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The Agriculture Quarterly
Summer 2013
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Smart Partnerships: Oregon ranchers and veterinarians with international influence​

Chief Veterinary Officers from East African nations visit Harney and Malheur counties

By Kathy LeaMaster

 

“This could be Africa. This looks very much like Tanzania, but it would not be so cold!” The big green bus pulled to the side of the road near Eastern Oregon’s Alvord Lake on a chilly March day and visitors from Africa lined up for photos in a landscape that was reminiscent of home.


Clark’s vision: This trip would be different

This spring, 13 Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) and National Epidemiologists representing East African nations visited the Pacific Northwest and Texas to learn about US methods of livestock identification and animal disease control. The veterinary tour was sponsored by a partnership of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Dr. Andrew Clark, Pendleton resident and former Oregon State Veterinarian, coordinated the Oregon portion of the trip. Clark has worked with the USAID in East Africa since his retirement from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Part of his mission in Africa is to provide assistance to top veterinary officers from member states of the Eastern Africa Region as they develop and implement regional strategies for livestock identification and animal disease control.

“There are a lot of livestock in Africa. These people represent the disease control of about 350 million head of livestock—cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. That is almost twice the total livestock population of the United States. We’re talking about people with very sophisticated disease control experience, very sophisticated laboratories, and some viciously virulent diseases that we have never had here—and heaven help us, we don’t want!” —Andrew Clark, USAID/EA

The successful US animal disease control model relies on the coordinated efforts of federal and state regulators, private veterinary practitioners, and farmers and ranchers to develop, implement, and enforce standard methods and rules for animal care and movement. As a former State Veterinarian, Dr. Clark understands the importance of this working partnership and wants his colleagues from Africa to experience it first-hand.

Visits to the US for high-level officials like these might typically include a stop in Washington DC to meet with top-level USDA regulators and then perhaps a tour of our national veterinary laboratory, but seldom would they include travel to the livestock-producing areas to meet the people who make the whole system work. This trip would be different. Tour participants were introduced to the real ranching experience and learned how ranchers, practicing veterinarians, laboratories, universities, producer organizations, marketers, and regulators all work together to protect animal health, support the livestock industry, and ensure a safe food supply. The goal of this trip was to demonstrate the coordination and cooperation among all the diverse components of the American livestock health system so the CVOs could take home ideas to strengthen their own programs.


Introducing the partners

The journey began in Washington with a visit to the USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services Office in Olympia. Participants learned about the federal regulatory program from Dr. John Huntley, Area Veterinarian in Charge.

From there, the group moved to Portland for a meeting with Jim Krahn, Executive Director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, who spoke about the role of producer organizations in regulatory animal disease programs.

Then it was on to the Agriculture Building in Salem, where they met with the ODA Director, the State Veterinarian, and others involved in state animal health, livestock identification, and food safety programs. They had a presentation from Glenn Kolb of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA). While in the area, they visited the Woodburn Livestock Auction to observe identification and marketing of livestock, and toured the facilities of Dr. Tom Keck, a private practice veterinarian in Dallas.

The next day included a visit to Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to round-out the information-packed couple of days. This valuable introduction allowed the African visitors to meet the partners, hear their perspectives, and gain an understanding of the animal health system in our state. This background provided perspective and set the stage for discussion as the tour bus left for Eastern Oregon.

 

First stop: Burns

After a quick stop at the Big R Farm and Ranch Supply Store, the group toured the ranch of Louie and Melodi Molt. They were then treated to a barbecue dinner hosted by the Harney County Cattlewomen’s Association. Curtis Martin, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association president, addressed the attendees.

“What I want to emphasize is how great a benefit we in modern animal agriculture have because of the history of the working relationship between producers, scientists, and doctors of the veterinary field. And how great of a system we enjoy here in America, especially in Oregon. I think we have something that’s very enviable; that works very well. We have a highly intricate, perishable product, and I think that all of us as producers need to realize that it’s something to guard, protect, and promote—the working relationship between producers and the government agencies that help with food safety and quality. We take it for granted much too often.” — Curtis Martin, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association President

 

Roaring Springs Ranch

An early morning drive down the Frenchglen Highway brought the tour group to picturesque Roaring Springs Ranch in time for a home-cooked ranch breakfast in the cook-shack. Ranch Manager Stacy Davies spoke to the group about the economics of ranching in Oregon. Visitors were especially interested in the management strategy that allows for 100 acres of land per animal. With a vast area of land available, the ranch provides year-round grazing. By moving cattle regularly, Davies (who jokes about really being a grass farmer) is able to keep plenty of grass growing, as each acre is only grazed about two weeks out of the year.

Julie Weikel, retired ODA veterinarian, has worked with Eastern Oregon ranchers for years. As the tour’s veterinary consultant, Weikel helped arrange for the ranch visits and worked with the ranch managers to provide instructional demonstrations of Oregon animal disease control and identification procedures. At Roaring Springs, she led a demonstration of cattle vaccination and ear tattoo application and interpretation.

When female bovine breeding stock are vaccinated for Brucellosis, they receive a special metal eartag and tattoo in the right ear as proof of vaccination. Eartags can fall out over time, but a good tattoo remains for the life of the cow. However, if a tattoo is not made properly, it can fade and become unreadable. An animal with an illegible Brucellosis tattoo does not qualify for interstate movement, which has a direct negative effect on its market value. This is why a good tattoo is very important to a rancher.

Visiting CVOs witnessed a spontaneous on-the-ground problem-solving discussion between rancher, veterinarian, and regulator as Davies, Weikel, and State Veterinarian Brad LeaMaster talked about failed tattoos and possible identification improvements. While this kind of discussion seems appropriate and logical to us, it was unexpected from the perspective of the visiting vets. This kind of partnership is not common in East African countries. Many of the visitors spoke of being responsible for development of animal health regulations and strategies without any participation from the producer. And without buy-in from the producer, disease control strategies are difficult to implement.

Roaring Springs is a for-profit ranch. Davies is a keen businessman with intense knowledge and understanding of the cattle industry. His focus is on management for profit. But, as he squints into the morning sun and noisy geese fly overhead, it is clear that profit isn’t his only motive.

“We do live at the end of the road for a reason. We like to be alone. We’ve had opportunities to develop—to have recreational business. We could have a lot of people here all the time, sharing the beauty, and we’ve chosen to not do that …We’ve chosen not to do a lot of things that would make more money, because we like our privacy. We like the wildlife—and wildlife’s important to us. We manage for wildlife, clean water, clean air, and open space. It’s equal, in our mission, to profit—a healthy ecosystem and peace and quiet.” —Stacy Davies, ranch manager

 

Alvord Ranch

Border collies-a-plenty greeted the bus at the Alvord Ranch. Ranch Manager Paul Davis spoke about the unique aspects of ranching in Oregon’s high desert. He gestured with his right hand to the mountains where cattle spend the summer, then with his left hand to the miles of open land where they spend the winter. His cattle spend their lives on the range in some pretty tough country.

“It takes a special cow to exist out there, compared to a cow you feed hay to all the time. It’s survival of the fittest here.” —Paul Davis, ranch manager

In fact, it is the adaptation to this tough environment that Davis feels gives his cows a longer productive life span. He says that as long as cows are producing healthy calves, they have a home on his ranch.

Davis uses radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on his cows for an electronic herd records program, managed by his daughter Elizabeth. Over time, Davis will be able to learn more about any individual animal, particularly her age and production.

The Eastern Oregon town of Jordan Valley was home to the veterinarians for their last day on the Oregon tour.

 

Skinner Ranch

Bob and Karen Skinner hosted the group for a tour of their animal handling facilities. Bob Skinner, rancher and former President of the Oregon Cattlemen Association, has represented the cattle industry at both state and federal levels. He understands the difficulty in crafting legislation to regulate a widely diverse industry.

“The livestock industry is so diverse, even in the state of Oregon. There is so much difference in the way they do business on the westside and the way we do business here in the high desert. We’re at a little over 4,000 feet high here—good cattle country—but it’s a totally different climate and we have to run a different operation. So when you move into the eastern and southern part of the United States—those people have a very different operation than we have. And it’s hard when they start writing legislation and putting laws in place at the national level that affect all of us—it’s really hard to get something that works for everybody. …We have to work with our people at the federal level and at the state level to get something we can live with so we can continue on in business. …A lot of people in my business don’t participate in the process. If you don’t participate in the process, you’re going to get what they give you.” —Bob Skinner, rancher

Skinner spoke about his efforts to raise top-quality cattle for the high-end natural beef niche market. He described video auctions, quality ratings, and producer guarantees that all help to build a rancher’s reputation, strengthen his position in the market, and subsequently bring a higher price for his cattle.

Ranching is obviously more than a business to Skinner; it is a way of life.

“My family started here in 1863. I’m the fifth generation, and there’s the sixth, and there’s the seventh (pointing to his children and grandchildren). This is what we really like and what we really want to do. All of us are ranchers.” —Bob Skinner, rancher

 

Last stop: The Hanley Ranch

The last stop on the tour included a trip to the “Old West.” Rancher and historian Mike Hanley made the last stop of the tour a memorable one with a colorful history lesson about the development of livestock production in the western United States.

Hanley and his ranch team demonstrated roping, castrating, branding, and vaccinating of spring calves. Then he pulled out the vintage stagecoach with a four-horse team and proceeded to give once-in-a-lifetime stagecoach rides to everyone on the tour.

The experience was complete with a trail lunch of stew and beans served from the last chuck wagon used in the Jordan Valley area. 

 

L

ess​ons learned

Before riding off into the sunset, participants talked about lessons learned.

Oregon’s State Veterinarian Brad LeaMaster summarized the experience well.

“It was wonderful to be able to participate in this tour. The experience brings to mind a couple of points—those being, the importance of perspective and partnerships. Perspective is important because in our very busy day-to-day activities it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. Our daily focus is largely local. This visit certainly emphasizes the fact that what we do here may have an impact on the other side of the world. Partnerships are important, as they are the catalysts that allow those of us with regulatory responsibilities to work efficiently with the producers, markets, and other segments of the livestock production complex. We are blessed to have an open, hospitable, and professional working relationship with our livestock producers in this state. Successful partnerships just don’t happen by themselves…they are built on trust and good communication. I hope some of our examples here in Oregon will be useful to our East African colleagues.”

Some of the tour participants had been to the United States before, multiple times, and as the tour wound its way through the farms and ranches of Oregon and later through Texas, they could be heard commenting, “Now we are seeing the REAL America!”

 

Video story and photos available online:

http://oregon.gov/ODA/Pages/1306african-cvo-tour.aspx 


 

“I have learned at least three things: The level of organization—the way your livestock industry is organized. From the producer, the regulator, and the private sector—this is what I like to describe as a “smart partnership;” whereby, each of the three knows his or her responsibility.

And I’m very much impressed by the level of awareness among the producers. When it comes to regulations, your producers are highly aware of regulations and enforcement.

And farmers groups, the way they send a message up to regulators—this is what we want to do in the industry. And regulators listen.

This relationship is something we need to copy from you.” —Frederick Kivaria, National Veterinary Epidemiologist, Tanzania.

 

“I realize that we have been fed on textbook matter too much. You get books describing what exactly is not on the ground. We have been around and we have seen where the textbook knowledge is applicable and where it is not applicable. Conditions vary quite a lot and there is no single book that will tell us all this.” —Nicholas Kauta, Chief Veterinary Officer, Uganda

 

“Many lessons I am taking back home—like how consultation takes place between the government and the producers–and how producers are organized so they can make their case in policy formulation and development by the government.

I’ve also seen how it is important for families to really take care of the ranch operations by inducing the different generations into it. We saw so many family-based operations. That is very impressive.” —John Lefuk, South Sudan​

 
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Director's column

To have Pacific Northwest bragging rights is always something to look forward to. When the opponent sits across the Columbia River from you, the competition gets even more intense. Whether it’s the Beavers and Ducks vs. the Cougars and Huskies, or it’s the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture vs. the director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, it’s time to throw down the gauntlet and go for the win. But in the case of a month-long food drive competition between the two states, there are no losers. Everybody wins!

To help celebrate June as dairy month, the dairy commissions of both Oregon and Washington asked Bud Hover, my counterpart in Washington, and myself if a little friendly competition might help raise awareness and food donations in both states as part of “Northwest Farmers Fighting Hunger.” We thought it was a great idea and soon other partners joined in, most notably Fred Meyer stores, who continue to be a terrific supporter of Oregon agriculture and these kinds of efforts. As I write this, we still don’t know the final outcome of the contest and who will win the trophy, but I’m proud to say the effort in both states has been a success.

The issue of hunger in our two states is not going away. Anything we can do to raise the profile of the hunger issue and also raise the profile of all the great things agriculture is doing to help alleviate hunger in the Pacific Northwest is worthwhile. Oregon’s 37,000 family farms grow an abundance of nutritious food. This food drive helps channel some of our state’s bounty toward local families experiencing hunger during the summer months. Food assistance organizations in both states, including Oregon Food Bank, are distributing the donations.

One of the central themes of the campaign has been that hunger does not take a summer vacation. In an average month, an estimated 270,000 people in Oregon and Clark County, Washington ate meals from emergency food boxes during the past year. Of those, almost 92,000 were children. The Oregon Food Bank network says it has seen a 9 percent increase in food boxes as long-term unemployment and high cost of food, fuel, and housing forced more people into poverty. Similar statistics are tied to Washington.

The issue of hunger is very real in our state. We have been focusing on the problem for the past decade, ever since Oregon was identified in the early 2000s as being the hungriest state in the nation. Governor Kulongoski, at the time, challenged Oregonians to turn that statistic around. A number of groups, including agricultural organizations, became very involved in the hunger relief effort with a strong relationship developing between Oregon agriculture and food banks around the state. Even though Oregon is no longer number one in being the hungriest state, we still have many families in need and we remain committed to doing all we can to help Oregon’s hungry citizens.

Oregon farmers and ranchers continue putting food on the plate for many of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, even as the need for hunger assistance has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. Donations from such organizations as Farmers Ending Hunger have resulted in millions of pounds of food finding its way into a hungry home.

Oregonians have always stepped up to the plate and I know the same is true in Washington. We are good at helping our own. Once we see a venue for giving, we respond.

The dairy commissions and all the partners that have worked hard to make the month-long food drive a success deserve kudos for taking on an important issue. It’s my hope that this competition between the two states becomes an annual affair. I also urge Oregonians to continue food donations year around, since we know that hunger hits many families 365 days a year.


 
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Board of Agriculture: Reflections of the nearly departed

The State Board of Agriculture says goodbye to two of its members who have each served two 4-year terms. Lynn Youngbar of Portland, who is one of two public members on the board, and Jan Kerns, who is part of a family farm and ranch in Baker County that produces beef and potatoes, share some of the experiences and observations from the past eight years in an interview with the Agriculture Quarterly.

 

Q: How would you describe your time on the Board of Agriculture?

Jan: Challenging, educational, thought provoking, and rewarding. Topics that we have dealt with many times don’t specifically relate to any single commodity, but relate to every person who lives in Oregon—topics like water, the environment, and something important to every one of us, food safety.

Lynn: For me as a public member and not a grower, it has been a very steep learning curve. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned about Oregon agriculture. My perspective has mostly been as someone involved in farmers’ markets and helping vendors be successful. But now, I’ve seen the perspectives of dairies, beef cattle ranchers, potato growers, other production agriculture, and processing—so this has really broadened my view. It has also been important to convey the message that ODA is really an important agency that doesn’t just deal with growers, but is involved in all aspects of agriculture. I have seen an agency that is doing a yeoman’s job on a very difficult range of topics.

 

Q: In the past eight years, how has the Board of Agriculture changed?

Lynn: The board is growing along with the complexity of issues it has to deal with. Water quality is a perfect example. I knew very little about water quality when I started, but as this issue has been raised in awareness and importance, we’ve had to step up. Being on the board has become a bigger job than it was when I started. You used to be able to show up every three months and just read the materials that were provided for us. Now, we’ve had to do a lot of in-depth study in order to deal with these topics. We’ve also gone from our subcommittes just hearing from ODA staff on issues to really having those subcommittees look in-depth at those key issues and discuss them.

Jan: We are now dealing more in concepts, defining problems, and finding solutions that involve agriculture’s role. Eight years ago, these large-scale discussions on water quality and food safety really didn’t take place.

 

Q: What advice do you have for new board members?

Lynn: Be prepared to educate yourself and learn about what you don’t know. Also, be a good listener.

Jan: Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, be willing to read, dig, and research on your own.

 

 

Board of Agriculture looks to fill vacancies

The Governor’s Office is currently accepting applications for two vacancies on the State Board of Agriculture. Positions to be filled include a public member and an agricultural producer. Governor Kitzhaber will make the appointments. While there is no set deadline for applications, the appointments will fill positions whose terms expire September 5, 2013.

Those interested in applying for the State Board of Agriculture must complete an interest form and return it to the Governor’s Office. The interest form and other important information can be found online: http://oregon.gov/gov/Pages/boards.aspx

 
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Tillamook barn quilt represents Oregon

Artwork on a Tillamook County barn has been chosen to represent Oregon in the new American Quilt Trail Redwork Kit by historic needlework designer The Posy Collection.

The “Far West” design on Richard Obrist’s barn is also featured in the book “Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement” by Suzi Parron and Donna Sue Groves.

Barn quilts from 12 states were selected for the redwork kit, which features a form of needle art that uses red thread on natural-colored fabric.

“Barn quilts are colorful patterns of quilt squares painted on panels and hung on barns and buildings that capture the spirit of American quilting and local heritage,” said Posy Lough, owner of the Posy Collection. “We took some of the more iconic ones and put them together in a kit for quilt lovers and stitchers to enjoy.”

In addition to being a work of art, each barn quilt tells a story unique to its owner or property in which it is placed. Obrist’s, for example, blends seamlessly with the white and green barn on his Fairview Acres Farm in the bucolic Coast Range.

Thousands of barns across the United States feature quilt-like designs. Other states with barn quilts featured in the redwork kit include: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, Iowa, Texas and Ohio.

The Posy Collection has been translating American history into needlework kits for more than two decades. Designs depict everything from presidential homes and historic sites to natural wonders and famous Americans.

For more information on the quilt trail movement and Parron’s book, visit www.barnquiltinfo.com

For details on the American Quilt Trail Redwork Kit, visit www.posycollection.com

 
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Kids get an education on animal welfare

ODA Director Katy Coba spent a morning this spring with students from Glenfair Elementary School in Portland touring an 82-foot mobile veterinary command center used by the American Humane Association (AHA) during natural disasters. As part of a west coast tour co-sponsored by Foster Farms, the big rig stopped in Portland, giving kids a chance to learn how agriculture provides humane treatment of animals. AHA has certified all 42 Oregon and Washington Foster Farms ranches as part of the association's animal welfare program. “Consumers have shown much more interest in where their food comes from and how it has been raised,” said Coba. “They want it raised humanely, and this third-party certification program is the way to show consumers that it is raised humanely.”​

 
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Governor embraces Celebrate Oregon Ag campaign
Governor Kitzhaber had plenty of good things to say about the importance of agriculture to Oregon in an interview with KATU's Steve Denari, producer of the popular morning TV show “AM Northwest.” The governor's segment was part of a regular feature of the show, which has played a key role in the Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign. Aimed primarily at parents and caregivers of school-aged children, Celebrate Oregon Agriculture uses TV, print, and online resources to reach the audience. Start-up money came from USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered in Oregon by ODA.​
 
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Nutrition a main ingredient in Oregon farmers' markets

Nearly nine out of ten American consumers surveyed say nutrition is very important to them personally while more than seven out of ten say they are very careful to select foods that achieve a healthy diet. What a great time to visit a farmers' market somewhere in Oregon. Once again, farmers' markets offer seasonal food that is fresh, locally-grown, and nutritious. At a time when a greater array of fresh fruits and vegetables are available, special nutrition programs are again underway to help bring Oregonians in need together with healthy food at farmers' markets

"If you walk into any farmers' market, it’s a cornucopia of nutrition," says Laura Barton, trade manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "Farmers' markets offer fresh fruits and vegetables just packed full of nutrients. Other farm direct products that offer lots of nutritional value include such items as eggs and cheese. You can feel good about the products you buy at farmers' markets."

A survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association in 2011 uncovered some interesting nutrition trends that indicate consumers strongly favor purchasing healthy foods while shopping. The survey shows 89 percent of the respondents strongly believe diet and nutrition are very important while 76 percent indicate they are very careful to select foods that achieve balanced nutrition. That same survey shows that nearly half of the respondents have increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables over the past five years with berries accounting for the biggest increase.

Cost remains a key factor in food choice decisions, but assistance is once again available to help economically disadvantaged individuals and families access fresh, local foods at farmers’ markets and farmstands in 2013.

Nearly 120 farmers' markets in Oregon's are now open. Many of those markets offer fresh fruits and vegetables to low income, nutritionally-needy families and elderly citizens as part of the Oregon Farm Direct Nutrition Program (FDNP) administered by the state. ODA specifically works with the vendors—the growers themselves—to ensure their participation in the program, which brings more than a million dollars into the hands of Oregon farmers each year.

"Many farmers are delighted to participate in the program because it makes them feel really good that these consumers are able to buy their product and get much needed nutrition," says Barton.

FDNP funds in the form of four-dollar checks are distributed to low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant women and young children enrolled in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program as well as eligible low-income seniors. These checks can be used through October 31, 2013 specifically to purchase locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables directly from authorized producers at farm stands and farmers' markets.

In addition, a separate program provides another opportunity for farmers and WIC families. All women and children enrolled in the Oregon WIC Program can receive additional vouchers on a monthly basis to purchase fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables year round from authorized farmers at farm stands and farmers’ markets. It’s called the Oregon WIC Fruit and Veggie Voucher program and also allows recipients to buy produce at WIC-authorized grocery stores. Because the program operates all year, vendors at early opening and late season closing of farmers’ markets have a chance to sell even more produce items to WIC shoppers.

Since many low-income individuals don't normally shop at farmers' markets, the nutrition program has a side benefit of introducing new customers to the concept of buying direct from the farmer.

"Things picked that morning and put into a consumer's hands right away are going to maintain their nutrient profile as well as have great flavor," says Barton.

Farmers' markets remain a very special way to connect urban consumers with the rural farms where the product is grown. Consumers get a chance to see the faces of those producers and have conversations about the food they are about to purchase. The same kind of benefit exists for the producer.

"Farmers find it very special to see and hear the appreciation directly from the customers who buy their products at farmers’ markets," says Barton. "If they are selling products in another venue, they usually don't have that connection to the consumer."

Early season offerings by Oregon farmers’ markets were largely confined to a variety of fresh greens, such as spinach, as well as winter root vegetables like carrots and parsnips. Non-food products, such as flowers and bedding plants, were also available to consumers. Now that summer has arrived, more great Oregon tastes are available to consumers including fresh berries. Shoppers need to keep in mind that what was available in May and June won’t necessarily be there in August and September. Likewise, many products coming on in late summer or fall were not available early in the farmers' market season, including pears, watermelon, and fresh corn. One of the joys of shopping at a farmers’ market is that availability of product can change from week to week. In recent years, many growers have successfully extended growing seasons to offer fresh produce over a longer period of time.

Farmers' markets in Oregon are getting increased attention by more than just the general public.

“Markets are now a conduit for chefs, hospitals, and schools looking for local products they can purchase directly," says Barton. "There are many initiatives to connect schools with vendors at farmers' markets. Farmers can drop off product at schools on the way to the market or on the way back."

Whoever the customer, it is obvious there is a hunger in Oregon for really fresh food and the ability to see where that food comes from. Farmers' markets are filling that need.

For more information on Oregon’s farmers’ markets, including locations and times of operation, go to www.oregonfarmersmarkets.org

 
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Oregon ag's leading counties

Marion County remains the runaway leader, three Eastern Oregon counties are next on the list, and 25 of Oregon's 36 counties reported an increase in agricultural sales in 2012 according to statistics compiled by Oregon State University.

Oregon's total agricultural sales for 2012 are up nearly 3.4 percent at more than $5.48 billion—another record high for the state. Eleven counties recorded double digit increases this past year.

The top ten list of Oregon counties by 2012 gross farm and ranch sales:

  • Marion $639 million
  • Umatilla $487 million
  • Morrow $482 million
  • Malheur $373 million
  • Clackamas $343 million
  • Linn $301 million
  • Washington $292 million
  • Klamath $290 million
  • Yamhill $269 million
  • Polk $162 million

 
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Oregon Farm Mediation Program

Ask the mediators on contract with Oregon’s Farm Mediation Program, and they’ll happily give you advice on how to prevent conflicts. They are passionate about fostering civility and helping farmers understand the law, even if it means less business for them.

But an average of 15 cases per year keep coming into the program, in part because mediation is such a good alternative to resolving disputes through the court system. It has proven an excellent fit in Oregon for resolving farmer-employee conflicts and other types of conflicts that can arise in agriculture.

“Our sole purpose is to help the parties resolve a conflict without enduring the stress, expense, and lengthy process of litigation,” says mediator Ken Pallack.

The program, administered by ODA, keeps three professional mediators on contract to resolve disputes that involve a farmer as at least one of the parties. The mediators act as a neutral third party during the session, clarifying the issues that each side hopes to resolve.

“I think there is a lot more opportunity for input from each side in a mediation,” says Stephanie Page, the program coordinator. “In court, the parties don’t have a say in the outcome of the case—a judge or jury determines the winner and loser. In mediation, each side will likely have to give up something they want and may be disappointed that the outcome was not as positive as they hoped for. But they do get to decide if the outcome is something they can live with.”

Mediation is also lower-cost and typically resolves disputes in a shorter time frame. Generally, mediation sessions through ODA's program are scheduled quickly after parties agree to mediation, and average less than a full day. Some types of cases, such as those that involve farm succession, may require multiple meetings over time to address transitional issues as they arise.

Originally developed to deal with conflicts between farmer borrowers and lenders, the program today addresses a variety of types of conflicts, including labor, boundary/trespass, and farm succession. The majority of the cases in the program today are labor cases.

Recently, ODA and a variety of irrigation districts and organizations in Central Oregon collaborated to create the Central Oregon Water Dispute Program. It is a special program within the Farm Mediation Program to address irrigation-related conflicts, including conflicts among multiple water users being served by a single source or conflicts between an irrigator and an irrigation district.

“One issue that we often hear about is easements,” says mediator Dena Marshall, who has dealt with several irrigation cases. “Landowners sometimes hit a sticking point when their needs for water change or their land uses change. We see a lot of value in getting people to sit down together. Sometimes it takes a few meetings, but we usually find that neighbors can figure out a good solution that works for everyone.”

While each mediation case has unique circumstances, some of the same themes and problems surface frequently in the program. “The most common farm labor issue that we encounter is failure to pay minimum wages,” says mediator Ken Pallack. “Most farmers pay piece rate. There’s nothing illegal about paying piece rate. However, an employer must make sure that the farm workers earn at least minimum wage. The farmer must keep accurate records of the hours that each employee worked. Farmers are not always aware of this requirement.”

Pallack says that it's of utmost importance that issues be resolved as soon as they come up. “If an issue comes up, resolve it as soon as possible. Don't let it wait because it is likely to get worse.”

“It is helpful for the parties to engage the mediation process as early as possible in the dispute--before they get dug into their positions,” adds mediator Stan Sitnick. “This usually serves to clarify issues, reduce litigation costs, provide a reality check for both sides, and increase the likelihood of lower settlement amounts.” Sitnick also recommends direct communication between the parties.

One of the most important practices that farmers can take to prevent any type of conflict is good documentation. This includes good documentation of the terms in a contract, whether for sale of agricultural goods, for employment, or for lease of a farm. It means providing accurate and complete wage statements to workers that show hours worked, rate of pay, and pounds picked.

If a conflict does arise, and both parties are willing to try to resolve it through mediation, they can each submit applications to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Most types of cases are $30 per hour per party, but labor cases are free. Central Oregon water dispute cases are $35 per hour.

There is no pressure from the program for the parties to reach a settlement. If a settlement is reached, the terms are spelled out in an agreement. Anything said during a mediation session is confidential and cannot be used as evidence in any judicial proceeding without the written consent of the parties.

The program’s overall resolution rate is about 80 percent. Participants rate the program highly, with 95 percent indicating, on anonymous post-mediation surveys, they would recommend the program to someone else.

“Records are confidential and participants don't necessarily want to advertise that they participated in the program, so we can’t use the testimonials and success stories we typically use to showcase programs,” says Page. “But the feedback we usually get from participants and their attorneys on the mediators’ performance is very positive. We hope that folks will be able to avoid conflicts, but if they have an issue, we are very confident that they will have a good experience in this program.”

More information and application forms are available at oregon.gov/ODA

 

Visit the regulations section of Oregon Agripedia for links to labor laws and other laws and regulations related to agriculture. http://oregon.gov/ODA/pages/pub_agripedia.aspx#Regulations_section_online

 
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Food Safety Modernization Act moves forward

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law more than two years ago, aims to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. The first two of five proposed rules of the FSMA are out for comment and the Oregon Department of Agriculture is urging farmers and processors to take a close look. ODA is preparing comments to submit to US Food and Drug Administration regarding general issues relevant to Oregon farmers and processors. To help shape those comments, ODA is asking producers and processors to email their questions and concerns regarding FSMA directly to <oda-fsma@oda.state.or.us​>. In addition, comments can be submitted directly to the FDA official docket. The comment period for both rules has been extended to September 16, 2013.

ODA has scheduled various FSMA workshops and events, and will stay actively involved in making sure FDA hears from those who have issues and concerns with the proposed rules. ODA has also created an FSMA web page at <http://oregon.gov/ODA/ADMD/Pages/fsma_oregon.aspx​> that details the proposed rules and how to provide comment.

 
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Oregon county fairs prepare for safe livestock handling

Oregon County Fairs prepare for safe livestock handling at summer events

State Veterinarian Brad LeaMaster gave a presentation at the County Fairs Association meeting in Gold Beach regarding guidelines for animal health inspections at county fairs, diseases to watch for, and appropriate local response.

LeaMaster introduced Sara Livesay, fourth-year graduating veterinary student from the OSU School of Veterinary Medicine. Livesay presented the findings of her senior project, “Evaluation of Veterinary Inspections at County Fairs in Oregon.” The results of her project have been submitted for publication. This presentation on the southern Oregon coast was particularly timely, as Livesay was recently hired to work at a veterinary clinic in Brookings and will be serving Curry County.

“Sara’s presentation was well received by the association and helps to underscore the importance of veterinary inspection of animals prior to their entry into the fairgrounds,” says LeaMaster.

 

2013 County Fair Schedule

  • Baker County Fair: August 7-10
  • Benton County Fair & Rodeo: July 31-August 3
  • Clackamas County: August 13-18
  • Clatsop County Fair: July 30-August 3
  • Columbia County Fair: July 17-21
  • Coos County Fair: July 23-27
  • Crook County Fair: August 7-10
  • Curry County Fair: July 25-28
  • Deschutes County Fair: July 31-August 4
  • Douglas County Fair: August 7-10
  • Gilliam County Fair: August 29-September 1
  • Grant County Fair: August 7-10
  • Harney County Fair: September 3-8
  • Hood River County Fair: July 24-27
  • Jackson County Fair: July 16-21
  • Jefferson County Fair & Rodeo: July 24-27
  • Josephine County Fair: August 14-17
  • Klamath County Fair: August 8-11
  • Lake County Fair & Round–Up: August 29-September 2
  • Lane County Fair: July 24-28
  • Lincoln County Fair: July 12-14
  • Linn County Fair: July 18-21
  • Malheur County Fair: July 30-August 3
  • Marion County Fair: July 11-14
  • Morrow County Fair: August 14-17
  • Multnomah County Fair: May 25-27
  • Polk County Fair: August 8-11
  • Sherman County Fair: August 21-25
  • Tillamook County Fair: August 7-10
  • Umatilla County Fair: August 6-10
  • Union County Fair: July 31-August 3
  • Wallowa County Fair: August 3-10
  • Wasco County Fair: August 15-18
  • Washington County Fair: July 25-28
  • Wheeler County Fair: August 6-11
  • Yamhill County Fair: July 31-August 3

 
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Announcements

​Oregon Invasive Species Council

Date: July 9-10, 2013

Location: BLM North Bend Office, 1300 Airport Lane, North Bend

Website: http://oregon.gov/OIS

C

 

Oregon Ber​ry Festival

Date: July 12-13, 2013

Location: EcoTrust Building, Portland, Oregon

Website: www.oregonberryfestival.com

 

Oregon Soil and W​ater Conservation Commission

Quarterly: Meeting and Work Session

Date: July 30-31, 2013

Location: Willow Lake Water Pollution Control Facility, Keizer, Oregon

 

5th Annual Friends of Oregon Agriculture Golf Tourna​ment

Date: August 9, 2013

Website: www.aglink.org

 

Oregon ​State Fair

Date: August 23-September 2, 2013

Location: Salem, Oregon

Website: http://www.oregonstatefair.org

 

Oregon State Board of Agriculture Meeting

Date: September 17-19, 2013

Location: Prineville, Oregon

Website: http://oregon.gov/oda/pages/boardoverview.aspx

 


Check out all the ODA public meetings

More info: http://oregon.gov/ODA/Pages/meetings.aspx


 
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Print version
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