The Agriculture Quarterly
|Oregon blueberries pave a road to South Korea|
By Bruce Pokarney
Even to the casual observer, Asia’s insatiable appetite for
blueberries is overwhelmingly clear. No place is it more obvious than in South
Korea and its retail grocery stores. The health consciousness of 50 million
consumers runs high in this densely populated country. You will find dried
blueberries, blueberry juice, blueberry powder, blueberry confections,
blueberry-based cosmetics—heck, you can even purchase dog food that contains
blueberries. And, of course, there are frozen blueberries. Imagine a long line
that runs out the front door of a Costco as patient customers wait to get their
hands on a bulk bag of frozen blueberries. That has actually happened in the
capital city of Seoul.
What you are less likely to see is a fresh blueberry.
Domestic blueberry production can’t meet the demand and doesn’t always show up
in the stores anyway. For a nation that has a crush on blueberries, you would
expect a fresh product to be the rage.
For Oregon’s blueberry industry, the opportunity is too good
to resist. This past summer, Oregon became the first state allowed to ship
fresh blueberries into the Korean market—in fact, the first blueberry
production area in the world allowed fresh market access. Nearly half a million
pounds found its way across the Pacific Ocean—a relatively modest start to an
ambitious plan. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t even profitable for Oregon growers
and packers this first year. But most everyone will agree, it was worth the
trouble and expense to gain a foothold in a market so rich with potential.
Oregon blueberry grower Mark Hurst sums it up best.
“Oregon had this opportunity to be first in Korea, but there
is a cost associated with that opportunity. It’s all part of being the pioneer,
and it is totally worth the effort for the future.”
The collaboration between Oregon’s blueberry industry, the
Oregon Department of Agriculture, and South Korean officials was critical
during the first year. By all accounts, it was a successful season that paves
the way for a pipeline of Oregon berries into Korea for years to come.
One chance to make a first impression
A great deal of groundwork took place before the first
Oregon blueberry ever showed up in South Korea. Knowing that you only get one
chance to make a good first impression, everyone associated with the effort
took the project very seriously.
“Oregon has been a trailblazer, but it hasn’t been cheap or
easy,” says Jim Cramer, Director of Market Access and Certification Programs
for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Growers, packers, and ODA have all
spent a lot of time and effort to make this work.”
Recognizing a unique opportunity, ODA worked for years with
the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(APHIS) and the state’s blueberry industry in crafting a deal with South Korean
food safety inspection officials to clear the hurdles that have kept fresh
berries out of that market. In the fall of 2011, APHIS announced an agreement
that would allow Oregon to ship fresh blueberries to Korea during the 2012 season.
With the green light, protocols had to be ironed out to ensure fresh Oregon
blueberries pose no risk and won’t be a vector for pests and diseases that
might be introduced to South Korea.
“Our blueberry growers and packers had a lot of extra work
to go through in order to do this, but they made the investment to open up a
new market,” says ODA’s Certification Manager Lindsay Eng. ODA developed and
implemented a voluntary fee-for-service certification program for growers,
packers, and shippers of fresh blueberries intended for South Korea. As it
turned out, 42 growers and 9 packers signed on this first year and went through
the stringent requirements set forth by the protocol. A total of 271 Oregon
blueberry fields were certified.
ODA worked with the Oregon Blueberry Commission to educate
growers and packers on what needed to be done in order to ship the berries
overseas. Nearly a dozen meetings and presentations featured APHIS
representatives as well as an ODA entomologist and plant pathologist talking about
insects and diseases of concern. Eng explained MRLs—maximum residue
limits—which dictate the acceptable amount of pesticide residues that can be on
the blueberries. ODA helped to provide pre-clearance testing for growers and
packers to meet Korean MRL issues. Generally, Oregon growers had to treat
specific fields of blueberries destined for Korea differently than other fields
and had to intensively document their practices, which included trapping and
“This protocol is one that we don’t have to work with in any
other market,” says Jeff Malensky of Oregon Berry Packing, based in Hillsboro.
“From managing the field and showing the Koreans our records to actually having
specific fields grown for the Korean market only, we had to make sure we were
doing things correctly.”
The Oregon Blueberry Commission sponsored a visit by a
Korean inspector at the beginning of the harvest season to review the protocol
and how Oregon was responding. Dr. Keum Hee Lee received a first hand look at
the insect trapping and all other steps taken by growers to ensure Korean
phytosanitary concerns are being addressed.
“There is so much involved, but it was a good learning
experience for all of us this first year,” says Malensky. “Everyone will be
much better prepared for next year.”
Ringing off the hook
Connoisseurs of Korean food are familiar with the
traditional fermented dish known as kimchi. The spicy vegetable food is so
popular in South Korea that many families have two refrigerators—one dedicated
to storing kimchi alone. It’s not a stretch to say that blueberries are the
kimchi of the fruit world in Korea.
“The supply of blueberry products is having a hard time
catching up with demand,” says Sang Young Oh, a marketing specialist with the
US Agricultural Trade Office in Seoul.
It’s clear that Koreans have embraced the health benefits of
blueberries. Grocery stores and other retail establishments prominently feature
blueberry products. Dried and frozen Oregon blueberries—along with other
non-fresh blueberry products—have been in the market for years. So the
opportunity to import fresh blueberries from Oregon was met with great
excitement and anticipation.
“This was a cautious and deliberate first season and we
weren’t really sure what to expect,” says Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the
Oregon Blueberry Commission. “But once word got out that we were going to ship
to Korea, the phones began ringing off the hook. On a trip overseas in April,
we had people lining up to meet with us. We were the popular one at the dance.”
As many as 40 buyers contacted Roseburg blueberry grower
Paul Norris wanting Oregon blueberries. It appeared that the first year of
tapping the Korean market was going to bust out of the gate. Then reality set
in. Some of the major buyers weren’t able to line up the deals they expected.
Despite the newly opened market, Oregon growers and packers had to contend with
a tariff exceeding 40 percent. (The tariff will be dropping 5 percent per year
until it reaches zero). Also, 2012 was a very good year for domestic blueberry
production in South Korea, which made Oregon blueberries even less
From a financial point of view, the first year was not a
“We all hoped to have moved more fruit than we actually
did,” says Norris. “We were continually moving small quantities, but there were
no real big orders outside of one from Costco in Korea. The frustration for
many of us was all the work—monitoring the insects, keeping special notebooks,
doing extra paperwork, separating the Korean-bound fruit from the other fruit—it
was a lot to do for a market that really wasn’t big yet. Still, I think this
first year was positive and everyone will agree that getting fresh Oregon
blueberries into the country is a good thing for the industry.”
Blueberry plantings in Oregon have increased dramatically
the past decade. Ten years ago, production of Oregon blueberries was roughly 20
million pounds. Last year, the harvest was closer to 75 million pounds. Finding
a home for all those berries is important. A fraction of that production going
to South Korea can help even those growers who don’t export by re-directing
product that might otherwise be sold domestically.
By the end of summer, Oregon had shipped nearly 489,000
pounds of fresh blueberries into South Korea—a significant start for a market
with much potential.
“We made it through year one, things went well, and our
growers and packers rose to the occasion,” says Ostlund. “That sets the stage
for continued growth of the relationship between our production and Korean
Reports back from Korea indicated that consumers were
pleased with the quality of the blueberries they bought from Oregon.
“Did we make a good first year impression?” asks Norris. “I
would say mission accomplished.”
A sky blue future
Even though nearly half a million pounds of Oregon
blueberries were shipped and presumably consumed in South Korea this past year,
there was little to no marketing being done. It was more important to see if
the protocol and all the work done by the growers would be good enough to avoid
problems. They werre, and Oregon was able to crack a market it was told a few years
ago it couldn’t crack.
“Because of Oregon being the first US state to send fresh
blueberries to South Korea, it puts the onus on us to develop the market,” says
Ostlund. “In the short term, Korean buyers would like to see a branded Oregon
program for many of the reasons we’ve seen with other Oregon products over
time. Oregon has the name recognition and is looked upon favorably. In Korea,
Oregon is associated with fresh, clean, blue water. We can capitalize on that.”
In the long term, it’s very likely that Oregon’s
trailblazing into South Korea clears the way for other blueberry-producing
states. Washington, California, and perhaps a Canadian province—British
Columbia—might all benefit from a more regional marketing effort. Even with the
addition of others, Oregon stands to gain a great deal.
Opportunities in the next year or two will justify year
one’s investment. HF Foods offers school nutrition products that include single
serve packaging for school lunches. The innovative company is looking to
Oregon’s blueberry industry as a source for product and is being held back only
by the question of how much fruit can Oregon send them. Shinsegae is one of the
largest retailers in the world and is very interested in offering Oregon
blueberries for sale in their upscale stores. It’s a retailer than can handle a
tremendous volume of fruit.
“What I saw in Korea are people that are great to work
with,” says Norris, the southern Oregon grower who traveled to Seoul with ODA
officials in late fall as a follow up to the inaugural shipments. “I think we
have the potential to double the 489,000 pounds we sent this first year. We
just have to keep giving them quality fruit.”
That optimism is shared by Mark Hurst, who collaborated with
Norris in shipping pallets of blueberries to South Korea.
“I can remember when we started to ship blueberries to Japan
in the early 1990s. It took a few years to get it going. Japan has ended up
being a huge market for Oregon and blueberries in general. In the long term,
shipping to Korea will be very good as well.”
ODA and the blueberry industry agree that Oregon can’t just
rest on its laurels after year one. There is still much work to do in year two
and beyond. The same level of care and consideration will be necessary to build
on the foundation laid in 2012. But the fresh Oregon blueberry has already made
a name for itself more than 5,000 miles away.
|Board of Agriculture Profile: Pete Brentano|
|When Pete Brentano was asked to apply for a vacant position
on the State Board of Agriculture, he really had to think about it. He was
flattered and excited about the opportunity to serve on behalf of all
agriculture, but how would it fit into his busy schedule? In addition to
managing a very successful but time-consuming nursery operation in St. Paul,
Brentano is a 4-H club leader, a volunteer fireman, a member of the St. Paul
Rodeo Association, his 12-year old son’s basketball coach, and involved in a number
of other community activities.
“But I looked at serving on the board as a chance for me to
get outside the nursery and learn what is going on in other sectors of Oregon
agriculture,” says Brentano. “It’s such a big, diverse part of Oregon. In our
family farming operation, the nursery is contained on one piece of property
even though we farm from nearly Newberg to Woodburn. I call the nursery my
cubicle because I hardly get off that piece of ground. So I’m happy to be part
of the board. I think there’s a lot I can bring to the group but also know
there’s a lot the board will give to me.”
Pete Brentano is part of the sixth generation of his
family’s farming operation. His parents started the current 2,000-acre farm in
1958, both coming from farm families of their own. It started as a dryland
wheat operation but was primarily producing row crops while Pete and his three
older brothers were growing up. By the time he went to Oregon State University
to pursue a business degree, the family was dabbling in one of the state’s
up-and-coming agricultural commodities—nursery products. It was more of a side
interest than anything else. After two years in college, Pete knew he wanted to
get back into agriculture, so he also started pursuing a degree in crop and soil
science at OSU.
“About the time I graduated, the family held a meeting to
discuss the future of the nursery operation,” he says. “We had to decide if we
were really serious about getting into the business or should just get out of
it. I decided to operate the nursery. We started with shade and flowering
trees. The first couple of years, there was a glut of product on the market. It
certainly wasn’t a flash start for us even though the nursery industry was
doing pretty well as a whole.”
But hard work and perseverance—along with good product and
customer service—have paid off. Brentano’s Tree Farm LLC sells to landscapers,
wholesalers, garden centers, and nursery brokers. Pete’s work and stature in
the nursery industry led to a stint in 2006 as president of the Oregon
Association of Nurseries, an experience he believes will help him with the
State Board of Agriculture.
“I’ve learned a lot about how to look at different aspects
of an issue, to realize there are different sides and to always consider how
other people view the situation. I’ve learned to work with people who have
While he is interested in all issues that are important to
Oregon agriculture, one in particular he carries with him from the nursery
“Adequate transportation and infrastructure is an area of
interest to me, making sure agriculture continues to have a good connection
with our markets,” says Brentano.
It’s also obvious that family farming is important to the
Brentanos, considering the nursery is actually owned by Pete, his mom, his
three brothers, and his two sisters. Pete’s wife, Wendy, is also involved in
running the nursery. Don’t be surprised if their two children, Elizabeth and
Zach, someday get into the family business.
(Editor's note: The following is a modified version of an
op-ed written by Director Coba for the East Oregonian newspaper.)
For those of us in the agriculture delegation during
Governor Kitzhaber’s 11-day trade mission to Asia this fall, one of the
highlights took place in a retail grocery located in Hong Kong. We were waiting
for the governor’s arrival to participate in an in-store promotion of newly
arrived Oregon pears. It gave us the opportunity to look at the wide array of
products for sale, not necessarily looking for other Oregon products. To our
surprise, we discovered a display of Tillamook cheese. Though we weren’t aware
Tillamook exported to Asia, the store manager told us he had been carrying
their products for three or four years.
It’s no surprise that Asia wants the types of products
Oregon can provide. Representatives of Oregon’s agricultural industry who
participated in the trade mission were thrilled by the unexpected, but familiar
label, and the Tillamook cheese sighting opened our eyes to new possibilities
for Oregon-grown products.
During this mission, we made three stops—Shanghai, Hong
Kong, and Tokyo. Oregon agriculture is present in all of those markets, but in
varying degrees. Japan is still Oregon agriculture’s number one overseas
market. But clearly, China is growing by leaps and bounds. The opportunities
for Oregon agriculture in the Chinese market are huge, but it remains a
difficult market in which to do business. We are very active in Hong Kong
because it is often easier for Oregon producers and processors to develop a
relationship with someone there and ultimately move the product into China.
On this mission, three agricultural sectors were
represented—potatoes, dairy, and wine. Potatoes and wine are involved in all
three markets, to some extent. For dairy, this was the maiden voyage into
export markets. The last five times I’ve been in Asia, I’ve been asked, by
overseas buyers and others, whether Oregon has dairy products to offer. There
is demand and clearly a growing population that wants access to a variety of
dairy products—shelf-stable milk, whey powder, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
For dairy, the purpose of the mission was to do market reconnaissance. What’s
in the market? What is it selling for? How is it being sold? Do we in Oregon
think we can be competitive in those markets? The resounding answer to that
last question is yes. The next step is to focus on priorities—which products?
Which markets? You can’t do it all at once, so let’s be very strategic. We will
move forward hand-in-hand with industry. So much dairy production takes place
in Morrow County, anything that helps sell Oregon dairy products in general
will help Eastern Oregon’s agricultural economy.
On the potato side, we connected with existing market
outlets—wholesalers and retailers. In Japan, the governor met with Calbee
Foods, which owns a processing facility in Boardman as a joint effort with R.D.
Offut. That facility processes 100 percent of the product that goes into a
snack food sold in Japan stores called Jagabee. It’s a little package
containing a shelf-stable French fry-type product. Three Mile Canyon Farms in
Boardman provides 100 percent of the organic potato product that is processed
at the facility in Boardman, frozen, and shipped over to Japan for further
processing. Calbee Foods sees the market growing for their products. As a
result, the processing line in Boardman is scheduled to expand next spring.
This was Governor Kitzhaber’s second trade mission of his
current term and eleventh overall trade mission that he has led to either
Europe or Asia. Agriculture has been involved in all of those trade missions.
I’ve been involved in several of them. The governor has become very
knowledgeable about agriculture as part of Oregon’s economy and how important
our international markets are for Oregon agriculture. He has shown a real
willingness and desire to do everything he can to help advance agriculture’s
opportunities in those markets. Having the governor overseas promoting Oregon
agriculture is a huge benefit for our industry.
I always come back from these trade missions with a great
sense of pride for the ODA marketing staff. Their hard work in planning and
carrying out these important ventures makes the missions effective. I also have
pride for Oregon agriculture itself. There is nothing quite like seeing first
hand how well our high-quality products are received and what great
opportunities exist beyond our borders.
|Census of Agriculture reaches out to Oregon farmers|
The most ambitious and important agricultural survey of all
is getting underway in Oregon and the rest of the fifty states as the 2012
Census of Agriculture reaches out to every farmer and rancher in the United
Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture,
encourages the state’s producers to cooperate with the census being conducted
by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service
“There are many reasons for our producers to provide the
information requested by the census, but the most compelling is that
information about our agriculture is key for policy makers to make good and
informed decisions that affect the industry,” says Coba.
The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years, and
even though this one is considered the 2012 Census, the actual results and
reports won’t be completed until early 2014. That’s because of the huge amount
of information and details that need to be gathered and analyzed.
“The census provides a comprehensive snapshot for Oregon all
the way down to the county level and gives all kinds of information about the
farm population, “says Chris Mertz, state director for the Oregon Field Office
of USDA-NASS, whose staff is responsible for conducting the census in Oregon.
Questionnaires, which were sent out in December to all
farmers on record, need to be completed and returned by February 4, 2013.
Timely, complete, and accurate responses to the questions in the agricultural
report forms are essential.
“It would be worth their while for farmers and ranchers to
complete the survey,” says Mertz. “There are many policy decisions that are
made at the national and state level that will result from the survey. Federal,
state, and local decision makers use the information to serve local farmers and
develop programs that assist them in times of need. We need data that is as
accurate as possible because it definitely helps the agricultural community and
population in general by presenting the real story of agriculture in Oregon and
The census asks a lot of questions about crops, livestock,
land use, ownership, equipment, chemical use, and demographics. The last census
introduced questions on organic commodities, energy, conservation methods, and
community-supported agriculture. New this time around, producers will be asked
about on-farm renewable energy production and land use practices. Many of these
questions will simply ask for a yes-no response, but could lead to more
detailed questions in subsequent surveys in the near future.
This year, questionnaires have been mailed out to more than
38,000 farmers and ranchers in Oregon. The 24-page questionnaire should take
about a half an hour to complete. Once again this year, the Census of
Agriculture offers respondents an online option.
For census purposes, a farm is any place from which $1,000
or more of agricultural products were produced and sold or normally would have
been sold during the census year.
“That’s especially important in Oregon where we have so many
small producers who report between a thousand and $10,000 in annual sales,”
The law requiring farmers and ranchers to complete the
census forms also protects confidentiality and privacy of information they
supply. Individual forms cannot be seen by anyone but sworn NASS employees.
The agriculture census is the only source of uniform data
down to the county level on agricultural production and inventories. Originally
taken every ten years, farm census data has been collected every five years
since 1920. Historical census data is actually available from as early as 1840.
For now, information about 2012 is all that's needed from
Oregon's farmers and ranchers.
Information about the 2012 Census of Agriculture is
available at http://www.agcensus.usda.gov
|Managing risk can be good insurance for Oregon ag|
By Stephanie Page
Think insurance isn't an option for your type of ag
operation? It's worth taking a second look. Insurance is a valuable piece of a
farm risk management strategy addressing production, financial, marketing,
human resources, and legal risks. Several newer insurance tools are available
through the Farm Bill, and can be a good fit for operations that have
traditionally not used crop insurance programs. These include tools to insure
revenue and to manage input and sale price risks.
Two revenue protection programs, Adjusted Gross Revenue
(AGR) and AGR-Lite, can be a good fit for specialty crop operations to insure
against market fluctuations as well as natural disasters. Through these
programs, farmers can select an insured revenue level based on the past five
"I thought it was a pretty good tool for us," says
Greg Bennett, a specialty crop grower in Brooks. "With the types of crops
that we grow, like blueberries and onions, that are really intense high-value
types of crops, we never really had anything before besides the major
catastrophic crop insurance. That never really worked unless there was a county
disaster declaration. I did that a couple times and then they have you fill out
all this paperwork. You take it down and you might get $1000, which is hardly
worth your time."
Bennett reports that the AGR claims process has been simple
and has helped to take some of the swings out of some relatively high-risk
"I want to keep my target level higher and hope I don't
use the insurance. But if your target level is higher, it's not a matter of if
you're going to use it but when you're going to use it. We're always going to
have a stumble somewhere along the way whether it's market issues or weather
issues. I've just plugged it into our operation and it's a line item for doing
business. There are such slim margins in agriculture now, just one stumble can
put you backwards pretty quick."
Jo Lynne Seufer with USDA-Risk Management Agency reports
that participation in AGR and AGR-Lite has declined a bit in recent years in
Oregon because some participating farms have seen declines in the five-year income
average that they would enroll to protect. As incomes recover from the recession,
participation will likely increase again. "I see opportunities going
forward for a variety of diversified operations, including small and large
farms," explains Seufer. AGR sales close January 31 and AGR-Lite sales
close March 15.
Greg Bennett reports that he decided to opt in this year,
even though the target level was relatively low. "Given the wet springs
we've had and how hard it can be to get everything planted, we decided to go
ahead and do it and we were glad we did." Even if your operation is
relatively diversified, " If you get hooked up with a good agent who
handles the AGR programs, he can link you up real quickly with the programs,
plug some numbers in for the last five years and see how it would fit for you. You
can go back and see whether it’s a good fit for you, and whether it would have
helped you or not."
The Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy program is another tool
available to manage risk. It allows producers to hedge against feed price
increases or milk price decreases during their elected contract period by
locking in a margin based on milk prices and feed prices.
“Livestock gross margin is a tool that will protect both
sides—inputs and sale prices,” explains Jo Lynne Seufer. “It’s similar to a
combination of broker “put” options and “call” options. Some folks ask, why
don’t I just do a put or a call option on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange?
Well, you have to do a large volume in the Exchange, but you can buy this
policy for as little as one head or one hundredweight of milk.”
The program has not been used much in Oregon. According to
Seufer and George Harris, an insurance agent with Northwest Farm Credit
Services, this is most likely because of past funding constraints in the
program. However, Harris notes that the funding has increased. “We
still have availability for sales, which provides the dairymen a
greater opportunity to hedge their risk,” says Harris. Dairy LGM sales occur on
the last business Friday of each month.
Seufer explains that the program may be a better fit for
some of the smaller dairies. “There are significant limits on the size you can
insure—240,000 hundredweight limit per crop year, which is pretty limiting. New
England producers were involved like crazy.”
Another program, the Livestock Risk Protection program, has
been a great fit for lamb producers in Oregon. It is available to beef and lamb
producers and allows participants to lock in a beef or lamb price based on
market rates at the time of enrollment. “This covers just one side of producers’
risk—sale prices,” says Jo Lynn Seufer. Lamb LRP is available only on Mondays,
unless there is a holiday, and cattle and swine are available every weekday
unless there is a holiday.
While beef producers have other options to cover price risk,
there is no Chicago Mercantile Exchange price for lamb. “The Livestock Risk
Protection program is the only hedging tool that a lamb producer has to protect
themselves,” says George Harris. “It has been very popular over this last year.
This summer, we had prices that were close to $140/hundredweight and now we're
hearing $100 for a coverage price. Those that have participated in it have
received some substantial indemnity payments.”
Reed Anderson, owner of Anderson Ranches in Brownsville, can
attest to the benefits of the program. "We use it for risk management and
we think it's a tremendous tool," he explains. "I’ve got on the phone
when I thought the policies were good and encouraged people to buy them and
explained it to them because I thought it was such a great idea."
Anderson is surprised that participation in the program
hasn't been even higher, but speculates that this may be due to marketing
schedules, the newness of the program, or the up-front cost of premiums.
"Your livestock have to fit the mold or the dates of the policies, and if
your marketing scheme doesn’t fit those, then there is not much you can do
about it. If you can insure your lambs and you’re going to market them in a 13
week time period this is a way to insure against any price drop. But sometimes
it’s hard for some people to ride out that premium check. "
Jo Lynne Seufer speculates that participation in these
programs is very good in the Midwest because producers there participate so
heavily on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and are very comfortable dealing in
corn and soybean futures. She says it’s important to understand the tools well,
so that you make sound decisions on when to participate. Her advice to
producers: “Do what you feel comfortable with.”
In addition to the programs described in this article,
several other newer tools are available through USDA-RMA. It's worth learning
about them through workshops or through your insurance agent and evaluating
whether they can be a part of your overall risk management plans.
Reed Anderson says it can appear frustrating to participate
in a program and add the cost of premiums to other input costs, but it is well
worth insuring against a loss. "When you experience a loss—you buy lambs
for $2 a pound and sell for $1 a pound—those don’t leave your memory quite so
|Ag producers benefit from WorkSource services|
By Todd D. Brown, Oregon Employment Department
Which sector of Oregon’s economy fared better than most
during the Great Recession? This may surprise you—agriculture. According to a
recent study by Oregon State University, agriculture’s percentage of the net
state product is 15 percent—up from 10.6 percent cited in a similar OSU study
done in 2008. While the actual dollar value of agricultural goods and services
fell to $22 billion during the recession; “the percentage gain did not decline
as much as other industries,” said Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA)
analyst Brent Searle.
The study, commissioned by the Department of Agriculture,
underlines the importance of agriculture to Oregon’s economy, and firmly plants
the industry at the heart of Oregon’s improving economic climate.
As Oregon continues to develop innovative new agricultural
processes, one thing remains constant. Farms, nurseries, and vineyards need
effective workers to harvest the crops, tend the fields, and create those
agricultural products that have made Oregon a leader in nursery products,
fruit, nuts, grass seeds, wheat, and wines. But where can agricultural
employers recruit workers, set competitive wages, and get advice on meeting
labor laws and rules?
The Oregon Employment Department operates 38 WorkSource
Centers throughout the state, and has business representatives who work to
discover employer needs and provide workforce solutions. Many of these
representatives specialize in the agricultural industry and each center has a
designated staff person to work with agricultural employers and workers.
WorkSource services to both employers and job seekers come without a fee, and
include recruiting services, economic and workforce information, help
organizing employment-related matters, and coordinating services with other
organizations serving the agricultural community.
Agricultural employers are often challenged to find workers
quickly, especially when harvest time is rapidly approaching. But according to
State Monitor Advocate Fernando Gutierrez, who monitors WorkSource services to agricultural
employers, "I ask them if they have tried our recruiting services and they
reluctantly say ‘no’ in part because of all the bureaucratic paperwork and the
response times." Fernando works hard to change that perception, explaining
that services to agricultural employers have improved and the process
simplified to provide timely employee referrals.
In the past year alone, WorkSource has placed nearly 3,000
workers from their applicant base of over 6,000 workers who indicated they are
farmworkers. Staff also opened over 900 job listings with agricultural
employers. In addition, the WorkSource network includes various training
organizations and resources that can help workers get needed training, like a
pesticide certification or earn their General Educational Development (GED)
Find your nearest WorkSource Oregon Center at
For additional information on agricultural programs at
WorkSource Oregon contact:
Fernando Gutierrez, State Monitor Advocate
Dan Quinones, Agriculture Representative
|Affordable streamside improvements, a win-win for everyone|
|By Amanda Garzio-Hadzick|
Farmers and ranchers value clean water and healthy natural
resources but may think they can’t afford to improve their streamside areas in
order to help protect Oregon’s water quality. However, improving streamside
vegetation (aka riparian vegetation) can be simple, inexpensive, and only take
a little bit of land.
Healthy streamsides are an important part of achieving the
clean water that supports Oregon’s diverse agricultural production and other
natural resource uses. Oregon law requires farmers and ranchers to allow
streamside vegetation to establish to help provide clean water.
Some streamside areas can be improved by pulling back
cropping or changing grazing management in order to let vegetation establish
naturally. These “passive” approaches to restoration can be a relatively quick
and cost-effective way to restore a streamside area.
Many producers have improved the streamside areas on their
own, but technical and financial help is available. The local Soil and Water
Conservation District (SWCD), Watershed Council, or OSU Extension agent can
provide assistance developing and implementing a plan. Financial assistance,
cost-share, and grants are available through a variety of programs to help make
these plans become a reality. The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) is
a state agency that offers a variety of grant programs to help Oregonians take
care of local streams, rivers, wetlands, and natural areas.
A popular funding source is the Conservation Reserve
Enhancement Program (CREP), a voluntary land retirement program that helps
agricultural producers protect streamside areas and wetlands.
"The cost-share provided by the Farm Service Agency
(FSA) and OWEB provides the major portion of the cost of restoration and, along
with additional incentives, may cover all costs," says Lois Loop, from the
Oregon FSA State office. Loop also points out that participants in the CREP
program also receive an annual rental payment loosely based on the productivity
of the acreage that has been taken out of production. “CREP is a good fit for a
majority of locations where there is a degraded streamside or an area that has
been annually tilled right up to the stream bank,” she explains. As of July 2012,
Oregon CREP had more than 40,000 acres enrolled under 1,607 individual
contracts located in 34 of the 36 counties.
Improving streamsides can also be a relatively feasible way
to address problems that can be costly for farmers.
“By making improvements to your streamside areas, farmers
and ranchers could protect water quality by stabilizing the streambank,
filtering nutrients and pollution, trapping sediment, and slowing the heating
of stream water,” says Ken Diebel, CREP technician with the Baker SWCD. “In
addition to protecting water quality, high quality streamside areas protect
valuable farmland by preventing erosion. “Still not convinced to take the first
step toward improving your streamside area? All the potential benefits can
outweigh the cost. Diebel points out that streamside areas can provide high
quality forage. So with proper grazing management, livestock producers can
improve animal health and weight gain.
“OSU ag economists have found that cross fencing to
facilitate rotational grazing, providing off-stream water, strategic placement
of salt, and herding to benefit streamside areas can pay for themselves because
calves gain more weight and cows are healthier and easier to take care of
during the winter months,” he explains. “Additionally, healthy vegetation can
bind soil in its roots to help prevent streambank erosion and healthy
vegetation can also reduce weeds on your land.”
Oregonians value the many benefits that healthy streamside
vegetation provides to water quality. Streamsides can also add value to an ag
operation and the benefits of improving streamside areas may outweigh the
“Having a healthy riparian area can go a long way to having
a sustainable and economically viable farming or ranching operation,” says
Diebel. “You can have your trees, fish, and farming too!”
|ODA adopts rules for Oregon's new firewood law|
|The Oregon Department of Agriculture has finalized the rules
for a new state law addressing imported firewood that is in effect as of
January 1, 2013. Oregonians now have a choice to buy local or buy firewood that
has been heat treated and labeled as pest free.
“The rules prohibit firewood from outside the Pacific
Northwest unless it has been treated at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit
for one hour to kill all the pests inside it,” says Dan Hilburn, director of
Plant Programs with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “That’s very
important because there are invasive pests and diseases outside of our region
that could travel to Oregon on firewood.”
The 2011 Oregon Legislature passed the firewood law and gave
ODA regulatory authority. For the past year, ODA has been working on the rules
that go along with the law. Following a public comment period, the agency has
now finalized those rules in an effort to diminish the possibility of dangerous
insects hitching a ride to Oregon on firewood.
“We think these rules will be put into place just in the
nick of time,” says Hilburn.
Oregon consumers should look for two types of firewood available
“There will be wood that is cut in Oregon, Washington, or
Idaho that is allowed without heat treatment,” says Hilburn. “That is the best
firewood. If it harbors any insects, they are the ones that are native to
Oregon. Those are not a threat to our forests. The other kind that will be
available to consumers is firewood coming from outside the Pacific Northwest
which will be heat treated. It will have a label stating that it is pest free.”
Even though local firewood is not required to be labeled,
commercial sellers can choose to do so anyway. A product label is allowed to
claim an approved Pacific Northwest firewood. A pest free label, however, will
require the same heat treatment needed for firewood originating from outside
Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
States with invasive species problems like emerald ash
borer, Asian longhorned beetle, or sudden oak death have plenty of dying trees
that are cut for firewood and then moved. These trees die in the first place
because of the insect or disease, which can then show up hundreds of miles from
any local infestation as people take the wood with them or sell it far from the
source. It has happened in other parts of the country; it can happen in Oregon.
“Emerald ash borer started out in the Detroit, Michigan area
and has been spreading about 20 miles a year on its own,” says Hilburn. “The
bug flies and spreads naturally. But there have been infestations showing up in
campgrounds well in front of the leading edge of natural spread. Ash is an
excellent firewood, so trees that are dying in Michigan often end up in the
back of a pickup truck or in an RV that goes camping in Missouri or
Pennsylvania, as an example. You can tell the insect is being moved with the
firewood because it shows up first in campgrounds.”
Emerald ash borer, which has become a poster child for how
firewood can be a vector for invasive species, has killed millions of ash trees
in Michigan and parts of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Ontario. The insect has
been found in several other states. Even though Oregon is about 2,000 miles
away from the main activity, the pest could easily show up on firewood.
Other unwanted pests can be readily transported on firewood.
Even though California has regulations prohibiting the transportation of firewood
from quarantined areas for sudden oak death, nobody can guarantee firewood will
not cross the Oregon border. Asian longhorned beetle has been found in the
Midwest and New York, and represents a major threat to Oregon’s native trees. A
wood wasp not native to Oregon is destroying pine trees in New York and
Firewood often comes to Oregon over great distances, even if
it doesn’t seem economical. A quick survey conducted by ODA at just a handful
of stores in the Salem area found commercial firewood from six states and
Canada. The wood came in small bundles and nearly all carried live insects.
Fortunately, none were found to be the serious invasive bugs Oregon does not
There is also the possibility of families moving from back
east to Oregon, bringing with them nearly everything in their possession–
The state’s new firewood law is the first major legislative
victory for the Oregon Invasive Species Council. OISC has done significant
outreach and education prior to the law coming into effect, including a major
“buy it where you burn it” campaign two years ago that featured billboards and
“This is the kind of regulation we hope will simply guide
people’s behavior,” says Hilburn. “ODA will be checking labels as we go about
our other business to make sure people are complying, but everyone agrees the
best way to enforce this law is to get the word out.”
A handful of other states have enacted their own firewood
importation laws. Neighboring Washington and Idaho will be watching closely as
Oregon moves forward with its law to help protect its natural resources.
With the camping season at an end, the attention now shifts
to homeowners who heat with wood or simply enjoy a crackling fire as the
weather gets colder. They’ll be looking for a source of wood for fuel.
Oregonians now can help do the right thing.
“I look at it like the Smokey Bear campaign, which is
designed to get people to pay attention and put out their fires,” says Hilburn.
“This law is protecting our forests from another threat, the threat of invasive
species. We need people to make sure they are buying local wood or buying wood
that has been heat treated.”
|Oregon farmers' markets open for business over winter|
The bounty of locally grown Oregon agricultural products is
usually in full bloom in late spring, summer, and early fall. But that has not
discouraged several farmers' markets throughout the state from opening the
doors well into late fall with some operating all through the winter months.
For those markets, their vendors, and their customers, the season is ripe with
the opportunity to provide many of the same experiences as a warm weather
"The tremendous popularity of our farmers' markets
apparently does not follow a traditional calendar," says Katy Coba,
director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "It doesn't surprise me
one bit to see successful efforts to extend the season for fresh, locally grown
Some 23 Oregon farmers' markets operate at least through
most of November with a handful staying open year round. The rest of the
state’s 120 or so farmers’ markets will stay dormant until next spring. But for
consumers and vendors alike who want to continue enjoying the farmers’ market
experience, chances are there’s one nearby still open.
“The diversity of Oregon agriculture and the different
regions of the state make it all possible,” says ODA trade specialist Laura
Barton. “Oregon is one of those states that has really broadened the season by
running right up to the holidays or beyond.”
It’s true that the number of fresh fruits and vegetables
drops along with the temperature, but customers should still be able to find
something to purchase.
“It includes products that were perhaps harvested in the spring
and summer that have turned into value-added products like jams and chutneys,”
says Barton. “But there are also winter squashes freshly picked as well as
pears and apples that were harvested in the fall and stored. Also, don’t forget
Oregon hazelnuts, which were just harvested not that long ago.”
Look for such seasonal items as heirloom beans or legumes
that are dried and sold at farmers’ markets along with processed grains that
are good for holiday baking. Many markets feature vendors with artisan cheeses,
craft beers, wine, and cider. Some small-scale ranchers bring in meat products,
including heirloom turkeys. Soon after Thanksgiving, the holiday season will be
in full display. Nursery products and greenery provide a colorful purchase item
this time of year. To supplement the items for sale, some markets add crafts to
the mix. All in all, it makes for a vibrant winter market experience.
Finding fresh produce is not out of the question. Some
market goers have been surprised to find bright red, juicy strawberries in the
dead of winter and think they must have come from California.
“We have some farmers who extend their growing season by
using hoophouses, greenhouses, and even hydroponics to deliver fresh fruits and
vegetables,” says Barton.
One of the pioneers of the winter farmers’ market is the one
in Portland’s Hillsdale neighborhood.
“We began our winter season back in 2003 because farmers and
customers asked us to run winter sessions,” says Hillsdale Farmers’ Market
Manager Eamon Molloy. “We have many of the same vendors and have added others
since that time. We have a wide variety of produce, meats, cheese, seafood,
eggs, and prepared foods. The variety of produce is more than many might think.
Even in some of the worst weather conditions over the past few years, farmers
have managed to bring in greens, as well as root crops, wild and cultivated
mushrooms, winter squash, apples, pears, and nuts.”
Not surprisingly, attendance at winter farmers’ markets
depends on the weather, even though some markets operate indoors. Molloy
estimates his market’s attendance in the winter is about 60 to 70 percent of
that during the summer. The McMinnville Public Market touts being Oregon’s
first and only year round rural market.
“Winter is actually our busy time,” says market manager
Shannon Thorson. “First, there are fewer markets open this time of year and
secondly, there is less to do in the winter, so people flock to our place.”
The Salem Public Market—Oregon’s oldest farmers’ market—is
another year round, heated indoor venue.
“By keeping our customers coming in all year long, we don’t
have to remind them it’s time to start coming to the market again,” says
manager Bruce Hunt. “If they like what we are providing, we shouldn’t deprive
them for three or four months during the winter.”
Among markets in the suburbs, Troutdale and Oregon City go
The Oregon City Farmers’ Market also features an innovative
program aimed at kids called the P.O.P. Club—Power of Produce. It rewards
youngsters ages 5 through 12 who come with their parents to the market. Kids
receive a “passport to health”, which is stamped each time they visit, and
tokens that can be used to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, or food plants. After
so many stamps, kids receive a “market surprise” (which we don’t want to spoil
in this story!). Local businesses and the Clackamas County Soil and Water
Conservation District have provided funding for the P.O.P. Club this season.
Such programs dovetail nicely with farm to school efforts in
“The winter farmers’ market programs are introducing kids
programs, especially since many schools are building school gardens and trying
to connect kids with where their food comes from as well as getting them to eat
healthier,” says ODA’s Barton. “Other attractions to winter farmers’ markets
include chef demonstrations using those products you can find over the next few
From Newport to Woodburn, Corvallis to Hines, and many other
locations around Oregon, the farmers’ market season will not rest.
For a complete listing of Oregon farmers’ markets, including
those with winter operations, go to http://oregonfarmersmarkets.org/directory/directory.html
|ODA seeks concept proposals for 2013 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program|
|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 2013. 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.
Specialty crops are defined as commonly recognized fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. Oregon ranks fifth 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 19, 2013 at 12:00 noon Pacific Standard Time.
ODA staff is available to provide applicants an understanding of the 2013 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.
Oregon Invasive Species Council Meeting and Awards Dinner
Date February 12, 2013
Location CCBI Building, 626 High St NE, Salem, OR
Specialty Crop Block Grant proposals due
Date February 19, 2013 (see story above)
Oregon State Weed Board Meeting
Date February 20-21, 2013
Location Oregon Department of Agriculture, Basement Hearings
Rm, 635 Capitol St NE, Salem, OR
Women in Agriculture Conference
Date February 23, 2013
Phone Margaret Viebrock, WSU Extension, at 509-745-8531
Oregon Small Farms Conference
Date March 2, 2013
Location Corvallis, OR
State Board of Agriculture
Date March 5-7, 2013
Location Salem, OR
Ag Progress Awards Dinner
Date March 20, 2013
Location Mission Mill, Salem OR
Oregon Ag Fest
Oregon Ag Fest is an activity-filled festival where kids
(and grown ups too!) can touch, taste and experience life on the farm.
Date April 27-28, 2013
Location Oregon State Fairgrounds, Salem, OR
Agricultural Education Award
The Agricultural Education Award’s purpose is to reward
student organizations, non-profit organizations, or classrooms that promote and educate
Oregonians about agriculture and extend the Oregon Ag Fest mission beyond its annual, two-day,
Nominations will be accepted up until the end of the day,
March 15, 2013.
Check out all the ODA public meetings