs and some money is designated for pesticide collection events. This helps eliminate old containers of pesticides that are likely not going to be used, but still represent a risk to the watershed.

A very simple concept

The Pesticide Stewardship Partnership Program operates at a watershed level. It isn’t a program with multiple layers and agency rules. It exists outside of the normal regulatory regime. PSPs have already shown success and there is potential for more.

“The deal breaker is when we don’t have the local interest to voluntarily form a collaborative partnership,” says ODA’s Riley.

Clearly, local interest wasn’t a problem in Hood River, Wasco County, and five other watershed locations where growers find pesticides necessary but problematic to local waters.

“The PSP Program makes a great deal of sense,” says cherry grower Ken Bailey. “It brings all resources to the table and everyone works together to find a solution instead of looking to place blame and coming up with excuses.”

Or as ODA Director Coba summarized at a recent meeting of the Board of Agriculture, “This is how we want to handle issues. It is data driven, it is voluntary, and it has shown success already on the east side. The success may not be duplicated as quickly on the west side, but we will get there. We have a lot of work to do, but this is a program where we want to wave the flag.”

With the hard work and determination shown by all the partners of existing PSPs, it certainly isn’t a white flag that is being waved.



Director's column

There is no question that pollinators are among agriculture’s best friends. Without the work of bees– whether they are native to Oregon or brought in by commercial beekeepers– we would not see the crop diversity that defines Oregon agriculture. The decline in bee populations nationwide, largely due to a complex condition called colony collapse disorder, is well documented. When ODA first learned of a large die-off of bumblebees this summer in a Wilsonville parking lot, our staff quickly collaborated with many partners to respond.

Among the first actions was a plan to prevent the loss of additional bumblebees. ODA worked with the Xerces Society, the cities of Wilsonville and Sherwood, and Valent USA to place bee-proof netting on 55 European linden trees in the parking lot where an estimated 50,000 bumblebees had died. Our Pesticides Program sent inspectors to the scene to determine if a pesticide application played a role in the bee deaths. We learned that the pesticide product Safari was used on the trees to kill aphids. Safari, with its active ingredient dinotefuran, is part of a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Soon, a second but smaller bumblebee die-off was reported in Hillsboro, also involving a dinotefuran application. While there were significant differences between the two incidents, ODA took action, in an abundance of caution, to avoid the potential of similar large bee kills due to specific pesticide applications. I directed the agency to restrict the use of certain ornamental, turf, and agricultural uses of products containing dinotefuran for six months, giving ODA a chance to complete its pesticide use investigation.

Two more relatively small but significant bee death incidents came to our attention involving another neonicotinoid, imidacloprid. As we learned more about all these incidents, there were two common denominators– linden trees and pesticide products containing dinotefuran or imidacloprid. We decided to take additional measures based on our knowledge with these incidents in Oregon. As a result, ODA is now requiring specific label statements restricting use of products containing the active ingredients dinotefuran and imidacloprid. We are also strengthening our outreach and education efforts to pesticide users regarding pollinator protection.

As a condition of annual registration for 2014, ODA is requiring an Oregon-specific label statement on dinotefuran and imidacloprid products being sold or distributed in the state that prohibits the application of these products on linden, basswood, or Tilia species. Bee deaths reported this year involved products containing these active ingredients applied to European linden trees. We believe that the tree species’ natural toxicity to bumblebees, in combination with the pesticide, contributed to the deaths. We have taken the rare step of requiring an Oregon-specific label statement on these pesticide products.

I also sent a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency requesting additional evaluation of these pesticides’ active ingredients and other neonicotinoids to determine if restrictions on a national basis should be considered.

The final step is less regulatory but just as important. We are expanding educational efforts on pollinator protection to licensed pesticide applicators and the general public. For applicators, we are putting more emphasis on pollinator protection as part of the required testing and re-certification process to become licensed. For the general public, we plan to put additional information on ODA’s website as well as brochures and other materials to be distributed through master gardener programs and retail outlets. Oregon State University will be one of the key partners in providing that educational material.

The action we have taken underscores how seriously we take these incidents. By stepping up both our regulatory and educational efforts, we hope to avoid any future bee die-offs such as the ones that made the news in the Summer of 2013.

ODA’s Plant Programs Director, Dan Hilburn, said it best when he noted that perhaps the only warm and fuzzy member of the insect world is the bumblebee– everybody seems to like bumblebees. Beyond that very human statement is the fact that bees and other pollinators are extremely important for a variety of reasons, and well worth protecting.

Board of Agriculture spotlight: Tyson Raymond

Managing his family’s wheat ranch in Eastern Oregon, president of the Oregon Wheat Growers League, and new member of the State Board of Agriculture. That’s quite a list of accomplishments for someone in their early 30s who initially intended to have a career in medicine. Tyson Raymond considers himself a family farmer who goes to work everyday to do something he loves. Despite his youthfulness, Raymond brings a lot of real world experience to the board.

“I have learned about age diversity as a member of the Oregon Wheat League Board,” he says. “In my experience, it’s a good approach to have a combination of youthful idealism and wisdom that comes from age. Those two approaches usually make for sound decision making.”

Raymond grew up on the family farm near Helix in Umatilla County but thought he had said goodbye to rural Oregon when he graduated from high school and headed for Willamette University, where he got his bachelor’s degree in biology. With an eye on medical school and a job at Oregon Health Sciences University, Raymond was lured back to the farm life, away from the big city of Portland. While his brother manages the farm’s cattle operation, Tyson Raymond has already made a name for himself handling the wheat operation. All told, the farm is home to Raymond, his wife Kate, young boys Uriah and Malachi, Raymond’s parents, grandparents, and brother and his family.

“I read all these articles about the graying of rural Oregon and how it is affecting our ability to come back from a down economy,” says Raymond. “I don’t see that. In our area, we are very young and experiencing an ag resurgence. Young, progressive, and aggressive farmers are coming back and changing the landscape. They don’t just do things because that’s the way it has always been done. They are taking a close look at management practices and asking if it’s the best way to do it. It’s a really great process to be a part of. All of this makes me look forward to where we are going in agriculture and where we will be in 10 years. There are some really bright young farmers out there doing a lot of really cool things.”

Raymond has already been one of the familiar faces discussing key issues affecting the Columbia Basin and the wheat industry. From testifying at the State Capitol on legislation that would increase irrigation water to speaking on behalf of wheat growers affected by the discovery of genetically modified wheat earlier this summer in Eastern Oregon, Raymond has effectively articulated key messages that need to be heard.

“There will be times when my experience with something like GMOs might add some insight from a wheat grower’s perspective,” says Raymond. “I can tell you there is no doubt that GMO issues will be a real big topic for now and I look forward to those discussions.”

Raymond also looks forward to helping urban Oregonians and legislators learn more about the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and environment. At the same time, Raymond is learning more about the incredible diversity of the region’s agricultural bounty. His wife is assistant winemaker at her family’s winery in Walla Walla. And then, there is the Board of Agriculture.

“It’s an eclectic group with a diverse background,” he says. “So far, it has been a great experience to discover that diversity of production and all the topics the board covers. It has been very enjoyable getting to know everyone and the perspective they bring.”

But the greatest joy to Tyson Raymond is a return to the farm after going out of town for a few days. As he told the Capital Press earlier this year, “At the end of the day, there is no better place in the world to raise a family than right here, at the end of a two-mile long, dead-end road.”

Oregon ag comments on proposed food safety rules

The message to the US Food and Drug Administration from Oregon agriculture is loud and clear– ensuring a safe food supply is something everybody wants to do, but it has to be done right. A variety of agricultural interests, ranging from growers to food processors to the Oregon Department of Agriculture– have delivered official comments on the first two proposed rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Many of those comments appear to be in unison although those most affected by specific portions of the rules have responded directly to those issues.

“The more we can speak with one voice, the better,” says Stephanie Page, an assistant to ODA Director Katy Coba and one of the many staff members dedicating a lot of time to the FSMA process. “We put together a team at ODA to prepare comments on the rules when the first proposals were released last January. We engaged farmers, packers, and industry groups to come forward and offer comment. We have spoken to our neighbors in Washington on their perspective and we are involved on a national level as well.”

As chair of a food regulation committee for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), ODA Director Coba has helped shape responses that represent the interests of all US agriculture. ODA staff participated on the technical working group that developed NASDA’s comments.

Currently proposed FSMA rules deal with produce safety, preventive controls for human food, imports, third-party verification, and preventive control for animal food.

The deadline for comments on the rules for produce safety and preventive controls for human food has passed.

“ODA submitted comments on both the produce and preventive controls for human food rules,” says Page. “To create the produce comments, particularly the comments related to proposed irrigation water standards, ODA worked with a group of stakeholders, including ag industry representatives, ag and irrigator organizations, researchers, and other agencies.”

Among the comments submitted on the produce rules:

  • More research is needed to determine the appropriate water quality standard for bacteria for irrigation water used on produce.
  • The proposed irrigation rule will have significant impacts on irrigators. The proposed weekly testing requirement will be costly and it is unclear whether sufficient laboratory capacity exists to handle the increased demand for E. coli analyses.
  • Water treatment is an option for some irrigators, but there does not appear to be a viable water treatment option for many irrigators. This leaves them with very few options if E. coli samples come back above the proposed standard. Many irrigators have no other choice but to use surface water sources with bacteria levels above the proposed standard.
  • The proposed manure and compost application intervals are inconsistent with National Organic Program standards.
  • Wooden bins are low-risk and FDA should continue to allow them as long as they are kept clean.

Among the comments submitted on the preventive controls rule:

  • Exemptions are very complicated and confusing, and need to be simplified to make them more understandable to growers and regulators.
  • Several activities such as hop drying and mint distillation should be exempt from the preventive controls rules.
  • FDA should change the definition of a farm so that farms that co-pack a small amount of others’ produce are only regulated under the produce rule and not under the preventive controls rule.
  • ODA believes it’s premature to require environmental sampling and product testing at this time; however, if FDA does decide to require them, the expectations should be clearly spelled out in the final rule.

General comments about FSMA have also been submitted:

  • FDA needs to conduct a second comment period on all of the five major rules concurrently after making revisions based on comments received during the first comment period.
  • FDA should communicate early and often with states about their anticipated roles in implementing FSMA. States have relationships with many businesses that will be regulated by FSMA and it makes sense in many ways for states to have a role. States will need adequate resources to be able to take on this work.
  • FDA needs to secure adequate resources from Congress to implement FSMA and provide resources to states.
  • FDA should establish an advisory committee to provide ongoing input on FSMA implementation.
  • FDA must ensure a level playing field between domestic and foreign producers. We are concerned about how foreign food will be held to the same standards proposed for domestically grown produce and processed foods.
  • Ongoing outreach, education, and technical assistance will be needed to inform producers about the rules and assist both domestic and foreign producers with compliance.
  • FDA needs to describe the process for reinstating exemptions if they have been previously revoked.
  • FDA should encourage and incentivize food safety plans as a tool to minimize risk.

Again, ODA and NASDA strongly support the goals of FSMA. Outbreaks of food borne illness have had unfortunate, sometimes tragic impacts on consumers and the agriculture industry.

“The intent is to proactively prevent outbreaks in addition to responding to outbreaks, and we are certainly supportive of that effort,” says Page. “At the same time, we want to make sure the rules are really appropriate, that FDA gets them right the first time around, and doesn’t adopt something that’s going to be unworkable for farmers and processors.”

Many groups, and several members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation have called for a second comment period on the proposed rules after FDA has had the chance to make changes from the first public comment period. FDA has already responded positively by announcing it will revise portions of the proposed produce safety rule based on submitted comments. The agency also plans to hold a second comment period on the new revisions later in in 2014.

Meanwhile, the comment deadline for foreign supplier verification (imports) and third party certification proposed rules have been extended to January 27, 2014. The deadline for comments on the proposed animal food and feed rule is February 26, 2014.

In the end, ODA wants to maintain the viability of Oregon agriculture without compromising food safety, which is why it has been so important that every Oregonian who has a stake in food production and processing takes advantage of the opportunity to learn about the proposed rules and provide feedback.

For more FSMA information, go to: http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/ADMD/Pages/fsma_oregon.aspx  



Specialty Crop Block Grant spotlight: Aquaponics

One way to become familiar with aquaponics is to read about it.

“Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants together in a constructed, recirculating ecosystem utilizing natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients.”
---Aquaponic Gardening Community

Another way to learn about it is to visit Salem’s Parrish Middle School and see the aquaponics greenhouse in action. It’s a variation of the school gardens sprouting up throughout Oregon. This one is active year-round, even in the dead of winter. More than 500 vegetable starts and 35 fish are helping each other in a symbiotic food production system that is literally a cross between aquaculture and hydroponics.

An open house at Parrish– make that an open greenhouse– was part of October’s National Farm to School Month and attracted a wide array of visitors, including curious legislators. Aaron Poplack, one of seven FoodCorps members in Oregon, was the tour guide, explaining how the system works as the aquaponics garden was officially dedicated.

“Being able to integrate an aquaponics system into the Parrish Learning Garden has been an exciting adventure for students, school staff, and community members,” says Poplack. “School gardens provide an incredible avenue for kids to learn about where the food they eat comes from, and having one of the state’s only school-based aquaponics systems adds so much depth to the learning opportunities available to the Parrish community. Raising fish and vegetables together in the same system offers the chance for students to explore everything from big ideas like how an ecosystem functions, down to the tasty details of putting together a homegrown salad for their family.”

Poplack, along with FoodCorps member Chelsey Thomsen, has been instrumental in assisting the school district with bringing together kids and agriculture. Building and tending school gardens is one of the tasks performed by Oregon’s FoodCorps members. This marks the third year that Oregon has hosted FoodCorps members at various sites around the state. The Oregon Department of Agriculture manages the state’s FoodCorps program and hosts a fellowship position to lead the team.

The traditional aquaculture environment has to deal with fish excrement and its toxic impact on the water. Under the aquaponics system, nitrogen-fixing bacteria break down the waste by-products into nitrates and nitrites, which are picked up by the plants as nutrients. The plants, of course, grow in a soilless environment.

Kids working in a standard school garden are likely to get their hands dirty. Here, the hands may get wet.

As Brenda Knobloch, Learning Garden Coordinator for the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation (SKEF) wrote in a recent newsletter, “The first fish were released into their new tank the same week Parrish students came back to school. The water is tested daily for pH, ammonia, and nitrates. Students feed the fish, test the water, and plant the lettuce starts. We are using goldfish and raising lettuce because they are the lowest in cost and can handle the most stress as we get the system started. In the next year, we’ll switch to catfish or tilapia and grow a variety of plants. The greenhouse learning lab is providing students with experiential education opportunities and giving them lessons on self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability, healthy lifestyles, nutrition, and life sciences.”

An effort like this requires many supporters. ODA is among them, approving Specialty Crop Block Grants the past few years to enhance integrated farm to school and school garden programs and to kick start FoodCorps’ presence in Oregon.

The innovation visitors saw at Parrish in September was exciting. School gardens have come a long way in a very short time. 



The next round of specialty crop block grants

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is now accepting concept proposals for project ideas as part of US Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for 2014. Approximately $1 million is expected to be available to agriculture industry associations, producer groups, processors, commodity commissions, non-profits, for profits, and local government agencies in Oregon. Funding for Oregon’s program is contingent upon federal funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through the US Farm Bill.

Specialty crops are defined as commonly recognized fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. Oregon ranks fourth in the nation in production of specialty crops.

ODA is requesting three-page concept proposals from applicants describing their proposed projects. Concept proposals can be submitted online and must be received by Tuesday, February 24, 2014 at 12:00 noon Pacific Standard Time.

ODA staff is available to provide applicants an understanding of the 2014 granting process and requirements. Directions on submitting concept papers and other information is available at:
http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/ADMD/pages/grants_spec_crops.aspx or
by contacting ODA’s Agricultural Development and Marketing Program at 503-872-6600.



NAFTA+20: Good for Oregon agriculture

Predictions of doom and gloom made 20 years ago about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) now appear to have been largely unfounded– at least as far as Oregon agriculture is concerned. The establishment of the world’s largest free trade area has helped provide up to a four-fold increase in ag exports from Oregon to both Canada and Mexico.

“Looking at the ag sector, I believe NAFTA has been an extreme success,” says Dennis Hannapel, trade policy specialist with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Trade between the US, Canada, and Mexico has never been more robust. For Oregon, two of our largest international trading partners are directly to the north and south of us. The tariffs between the countries have disappeared and we are openly trading with those countries.”

Statistics from the US Department of Commerce clearly show the tremendous growth in exports of Oregon agriculture to Canada and Mexico. NAFTA went into effect in 1994 and many of the tariff reductions were well into place by the turn of the century. From 1999 through last year, the value of Oregon agricultural and livestock products to Canada jumped from $64 million to $157 million– a 145 percent increase. The value of agricultural and livestock products to Mexico increased a whopping 1,360 percent over that same period of time, from just under $5 million to $73 million. The growth trend is the same for value-added food products. The value of processed food products from Oregon to Canada increased from $61 million to $179 million, or 193 percent, and from $2.4 million to $7.9 million, 30 percent, for Oregon processed products going into Mexico.

Certainly, the meteoric rise of exports to the two countries is not all attributable to NAFTA. Overall exports of Oregon agriculture to the rest of the world have increased substantially as well. But there is no doubt that the trade agreement has smoothed a path into all of North America.

“The proof is in the pudding,” says Hannapel. “Twenty years later, there are additional efforts to enter into other bi-lateral or multi-lateral free trade agreements with a variety of countries. If NAFTA had not been a success to this point, I don’t think the American people or our lawmakers would be interested in pursuing additional agreements.”

For all industries, agriculture included, NAFTA now links 450 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative. Canada and Mexico have been the top two purchasers of overall US exports, accounting for more than 32 percent of what is sold internationally. US exports of agricultural products to NAFTA countries total about $31.4 billion with the leading categories being red meats, grains, fresh fruit, snack foods, and fresh vegetables.

Oregon’s export profile is slightly different. One snapshot of activity can be provided by phytosanitary certificates written by ODA inspectors. Data from 2012 confirms Asia as a major destination for Oregon agricultural products, but Mexico and Canada remain key export markets for Oregon. Not everything exported by Oregon requires the certificate, but ODA inspects nearly all fresh fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, and such commodities as Christmas trees, nursery stock, and grass seed. These statistics are consistent with other available export numbers. ODA’s phytosanitary data puts Mexico second among export markets and Canada sixth. Mexico receives a variety of commodities from Oregon, but gets a boost from being the state’s top customer for Christmas trees. Canada’s standing would be higher, but ODA’s statistics don’t take into account the large volume of nursery products that are sent north or the relaxation of trade between the US and its neighbor thanks to NAFTA, eliminating the need for phytosanitary certificates.

The gradual reduction and ultimate phase out of tariffs has had a tremendous trade impact in both directions. But just as important has been NAFTA’s ability to create a mutually beneficial dialogue between the countries that has paved the way for many commodities.

“In the past, we’ve had phytosanitary problems getting Christmas trees into Mexico because of pest issues,” says Hannapel. “But now with the more transparent relationship, we’ve been able to negotiate a workable protocol that allows for easier exports of Oregon Christmas trees.”

NAFTA is still producing new benefits. Oregon has been trying to get fresh potatoes into Mexico beyond a 26 kilometer boundary. Hannapel is hopeful that negotiations and the improved relationship will allow the spuds to easily find their way well past the border. Mexico is a target for more Oregon products.

“Mexico is a potential export market for some of our specialty crops grown here in Oregon,” says Hannapel. “We’ve had some conversations about sending hazelnuts, blueberries, and cranberries down south.”

Among the concerns prior to NAFTA ratification were food safety and environmental issues. Through NAFTA, Canada has taken a lead in setting up a harmonization of regulatory procedures so that food safety restrictions will be the same in all three countries. That could lead to something like the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) being implemented straight across the board in the US, Canada, and Mexico. A variety of technical issues and trade barriers are discussed in a frank and open manner under NAFTA.

When it was still being debated in 1993, then ODA Director Bruce Andrews noted,

“NAFTA is essential if the US is going to be able to operate effectively worldwide through trade agreements with any country. If we can’t deal equitably and fairly with our two closest neighbors, there will be a lot less hope that we can deal effectively and fairly with our Asian or European partners.”

​There are still some critics, but over the years, Andrews has been proven correct. An effective NAFTA has led to other free trade agreements good for Oregon agriculture, the latest being the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement. It has also led to a three-country trading bloc that benefits agriculture throughout North America.



Warm and wooly Oregon dresses up the Winter Olympics

It was a closely guarded secret for nearly a year, but now the exciting story can be told. When you see Team USA at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics, pay close attention to the sweaters that team members are wearing. They are made with yarn that, in part, comes from Oregon.

Ralph Lauren broke the news on the NBC Today Show on October 29th, and released a video which lives on its website telling the story of their Made in America effort for Team USA and the Olympic apparel. Jeanne Carver of Imperial Stock Ranch in Central Oregon shared the news in a letter emailed to friends, customers, and media this fall:

“Ralph Lauren called on more than 40 made-in-America partners to create its collection for Team USA in Sochi, Russia. Imperial Stock Ranch and Imperial Yarn is one small story in the making of the Team USA Olympic uniforms.”

It seems that a product developer from the iconic American brand called Jeanne more than a year ago and sent a design team to check out the ranch, located near Maupin. That led to Ralph Lauren placing an order for Imperial Yarn. What Jeanne and her husband Dan did not know is that the yarn was actually being used to make the Olympic sweaters. The company finally let the cat out of the bag– or should we say, the lamb out of the bag– and announced the details of what American athletes will wear in the Parade of Nations.

While Ralph Lauren gives thanks to those who provided the yarns, Jeanne and Dan are quick to return the praise.

“We are immensely grateful that Ralph Lauren recognizes the importance of investing in and supporting the American wool industry and American manufacturing. And, of course, we’re very honored to have been included in their efforts. “

“The future for all of us is brighter thanks to Ralph Lauren’s partnership and leadership. It’s truly a win for all of us. We look forward to the winter games and supporting the athletes who will wear the Team USA uniforms, and carry our flag in the most prestigious sporting event in the world.”

While there are more than three dozen vendors nationwide supplying product to Ralph Lauren for the Olympic uniforms, none of them are more excited than the Carvers. It’s hard to imagine a $7 billion company doing business with a ranch that is at least 90 minutes from the nearest city of any size.

Meanwhile, the Team USA sweater has yet to be seen publicly and will make its debut no sooner than two weeks prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, February 7.

“Dan and I donated one of the sweaters, sight unseen, to the Denim and Diamonds auction [organized by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon], which raises money to promote all of Oregon agriculture,” says Jeanne Carver. “The winning bid was $9,000!”

Jeanne is working hard on potential yarn orders for the fall of 2014 as numerous apparel brands have contacted Imperial for American yarn. The boost in business generated by the Winter Olympics is great, but the Carvers are more heartened by the fact that our country’s best Olympic athletes will be warm, stylish, and American-clad thanks, in no small measure, to wool from Oregon sheep.

See the Ralph Lauren “Made in America” video, featuring the Imperial Stock Ranch, at:



ODA plans new "Growing Oregon" magazine for 2014

By next fall, the Oregon Department of Agriculture will unveil the premiere issue of the magazine, Growing Oregon: A guide to the state’s agriculture, food, and markets. The publication will provide a comprehensive look at Oregon farms, food production, and processing. The magazine will also be paired with a website with a digital magazine and tablet friendly versions.

This annual magazine will serve as a primer for state legislators, business leaders, and consumers about the impact of agriculture and food processing on the state’s economy.

The magazine, which will be free to the public, is also intended to educate Oregon consumers about their food sources and give a voice to the state’s farmers. The magazine will feature original photography, reader-friendly charts and graphs, and profiles of individual farmers. Articles will focus on the state’s main commodities as well as innovations in technology and research.

“We are especially interested in having a well done publication that can be given to businesses, both domestic and international, that are interested in purchasing Oregon agricultural products,” says Bruce Pokarney, ODA Director of Communications.

“Growing Oregon magazine will be one of the tools that can be used to promote business development in the state. We are excited about its potential impact.”

The magazine is published by Journal Communications, an award-winning custom agribusiness publisher, and supported by local businesses. No state funds will be used as part of the project. Copies of the magazine will be distributed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and area businesses.

To learn more about advertising opportunities and similar publications from other states, visit AgribusinessAds.com



Oregon Agripedia coming soon!

The seventh edition of the Oregon Agripedia will be available in January 2014. The popular, all-purpose guide provides comprehensive statistical, regulatory, and contact information in one handy publication.

A limited number of Agripedia copies will be available at no cost.

The Oregon Agripedia can be obtained by calling (503) 986-4550, by e-mailing: info@oda.state.or.us​ or by completing the online order form​.

The Oregon Agripedia will be available in hard copy or on a CD. An online version will also be located on ODA’s website and maintained with up-to-date information throughout the year.

Order your copy now! 


Ag Progress Awards Dinner 2014

The specific date and location have not been finalized, but make your plans to attend the 22nd annual Agricultural Progress Awards Dinner, saluting industry leaders. The event, hosted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, celebrates progress in agriculture made through partnerships between business, higher education, and state government. ODA Director Katy Coba will present several awards in recognition of innovation and leadership. The event is one of the year’s highlights. Don’t miss it!

The 2014 Ag Progress Dinner will be held in Salem during the week of March 10. ODA will announce final details of the date and location as soon as details are worked out. Award winners will be announced early 2014. Watch for updates on the ODA website, oregon.gov/ODA



Oregon Specialty Crop Grant Program

Request for concept proposals - due at noon 
Date: February 18, 2014
Oregon State Board of Agriculture Meeting

Date: February 18-20, 2014
Location: TBD - Salem, OR
Oregon State Weed Board

Date: February 19-20, 2014
Location: ODA Building, 635 Capitol Street NE, Salem, Hearing Room

OSU Small Farms Conference

Date: February 22, 2014 (registration opens December 20, 2013)
Location: Oregon State University Campus, Corvallis

Check out all the ODA public meetings

Print version
Click here​​ to download the pdf of this issue.







​ ​​​​​​