|Laboratory services put the science into ODA|
By Bruce Pokarney
|Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometer, LCMSMS|
It was Christmas in June. The large crate arrived at the Food Innovation Center in Portland-home to the Oregon Department of Agriculture's regulatory laboratory. Carefully unpacking its $340,000 contents, the agency's chemists had long anticipated this mid-summer gift. It was well appreciated. To these folks, a liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometer, with the abbreviation of LCMSMS, is as welcome as an Xbox-360 to a kid in late December. Except this isn't a toy and definitely not a luxury item. The new lab equipment will help ODA test and analyze samples-in most cases, food-more quickly, more efficiently, and more precisely. The real beneficiaries are those at ODA and in the agriculture industry who are concerned about such things as food safety and pesticide residues. In short, the LCMSMS gives ODA's regulatory lab a much greater capacity to help the agency do its job.
"Our chemists see this purchase as a statement by the agency that the lab is important," says ODA Laboratory Services Manager Kathleen Wickman. "It's an indication that the lab provides a critical service and contribution to the department."
The agency's director agrees.
"This new equipment is an acknowledgement that being technically competent is important to us," says Katy Coba. "It takes an investment in equipment and people. Laboratories are not static places. They must evolve because technology changes and those who require lab testing and analysis have changing needs. This new equipment shows we have a commitment to address those needs and respond to change."
For ODA, the door has opened a bit wider for more testing. That's a good thing in today's world of increased scrutiny of food commodities.
Customer service with ODA as the customer
The biggest customer of ODA's regulatory lab is the agency itself. The lab provides chemistry and microbiology analysis for ODA in the areas of food, dairy, shellfish, foliage, soil, fertilizer, water, and various products destined for export and import. Laboratory analysis gives ODA a way to rapidly and effectively respond to emerging issues that require scientific expertise. That means helping external customers too, often providing food safety and market assurance to the agriculture industry.
"A majority of our programs rely on the lab to provide the testing and analysis that is at the core of their mission," says Coba. "Despite critically short agency budgets, we know that a well-functioning laboratory must be maintained to serve important areas such as food safety, natural resources, and marketing."
The newly arrived LCMSMS has already been put to the test. ODA's Commodity Inspection Division (CID) has gathered onion samples, on behalf of the industry, to verify that what are called maximum residue levels are within tolerance. In cooperation with ODA, the industry has created a program to assure access to markets. The lab's new addition helps immensely.
"We've seen more sophistication of buyers who are increasingly concerned about pesticide residue levels," says Jim Cramer, CID administrator. "Whether they are food processors purchasing raw ingredients or housewives shopping for fruits and vegetables to feed their families, the agricultural products they buy must prove to be low in residue levels. Having equipment that is accurate and produces rapid results is an essential part of the service we provide."
Food certification services have become increasingly important, especially to an Oregon agriculture industry that relies heavily on the export market. ODA chemists and microbiologists perform analytical tests as they look for additives, preservatives, trace elements, and pesticide residues. By pre-certifying the product in Oregon, exporters can expedite the customs processes of foreign markets and deal with any potential problems prior to shipment.
Bang for the buck
Anyone over 50 years old probably remembers the old Gilbert chemistry set that allowed kids of the 50s and 60s to mix and match various compounds at home. Even the high school chemistry class that challenged students to identify an unknown compound through a series of procedures and chemical reactions seems like the Dark Ages compared to today's laboratory testing and analysis.
To a chemist, the LCMSMS is analogous to using cell phones in today's world of communication compared to yesterday's land lines and rotary phones.
"It's like using a microscope to look at a specimen instead of using a pair of reading glasses," says ODA's Cary Johnson, one of the first to learn how to use the new equipment.
"We can do a great deal more testing and look for a greater number of compounds in a single session," says ODA chemist Virginia Polomo. "Because of food safety issues and what is expected in today's lab work-well, the list is getting longer."
Not every state laboratory has the use of the LCMSMS. ODA now possesses one of the best machines around.
"It allows us to detect small quantities of compounds-it could be pesticides, antibiotics, or food additives," says ODA's Wickman. "In one instrument, we can look at samples that are more problematic instead of running that same sample several times or on different instruments. We can simply do things faster."
As an example, the more common and long-standing gas chromatograph-which requires that samples be heated to a temperature that converts them to gas-takes about 40 minutes to produce data. The LCMSMS can do the same thing in just five minutes. When the lab helped ODA investigate the misuse of a pesticide product on Malheur County onions a couple of years ago, two different instruments were used. It took 45 minutes on one instrument and 25 minutes on the other for each sample to be processed and analyzed. Now, the lab can look for six different chemical compounds on a sample of onions in less than 10 minutes.
The analytical phase is just as fast.
"The accompanying software is user friendly and has a lot more power as well," says Wickman. "It has a lot of ability to manipulate the data in multiple ways that can be very useful, including the ability to load into an Excel spreadsheet."
The spikes of a graph will indicate which chemical compound is present and in what amount. A picture is worth a thousand words to the chemist. Now, that picture comes much more quickly and in greater detail.
The search for Compound X
In 2007, the American public was introduced to a new adulterant in feed and food. The industrial chemical melamine, traced to production in China, was found in animal feed and dairy products. Labs across the US were busy trying to detect melamine as samples poured in. With the LCMSMS on board, ODA's lab is now better prepared to help such a cause.
"We chose an instrument that is very sensitive," says Wickman. "We know that methods have evolved over time and detections required for regulatory work have changed. When melamine first hit, the methods to detect it in a sample mostly required the use of the gas chromatograph mass-spectrometer, At that time, the detection level was 10 parts per million. As the story evolved and everyone realized we needed greater detection levels for melamine, the Food and Drug Administration developed a preferred method that requires the LCMSMS. The detection limit is one part per billion. If you are using the FDA method to detect melamine in milk, you need to hit the one part per billion."
The ability to assure that something like melamine is not present at such an extreme microscopic level can make a tremendous difference to food manufacturers that use dairy products.
"Simply put, this equipment will be a great benefit for food safety," says Wickman. "It will help us assure the consumer that the product is safe."
To Wickman, the problem is anticipating what the next melamine will be.
"Normally, we are looking for compound ‘X' and can tell you if and how much ‘X' is in the product. We haven't been able to detect unknowns, but this equipment will get us closer. We still need a library of spectra that the LCMSMS can match. That will take time."
The value of a traditional library is often determined by the quantity of books on its shelves. The LCMSMS will increase in value as identification data and methods to detect the multitude of chemical compounds out there is added to its library.
"It may not be melamine that rears its head again, it will probably be something else," says Wickman. "But if it's something we can identify, we can help."
An extended warranty
The world of analytical chemistry is ever changing. The complexity of chemical compounds in food and non-food samples makes it necessary to have the capability to keep up. ODA has added something new to the toolbox. It doesn't replace the older lab equipment, but augments the chemists' capabilities. In some cases, it may take some of the pressure off and extend the life of older equipment. By getting this model of the LCMSMS, ODA has also bought some time. Wickman expects the new technology of this equipment will stay current for at least 10 more years.
"This allows ODA to do more of what is now being done, but also provides a tool that can be used to deal with future issues," she says. "It allows us to be prepared to use the new methods that have become available for detection and analysis."
It may be the cherry grower who needs to prove that the next shipment to Japan meets all requirements for chemical residue levels. It may be the food processor that wants to be sure the imported ingredient being used is free of any toxins. Or it may be ODA itself that needs the data to take regulatory action against the misuse of a pesticide product. In all cases, the investment in the agency's lab equipment will pay off in significant ways that ultimately help the consumer.
|Board of Agriculture spotlight: Evaluating priorities|
The 10-member State Board of Agriculture is in the process of setting priorities and developing a road map for the future. That process of self-examination benefits from surveys completed by both industry and non-industry groups. Armed with feedback, the most recent quarterly meeting of the board, held early September in Baker City, focused on the sorting of key issues and how to approach them.
|Board members view a fish screen in an irrigation system.|
It has been a couple of years since the Oregon Legislature gave the board more responsibility-moving it from an advisory role to acting as a policy board.
"I think the board is attempting to evaluate and define what that additional responsibility means and in what areas the board should make policy," says Board Chair Bob Levy. "The board has evolved the past few years and will continue to do so. It's going to be important for the board to focus on issues where we can make a difference in the viability of Oregon agriculture."
The survey responses to individual questions can be summarized as follows:
Are you familiar with the Board of Agriculture?
Approximately two-thirds of the respondents indicated they were very familiar with the board. The remaining respondents either were not familiar at all or just somewhat familiar because of limited interaction with the board.
What do you think are the board's strengths and weaknesses?
Overwhelmingly, respondents believed the board's strength is in its diversity and caliber of members. Other strengths included the ability to reach out to both the ag and non-ag communities. For weaknesses, there was not a consistent theme, although the following areas were mentioned: the board lacks clout because it is not a regulatory board; the board should continue interaction with stakeholders when the legislature is not in session; and, the long travel distances are difficult with quarterly board meetings.
How do you think the board could be more effective?
The overwhelming response is "more outreach" with industry and non-industry groups, legislators, media, and other officials. One respondent suggested that a board member attend one commodity commission meeting every year to understand the commission's concerns.
In Baker City, the Board of Agriculture listed dozens of key issues for each of the four subcommittees: Government Relations, Marketing, Natural Resources, and Land Use. At the next quarterly board meeting scheduled for Portland in December, members will refine the list and examine the underlying policy implications of each priority.
The board tours that are a part of each meeting's agenda will focus on the key priorities and, in particular, the role of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. By gaining a better understanding of key agency issues, the board feels it will be in a better position to consider policy recommendations. As an example, December's meeting in Portland is expected to focus on food safety. The planned tour will shadow ODA's field inspectors as they routinely perform duties that help ensure a safe food supply.
As the board evaluates next steps, it's good to remember the tremendously valuable role it has played up to now.
"The Board of Agriculture's connection to the industry has provided ODA with tremendous insight, and its support of ODA and the industry at the legislature has been critical," says Director Katy Coba.
With its new focus on a carefully-crafted list of priorities and the continued dedication of each member, the State Board of Agriculture's future appears to be pointing in a positive direction.
As director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, most of my primary concerns are with our agency, our state's agriculture industry, and the people of Oregon to whom we serve. But it's helpful for me to be reminded there are 49 other states with departments of agriculture that share many of the same issues. Twice a year, I have an opportunity to meet with either my regional or national counterparts to discuss mutual interests, challenges, and, hopefully, solutions that benefit all of us. If we are going to share the pain, by getting together we can share the gain.|
In July, Oregon played host to the annual meeting of WASDA-the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture. WASDA is made up of the 13 western states' directors, secretaries, and commissioners of agriculture. Our meeting was held in downtown Portland over three of the hottest days of the year. Despite the sweltering heat (my counterparts from Arizona and New Mexico wondered what the big deal was), the group was able to enjoy a day-long tour and learn about sustainability Oregon-style. The stops included a nursery, a winery, and a stark example of land use conflicts in the urban-rural interface of Washington County. The next day, we took a one-hour break from the formal meeting to visit the downtown Portland Farmers' Market.
In addition, WASDA passed resolutions relating to the implementation of the Specialty Crops Grant Program as well as a resolution asking the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to send a letter to President Obama requesting resolution of the NAFTA Mexican trucking dispute. In particular, this dispute affects Oregon products such as processed potatoes, Christmas trees, tree fruit, and other commodities that are exported to Mexico.
And finally, WASDA discussed a potential visit to Washington DC to meet with Congress and the executive branch about our concerns related to western public lands policy as well as the implementation of potential federal cap and trade legislation.
More recently, I have just returned from Alabama, the site of NASDA's annual meeting. Many of the same issues were discussed but in a forum that included my counterparts from all states. Other regions of the US often grow different crops than we do and may have a viewpoint on certain issues that we don't share. But, again, we have much more in common than not. We heard the sobering truth about the overall status of America's agriculture industry. Each of us recognizes that it is a tough time for our producers and each of us is committed to doing what we can to ease the burden.
One of the more positive results of the NASDA meeting is the development of what is being called the "Meat the Need" proposal to address the critical economic situation of US dairy, pork, and poultry producers while also providing nutritional help to Americans facing hunger. With producers nationwide going out of business each day, partly because of an oversupply in the marketplace, the NASDA proposal takes extra inventories off the market to reduce supply. It would create a tiered-purchase program that would have USDA buy a certain amount of product and make sure it gets to food assistance programs. It's a bold plan that requires support from Congress. But if the federal government can create a "cash for clunkers" program for the auto industry using federal stimulus dollars, then hopefully something like "Meat the Need" will have similar backing.
These annual gatherings of state departments of agriculture can and do accomplish a lot more collectively than we might accomplish individually. For all of us, the one true common interest is the desire to help our agriculture industry during challenging times and prosperous times.
|Oregon agriculture seeks new opportunity in Middle East|
Oregon and its regional partners are looking at an emerging market filled with opportunity and half a world away. As an export market, it's not nearly as developed as Asia, but a group of Middle East countries is now getting the attention of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. With the bustling city of Dubai poised as an Arab version of Hong Kong, early overtures to the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates show promise.
|Display at Gulfoodâ€”a major food show in Dubai.|
Located on the Arabian Peninsula along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf, Dubai-which is also the name of the emirate in which the city is located-has seen a large-scale construction boom in recent years including the building of some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. It is now a business and tourism hub with the largest human-made harbor on the planet. As a port, Dubai is attractive for many reasons. There are no import quotas or other trade barriers. There is no import duty on a variety of agricultural products that can be provided by Oregon. The port also contains excellent warehousing and transportation facilities.
In 2008, Oregon shipped approximately $130 million in agricultural products to the Middle East. The majority of those were bulk commodities such as grain, feed, and seed products. About $4 million in high value products were shipped last year including fruits and nuts, nursery products, and seafood. That's where potential for expansion exists.
"We've seen a great deal of growth in Dubai, and the tourism industry there is huge," says ODA Trade Manager Amanda Welker. "Oregon has a lot of agricultural products that fit into that food service model. Twenty years ago, Dubai was just a spot in the desert. Now it could be the Hong Kong of the Middle East with great potential to reach a much larger audience."
It's a new territory for everyone, not just Oregon. But there are about 40 million people in the GCC. More importantly, about 60 percent of what goes into Dubai is re-exported to Northern Africa, India, and the former Soviet republics among other destinations. The initial consideration is the increasingly western tastes of the GCC.
"These countries are very affluent," says Welker. "Many people of the younger generation have studied in the United States and are familiar with our tastes. There is definite interest in western products and many of the things we produce in Oregon."
ODA's first exposure to the six-nation GCC came in February when it joined other member states of the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA) participating in the largest food and beverage trade show in the region. Gulfood, as it is called, attracted more than 45,000 visitors to Dubai from 152 countries. Nearly 20 companies from western states were among the 3,300 exhibitors.
The food show was followed by an inbound trade mission earlier this summer in which Oregon hosted a half dozen buyers from Dubai. Since more than 80 percent of the emirate's population consists of expatriates, the buyers were a mix of cultures-Lebanese, Indian, Pakistani, and South African. They all had one thing in common-they knew next to nothing about Oregon and its agriculture.
"They were curious about the Pacific Northwest and arrived not knowing what to expect," says Welker, who took the contingent on several stops in Oregon. "I think they were pleasantly surprised."
The group spent time in Portland, Hood River, and various locations in the Willamette Valley to primarily look at fresh fruits such as cherries and blueberries. Seafood was another commodity that attracted interest. And, believe it or not, there was some discussion of Oregon Christmas trees-something you wouldn't expect from a predominantly Muslim region. The trade group left knowing more about Oregon and can now pick it out on a map.
"They were serious business people, polite, courteous, and asked good questions," says Welker. "They were truly interested in our products."
Some early shipments of Oregon products have taken place on a small scale including shipments of pears and a recent sale of Pacific Northwest cherries. The dialogue will continue. ODA is beginning to recruit Oregon companies for next year's Gulfood show and would like to help fill up to 30 exhibitor booths in February.
The US ships a great deal of grain to the Middle East right now, but Oregon and its neighboring states are interested in finding opportunities for more high value products. With interest coming from retailers, distributors, and food service representatives, processed products hold particular interest. Oregon is in position to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, fruit and nut preparations, sauces, juices, specialty meats, and seafood as outlined by a list of best prospects for GCC countries. Consumer ready products are especially popular in this part of the world.
The Middle East is nothing like the traditional Oregon export markets of Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. Sheer geography creates at least one barrier.
"Competing with markets that are closer to the region, including Europe, will be a challenge," says Welker. "There are some direct flights to Dubai from San Francisco and Los Angeles, which could help out with our high value, perishable products. We're going to have to figure out if we can be competitive on price."
Welker advises interested Oregon companies to stay tuned for more information. Right now is a discovery phase for ODA in the Middle East. The next year or so will largely determine whether the export efforts are worthwhile, but there is no denying the fact that Dubai and the GCC are currently a hot market on a global scale.
|Animals in grocery stores "dog" food safety officials|
The dog days of summer had a different meaning in Oregon this year. It was not all that uncommon to see someone shopping at the local grocery store with the family pet in tow. Quite often animals in stores are considered service animals, allowed by law to accompany their owners. Many times, however, the shopper is bringing in an animal that should not be there. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is hoping to better enforce the law through an education campaign that is now fully underway.|
"Of all the complaints we receive from the public, pets in a grocery store-especially dogs-is by far our number one issue," says Vance Bybee, administrator of ODA's Food Safety Division.
That doesn't necessarily mean that dogs in a store is the number one public health concern in Oregon, but the matter is serious enough to warrant full attention.
"We've received complaints about dogs urinating in the aisle of a grocery store, jumping up and licking packages of meat, or sniffing food items on the shelf," says Bybee. "We are receiving more complaints these days simply because more people are taking their dogs into stores. They seem to be more attached to their pets than before."
So what are the rules about animals in grocery stores? Chapter 7 of the Retail Food Code (OAR 603-025-0030), adopted by ODA, states that live animals are not allowed on the premises of a food establishment except for service animals in accordance with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The definition of a service animal is "...any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability."
"The ADA provides that service animals are allowed into any public area where consumers are normally allowed, including retail grocery stores, restaurants, and other public places where you wouldn't normally find an animal," says Bybee. "The problem is retailers have had to take a person's word for it that the animal is indeed a service animal. There is no requirement for it to be licensed, wear an ID collar or tag, or be in a harness. That has retailers hesitant to ask a lot of questions and face any potential legal action taken by the animal's owner if the animal is wrongly denied access. That's why we are trying to get some key messages out to both the public and to retailers."
The first message is aimed at the owner of the animal. Certainly, those with a disability need to be assured that a service animal is allowed into a retail grocery store. But there may be a gray area in the minds of some people as to what qualifies as a disability. These are the folks who are generating the majority of complaints that ODA receives regarding animals in food establishments.
"Some people claim the animal provides comfort or emotional stability, and that's why they need to take them into a store," says Bybee. "That is a function not included in the definition of a service animal. The animal must perform a function for disabled individuals who cannot perform that function for themselves. It may be that the person needs visual assistance, needs help with balance, or needs the animal to open and close a door, for instance. Just wanting to have a pet with you at all times does not meet the definition."
Common sense and courtesy by pet owners can go a long way toward diffusing the tension often surrounding retailers, the general public, and the issue of animals in grocery stores.
The second message is directed at the retailer. They should not be afraid to ask some basic questions when a person comes into the store with an animal. Pets, in general, are not allowed in retail grocery stores or any other food establishment. They must be service animals. This is the default position for retailers.
"You cannot ask a person to identify their disability, but you can ask what the animal has been trained to do," says Bybee. "The person needs to identify the service that the animal performs that they can't do for themselves. There must be a direct link. It's okay for retailers to ask that question."
The third message goes to the general public-the vast majority of Oregonians who shop on a daily basis without bringing an animal along for the ride.
"You should feel comfortable bringing to the attention of store management that an animal is in the store," says Bybee. "And that is where you should go rather than approaching the animal's owner directly. Chances are it may be a service animal, but you have a right to notify the retailer."
Consumers can simply shop somewhere else if they aren't satisfied that retailers have addressed the issue. But they can also file a complaint with ODA, as many of them have to date. If ODA inspectors find a retailer who has consistently violated the rule, a citation can be issued. If it's possible to identify any food product that might be affected by a non-service animal, ODA may require that the food be removed and destroyed. But before taking regulatory steps, the Food Safety Division hopes to make progress through an outreach and education campaign.
ODA has created a dog-shaped poster for all retail food establishments to display that offers helpful tips to consumers who may see a dog in the store. The poster clearly states that pets are not welcome in stores. In addition, retailers have received pamphlets with detailed information regarding service animals. The pamphlet will help them know what to ask and when to ask each time a customer enters a store with an animal.
Enforcement of the state law prohibiting most animals from food establishments is not always easy. But with a better-informed public and retailer, the only non-service animals roaming the aisles will be human.
|Oregon's most unwanted: Invasive species update|
It has been a relatively quiet summer for invasive species of insects on the ODA watch list. But a new and unexpected invader has arrived on the scene, leading to a coordinated response involving ODA, USDA, Oregon State University, and the fruit industry.
|Drosophila suzukii photo by G. Arakelian|
First, the good news. After a gypsy moth eradication project in Eugene this spring, only a handful of the plant-eating moths have been detected statewide. None have been trapped.It is very possible that ODA will not need to propose a gypsy moth eradication project in 2010. Similarly, a limited number of Japanese beetles have been caught this summer following earlier treatments near the Portland Airport.
The news is not so positive for various fruit growers in the Willamette Valley. An exotic insect related to the common vinegar fly has been detected in Oregon for the first time. Drosophila suzukii does not wait for fruit to rot before laying its eggs. The female drills down under the skin of ripe or ripening fruit. Tree fruit and berries appear to be most susceptible and infested fruit rots quickly. An information meeting in September brought together concerned growers with researchers and appropriate government agency representatives. Catching the insect this late in the year, while damaging to a few growers, at least gives some time to find more answers and develop a plan to deal with the pest if and when it shows up next year.
The latest information on Drosophila suzukii and other insect pests can be found at http://oregon.gov/ODA/PLANT/IPPM
|Celebration of tenacity: The 2009 Oregon Century Farm & Ranch awards|
By Madeline MacGregor, ODA
|The Knox family, Knox Century Farm|
No matter the distance, weather, or age-Oregon's family farmers and ranchers owned the day on September 5th at the Oregon State Fair. Over one hundred relations from 19 families arrived in the summer rain, settling onto benches and chairs inside the Americraft Building. Clouds may have obscured the sun, but the mood was electrically charged.
For many, the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch ceremony (OCF&R), recognizing 100 years of continuous family farming or ranching, binds the recipients in unique fellowship and amplifies an existing sense of pride. A visit to the past explains why.
How the work shaped its people
It's four in the morning; black and snapping cold. A basin of water in the washroom is crusted with ice. You crack it open before rinsing your face. The towel you grab has been washed by hand, wrung through rollers, and pinned to dry in the wind. That bacon you hear sizzling in the kitchen? Your wife or daughter cured the slabs in salt and by smoke, wrapped the pieces tightly in linen, and stored them in the pantry. And four weeks before that, when the hog was butchered, hung headfirst, and dipped into a cauldron of boiling water-the bristles and hide were scraped by hand, the meat cut into chops, ribs and hams, and the fat melted for lard. All this before you eat, before you head to the barn or ride out to the fields.
And what does sunrise bring?
Your fingers are raw from tying barbed wire yesterday. If your back growls and knees sting, it's nothing unusual and there isn't any Advil to swallow. With stiff and sore hands, you pick up a heavy leather harness, unhitch the canvas bag from a snuffling nose, place a cold bit gently into a slobbery mouth, and move on to the next 39 horses, repeating the same routine. Once the massive combine is hitched to the team, a wagon loaded with hopsack and crew pulls alongside-600 acres of hungry, dusty wheat wait impatiently to consume your day.
Resilience forges the present and the future
Standing for just one tiny second in 100-year old shoes, we're reminded of the routine hardship Oregon's earliest homesteaders faced on a daily basis. How was it possible? How did these families succeed when the most common activities required hours of work, and then more work on top of that work-and when that work was done, a little sleep might come their way, followed by another day of more work.
Throw in a few floods, fires, bug-ridden crops, drought, cougars, and relentless debt-and it becomes apparent that pure survival would have been enough for most people. And yet Oregon's agricultural community persisted, always rising, always working, always in motion, carrying family and commerce forward.
The OCF&R award ceremony is a pageantry of resilience unaffected by simple summer showers, and where little occurs to dampen the spirit of five strong generations. Since the honorees are required to continuously work the land their ancestors founded, there is no doubt perseverance is woven into their inheritance.
ODA pays tribute to the following families for their inspiring contributions to Oregon's agricultural history:
OCF&R is indebted to its partners, sponsors, and supporters for their contributions to the ceremony and year-round activities. In order to ensure program survival for the next 100 years and beyond, please consider an endowment to the Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation for OCF&R. Please call 503-297-5892 for more information. The OCF&R program's 51 year history of identifying and honoring Oregon's agricultural families cannot sustain itself without your generous gifts.
- The Bartels Family Farm, owned by Larry and Sherry Bartels of Silverton. Original founder: Otto F. Bartels, Marion County, 1909.
- Bickford Family Farm, owned by Van Horn Vineyards and Steve Bickford. Original founder: A.F. Bickford, Hood River County, 1909.
- Carleton Farms, owned by Helen Carleton of Merrill. Original founder: George H. Carleton, Klamath County, 1909.
- Ek Farm, owned by Glen L. Ek of West Linn. Original founders: August and Axel Ek, Clackamas County, 1908.
- Charles J. and Catherine Gibbons Quinn Farm, owned by Henry Charles Jaeger and William Gustav Jaeger of Woodburn. Original founders: Charles and Catherine Gibbons Quinn, Gilliam County, 1883.
- Gilham-Brady Farm, owned by Marie Brady of Azalea. Original founder: John R. Gilham, Douglas County, 1892.
- Jim and Sandy Greiner Century Farm, owned by James Greiner of Mayville. Original founder: Andrew Greiner, Gilliam County, 1898.
- Knox Century Farm, owned by Doris Knox of Gaston. Original founders: Mary E. and Arthur Knox, Washington County, 1894.
- Obersinner Farms, owned by Leonard and Carol Obersinner of Woodburn. Original founder: Albert Obersinner, Marion County, 1909.
- Peters and Son Farms, Inc., owned by Don and Louise Peters of Sublimity. Original founder: Charles W. Peters, Marion County, 1901.
- Schlechter Farms, owned by James Schlechter of Salem. Original founder: Joseph Schlechter, Marion County, 1909.
- Byron Scott Farms; Knighton, owned by Maryanne and Don Wirth of Tangent. Original founders: Commodore and Rosannah Knighton, Linn County, 1882.
- Byron Scott Farms; Jenks, owned by Maryanne and Don Wirth of Tangent. Original founders Floyd Byron and Mary Bell Jenks, Linn County, 1882.
- Shelburne Homestead, owned by Robert and Sharon Shelburne of Dayton. Original founders: Martin and Leah Bratt, Yamhill County, 1907.
- Simms-Hoffman Farm, owned by Robert Hoffman of Beavercreek. Original founders: Richard and Cora Simms, Clackamas County, 1909.
- Sowa Family Farm, owned by Timothy and Mary Sowa of Molalla. Original founders: Enoch and Antonia Sowa, Clackamas County, 1909.
- Dement Ranch, owned by Gary Simon and Dement Ranch LLC of Woodburn. Original founder: Russell C. Dement, Curry County, 1884.
- Gilbert Ranches, owned by Steve Gilbert of Lebanon. Original founders: Edgar Gilbert and Joseph Gilbert, Linn County, 1893.
- Peterson Ranch, owned by Herbert Luther Peterson of Ione. Original founder: Aaron Peterson, Morrow County, 1907.
|Agricultural wa$te: Adding value to waste products by producing electricity, brewing fuel, and building soil quality|
By Stephanie Page
|Visitors tour Stahlbush Island Farms' new anaerobic digester|
"There is no such thing as garbage-just underutilized resources," said Stahlbush Island Farms co-owner Bill Chambers during a tour in July of the farm's new biodigester, which will harvest methane from food processing waste and convert it to electricity. The Stahlbush project is just one example of the many ways agricultural producers and processors can add value to "garbage" generated on their operations.
Stahlbush began evaluating options to deal with its food processing waste several years ago. "We were unable to sell about half of the waste generated from our food processing operation," says Bill Chambers, "so we had to spend money to get it hauled away." The farm also wanted to offset its own energy use after the energy price spikes of 2007 and 2008. "We didn't want to be at the mercy of outside energy providers," says Bill Chambers. "When we started this project 24 months ago, there was talk of energy scarcity and prices were very high. Many digesters are built in part for pollution control, but we're all about the energy."
E.C. Oregon conducted a feasibility study to evaluate a digester project for Stahlbush, and helped locate the digester technology. Thad Roth, biopower program manager with Energy Trust of Oregon, explains that a feasibility study is a critical first step in evaluating value added projects from waste streams. "A feasibility study analyzes the options available to you to make more beneficial use of the waste streams. These projects are really driven by the needs and opportunities of individual application, and there are different solutions that can meet the needs of each individual." Energy Trust helped fund the Stahlbush project, and has supported several digester feasibility studies on dairy operations in Oregon.
Other agricultural producers and processors have added value to waste products in different forms. Summit Foods in Cornelius, Oregon is converting waste juice from processing blueberries and other fruits into ethanol, and is preparing to ship its first batch of fuel this fall. The plant is receiving support from Oregon Department of Energy's loan program and through the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit.
"Summit was having to pay to dispose of some of their waste product," says Rick Wallace, Biofuels Program Coordinator with Oregon Department of Energy. "They will not only receive income from the fuel operation, they'll be saving money on waste disposal. A lot of people take a look at these fuels and want to make a bunch of money, but fuel production is also a way to get money back from something that's costing them."
For smaller-scale producers and processors, there are several other options to consider. A nearby bioenergy operation, such as a city wastewater treatment plant digester, may be willing to accept the material. Several dairies or small processors located near one another could evaluate a community energy facility such as a digester or small ethanol plant. But these opportunities are very location-dependent. "These projects really are very local in terms of their opportunities because waste streams are not high energy density resources and often you can't drag them around very far," says Thad Roth.
Another way to harvest energy from waste is to use it as fertilizer-after all, significant energy is required to produce mineral fertilizer. Composting or directly applying waste products to provide nutrients and build soil quality are lower-tech options that producers and processors can also consider. Examples of agricultural composters in Oregon include dairy operators composting manure, nursery operations composting their surplus products, a livestock processor in Lakeview composting rendering by-products, and wineries composting pomace.
For producers or processors interested in handling their waste materials differently, it's important to be open to a variety of options and tailor the project to fit your goals. "Look at your motivation on the business side," says Thad Roth. "Are you looking to decrease your energy costs or create some revenue streams? They will take you down different paths."
Visiting other projects, interviewing experts in each subject area, then conducting a feasibility study on the top option or options is a great way to start. A variety of technical and financial resources are available to support energy projects through the scoping, analysis and implementation stages. For assistance getting started, contact Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Energy, or Energy Trust of Oregon at the Web sites below.
|Oregon net farm income holds steady in 2008|
|Very little change took place last year in Oregon's overall net farm income, but what could have been a great 2008 bottom line for farmers and ranchers was negated by a rapid increase in expenses. An economic snapshot of Oregon agriculture shows net farm income at $861 million in 2008-a one-tenth of one percent decrease from the previous year and a 12 percent drop from the five year average. The latest numbers continue the downward trend of net farm income in Oregon since 2003's record high of $1.14 billion.|
"Just as everything seems to cost substantially more to the rest of us, Oregon agricultural producers are having to pay much more for all the things that go into running an operation," says Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "The positive news is our farmers and ranchers enjoyed strong prices for the most part and were able to maintain good production. That softened the blow of higher expenses in 2008. However, I'm concerned that when the 2009 net farm income numbers come out next year, we'll realize how challenging the current conditions truly are."
Net farm income is the amount retained by agricultural producers after paying all business-related expenses. It is considered an important indicator of the agricultural economy's overall health. The number does not account for payments on land purchases, family living expenses, or family health insurance. Statistics provided by the US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS) show net farm income has trended down the past couple of years.
It will be late summer of 2010 before this year's balance sheet is finalized. But with more than three-fourths of 2009 completed, the early forecast portends a sizable drop in net farm income.
"Prices in 2009 have collapsed for many key commodities such as grass seed, nursery stock, milk, and blueberries," says ODA analyst Brent Searle. "We know from past experience that expenses do not decline as fast as income. So we will see a squeeze in 2009. Depending on what they produce, farmers and ranchers may face intense pressure to their bottom line."
A tough economy may bring about some industry changes. Searle would not be surprised to see more grains and vegetables planted in the Willamette Valley, for instance, as grass seed growers reduce the amount of acres planted. Those kinds of transitions are not necessarily bad in a state like Oregon. Producers continue to look closely at the bottom line and find ways to be more efficient. As is the case every year in agriculture, challenges can create opportunities.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture hosted this year's annual meeting of WASDA-the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture-proudly showing off the state's agricultural bounty. A highlight of the ag tour included a visit to Fisher Farms, a Washington County nursery that specializes in sustainable practices. Leaders of 13 western state departments of agriculture also enjoyed a tour of a winery, the Portland Farmers' Market, the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, and a look at land use conflicts in the Portland metro area. Despite enduring July temperatures well over 100 degrees, each participant came away impressed with what Oregon has to offer. |
|Due to state budget cuts, the Oregon Department of Agriculture will be closed on the following days. Thank you for your patience.|
Friday, October 16, 2009
View the full list of closed agencies online: http://oregon.gov/furlough_closures.shtml
Friday, November 27, 2009
Friday, March 19, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Friday, March 18, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
|Farming Options in the Willamette Valley |
Friday, October 23, 9am to 3pm
Linn County Fair & Expo Center
Register: Oregon Seed Council, 503-585-1157
Farming options is a workshop to encourage interaction between growers, researchers, federal and state agencies, and market buyers about alternative cropping options to grass seed production. Come share your experience and learn from others about rotational considerations, grants, loans, federal programs, forage/animal feeding, and other ideas.
Denim & Diamonds
Friday, November 20, 2009
5:00 p.m. Awards reception and silent auction
7:00 p.m. Dinner and live auction
The Governor Hotel, Portland Oregon
A gala dinner and auction benefiting the Oregon's Keeping Agriculture Viable Initiative.
USDA now accepting Value Added Producer Grant applications
USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for the Value Added Producer Grant Program. The goal of the program is to generate new products, expand market opportunities, and increase the producer's share of revenue from the commodities they produce. The deadline for applications is November 30, 2009. More information about this program is available on the Oregon USDA Rural Development office Web site, http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/or/vapg.htm
State Board of Agriculture Meeting
Monday, December 14, 2009
Evening subcommittee activity
Tuesday-Wednesday, December 15-16, 2009
Day subcommittee and regular board business
Food Innovation Center Classroom
1207 NW Naito Parkway
Portland, OR 97209
Phone 503-986-4552 for more information.
The agenda will be determined closer to the meeting date and will be made available on ODA's State Board of Agriculture Web page http://oregon.gov/ODA/Pages/boardoverview.aspx
Nursery Advisory Committee Meeting
January 26, 2010, 2-4 p.m.
North Willamette Research Center
15210 NE Miley Rd
Aurora, OR 97002
Contact Sue Nash 503-986-4644
Christmas Tree Advisory Committee Meeting
January 28, 2010, 2-4 p.m.
North Willamette Research Center
15210 NE Miley Rd
Aurora, OR 97002
Contact Sue Nash 503-986-4644
Oregon State Weed Board Meeting
February 18 and 19, 2010, 9-4 p.m.
Salem, location to be announced
Contact Jo Davis 503-986-4621
Save a tree
Get the AQ online. Register at http://listsmart.osl.state.or.us/mailman/listinfo/aq