|Oregon agriculture steps up to feed the state's hungry|
By Bruce Pokarney
|Darrin Ditchen, producer (left) with Jim Younde, FEH (right)|
Darrin Ditchen of Stanfield was one of the first Oregon farmers to step forward in 2006 to support a new effort addressing the state's severe hunger issue. Ditchen had his own young family to feed, but was more than willing to help donate some of his green pea production as part of an inaugural shipment to the Oregon Food Bank Network. Over the past four years, his desire to help is echoed by others who donate food from the field.
"It's my duty, I feel farmers have a duty to help feed those less fortunate," says Ditchen. "I have been blessed and I hope to be able to bless others. When you donate a few bushels from each acre you grow, you don't even notice it at the end of the day. But those bushels add up and make a huge difference statewide."
The impact of the group Farmers Ending Hunger (FEH) is just one of many lifelines provided by Oregon's food and agriculture industry. Collectively, donations from farmers, ranchers, food processors, wholesalers, and retailers comprise the largest source of giving to the Oregon Food Bank and its statewide network. Today, the need has never been greater, as about 7 percent of all Oregonians eat out of emergency food boxes at some time during the year. Emergency food box distribution is up 12 percent statewide, and as much as 40 percent in some communities. Each month, more than 75,000 children eat meals from emergency food boxes.
"When I started with the Oregon Food Bank in the early 1980s, we were serving about 200,000 people," says Oregon Food Bank Executive Director Rachel Bristol. "Now it's close to a million people who go hungry during the year."
As expected, overall food donations are down 9 percent compared to 2009 and food prices are going up-both at a time when the demand has increased. The ability of the Oregon Food Bank Network to go out and buy food is much more difficult.
Even as the need for hunger assistance reaches unprecedented levels, Oregon farmers and ranchers continue putting food on the plate for many of the state's most vulnerable citizens. That generosity comes while agriculture itself is hard hit by the economy. Indeed, many farm families may be candidates for emergency food assistance.
"All this is simply an indicator of how much farmers and ranchers care about Oregonians and their community," says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. "Their efforts put a huge exclamation point behind what the industry represents, what it means to the state, and why we need to continue supporting agriculture."
Idea, inspiration, action
More than five years ago, irrigation consultant Fred Ziari of Umatilla County listened to a presentation about Oregon's hunger ranking. Oregon annually leads the nation in the production of several agricultural commodities. But leading the nation in hunger? Ziari couldn't believe what he was hearing, especially knowing about the bounty produced by Oregon agriculture. He strongly believed farmers would join together to donate a portion of their harvest to the Oregon Food Bank Network. Ziari and his long-time friend, Jim Youde, formed Farmers Ending Hunger and recruited a board of directors that included Frank Lamb, formerly of Eastern Oregon Farming Company, Bob Levy-a Hermiston-area farmer and member of the State Board of Agriculture, and Rick Jacobson, retired CEO of Norpac Foods, Inc.
The concept is simple. Farmers agree to donate a portion of their crop prior to harvest. Processors agree to donate a portion of the cost of processing. Farmers Ending Hunger raises funds to pay for the remaining processing, packaging, and transportation cost. The public participates through the unique Adopt an Acre Program to help pay the cost of getting the product processed and delivered to the food bank.
"One thing has become very clear since our organization got started four years ago," says John Burt, FEH executive director. "When presented with a challenge and an issue like the rising tide of hunger in Oregon, our farmers, ranchers, and food processors always step up."
Since that initial delivery of 173,000 pounds of frozen peas in November 2006, FEH has grown its donations to the Oregon Food Bank Network. This year's commodities include 660,000 pounds of potatoes, 350,000 pounds of onions, 165,200 pounds of fresh vegetables, 130,000 pounds of beef, and 200,000 pounds of wheat (with the help of the Oregon Wheat Foundation). Most donations have been delivered to the Oregon Food Bank Network in product form such as pancake mix eventually packaged into 24 ounce bags; frozen hamburger in two pound packages; 10 pound bags of potatoes and onions; frozen green beans, carrots and peas packaged into two pound bags; canned sweet corn; and fresh sweet corn, cauliflower and winter squash.
In total, donations through Farmers Ending Hunger have exceeded 4 million pounds of food since the program began in 2006. Even with a struggling ag economy, the 2010 donations approached the record setting year's contribution of 2.1 million pounds.
Putting it into the box
Donations from food retailers are responsible for 7 million pounds a year to the Oregon Food Bank. Much of that is shelf stable or canned product, but recent years, truck loads of fresh product has come directly from the fields of Oregon farms. Oregon Food Bank Network had to build the capacity to handle bulk products, both fresh and frozen.
"We've had to get ahead of the curve nationally by spending some $2 million last year throughout the network for freezers and refrigerators," says Bristol.
The items that come from a farmer's field and end up in an emergency food box often need to go through a step in between. Farmers Ending Hunger does its best to get the product suitable for the box. Collaboration within the agriculture industry allows the donations to be in a form people can use.
As an example, 225,000 pounds of pancake mix supplied to Oregon Food Bank this year relies on the cooperation of several parties that have a hand in the commodity. Farmers Ending Hunger and the Oregon Wheat Foundation provide the raw product. Pendleton Flour Mills turns the wheat into flour. Continental Mills then turns it into pancake mix. Dairy cattle donated by Columbia River Farms in Eastern Oregon become hamburger with the help of Walt's Wholesale Meats in Woodland, Washington, and packaging by Interstate Meat Distributors of Clackamas, Oregon. Willamette Valley farmers donate vegetables, some of which are processed by local companies such as Truitt Brothers and Norpac Foods and bagged as frozen product by volunteers from Marion-Polk Food Share.
"We've figured out ways of doing things that don't cost as much and we have some new partners that help pay for things," says Burt. "But we really need the public to become a partner and donate."
The effort is now focusing on expanding the base of contributors, both on the farm and in the non-agriculture community. There is a role for everyone. Farmers agree to donate a portion of their crop prior to harvest. Processors agree to donate a portion of the cost of processing. Farmers Ending Hunger raises funds to pay for the remaining processing, packaging, and transportation. The public participates through the unique Adopt an Acre Program to help pay the cost to process and deliver product to the food bank.
Last year's donations to Adopt an Acre reached $33,000. Burt is hoping that 2011 will bring more involvement from all kinds of Oregonians.
"We're trying to get more businesses, even non-agricultural businesses, involved and making the local connection to agriculture," he says. "We are primed to grow and we have a goal of reaching over 3 million pounds of food next year. But we need many more donations."
Businesses or individual Oregonians who can help are asked to do so by contacting FEH at http://www.farmersendinghunger.com.
Another salute to the industry
Tom Fessler of Mt. Angel has made most of his living growing nursery crops. But his operation produces other commodities including cauliflower. Fessler Farms planted 100 acres for processing this past year. After filling their contract, they still had 100 tons of cauliflower left in the field. What to do with the rest of the crop? Farmers Ending Hunger came to mind.
"John Burt has been talking to us for a few years about extra crops left in the field after filling contracts," says Fessler. "This year, we finally had something left over. It makes us feel good when a leftover crop can get to where it's needed and help people out."
Fessler is now chair of the State Board of Agriculture. His fellow board member Bob Levy-also current member of the Farmers Ending Hunger Board of Directors-is proud of what the group has accomplished in 2010.
"It's encouraging to see that we approached a record high in donations even though it was a tough year for agriculture," says Levy. "Farmers Ending Hunger has a good four-year track record that bodes well for the future. But we know the need for hunger assistance in Oregon and throughout the country will always be there. We also hope organizations like ours and others will always be there to help."
Many donations come from larger farms, which is understandable. But those donations offer more evidence as to why all of Oregon agriculture needs to remain viable.
"It's another reason larger operations fit into my ‘big tent' philosophy," says ODA's Coba. "More likely than not, our smaller farmers and ranchers are not going to have the capacity to free up an acre or two to grow food for a food bank because their operations may be just one or two acres in size. Their target market is completely different. A farmer who has 5,000 acres setting aside five acres to grow food specifically for the food bank is a whole different proposition and something they are able to do. All these operations, big and small, are good. The more we can get Oregon food into Oregonians' hands, regardless of the size of farm it comes from, the better off we all are."
And, of course, the more Oregon agriculture can get food onto the plates of hungry Oregonians, the better the chances of whittling down a growing critical problem in today's economy.
|Board of Ag Profile: Jerome Rosa|
Current president of the Oregon Beef Council. Past president of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association. Full-time fourth-generation dairy farmer producing organic milk. That's in addition to raising a family. His plate is full but Jerome Rosa of Gervais is finding the time to take on another important activity-member of the State Board of Agriculture.
"The industry asked me to get involved with the Board of Agriculture," says Rosa. "I finished my term as ODFA president about a year and a half ago, participating in a number of meetings and discussions statewide. So it seemed like I would be the logical one to try and fill a position on the board."
Fellow dairy operator Bernie Faber just completed two terms on the board and always made it clear that members should represent more than just their own commodity. Rosa is involved with dairy and beef-two of Oregon's highest valued commodities-but plans to continue representing the entire agriculture industry.
"I think the number one issue in agriculture is something you hear a lot about, and that's the term sustainability," he says. "There are many definitions, but to me, sustainability is the ability to pay the bills as a farmer or rancher. If what the Board of Agriculture is doing doesn't help our producers' long-term viability, we aren't doing enough. My main goal as a board member is to keep our producers profitable."
Rosa's great-grandfather immigrated to Tulare, California in the early 1900s. Most of the family still resides in the area. Graduating from Fresno State University with a degree in ag education, Jerome and his wife Carole moved to Oregon 22 years ago with no more than a desire to make it on their own. Her uncle had once lived in the Willamette Valley, but the Rosa's really didn't know anyone in Oregon when they arrived in the late 1980s.
"It hasn't always been easy, but I've enjoyed it," says Jerome. "We've met a lot of great people and we absolutely love Oregon. It's been the right move for us and for raising our kids."
Starting out with about 60 cows and doing everything himself, Rosa's JER-OSA Dairy has grown to a herd of about 600-half of them milking cows. In addition, the 300-acre operation includes pasture, corn, grass and clover seed. For the past decade, the dairy has been certified organic, a decision that fits Rosa's agricultural philosophy of adding value to the commodity in order to find a strong market. JER-OSA Dairy became one of Oregon's earliest producers of organic milk. Now, the state has become the second largest organic milk producer in the country.
As he applied for the board position, Rosa wrote that he "hopes to help unify conventional and organic production, therefore, aiding the sustainability of Oregon agriculture."
Rosa's impressions of his first board meeting are similar to those who have preceded him.
"There is a lot of information at these meetings presented to you rapidly on a broad spectrum of different issues," he says. "I'm not familiar with all the issues, but I'm sure to get more comfortable as time goes on. I want to get educated and up to speed so I can help the board make sound decisions."
Given that he quickly acclimated to Oregon, to organic dairy production, and to the issues facing the other organizations he's volunteered for, Jerome Rosa will be ready to contribute to the Board of Agriculture in no time.
With the November election behind us and a challenging legislative session ahead of us, it's a good time to reflect on where Oregon agriculture is right now. In my eight years as ODA director, I can't remember a time of greater change on the political front, and that has ramifications for our agency, for the agriculture industry, and for all Oregonians.
|Director Katy Coba|
Our new governor is actually our old governor. John Kitzhaber returns for a third term and there is no doubt he is somebody who knows how to be governor. The agriculture industry has a history of working with Governor Kitzhaber on a number of issues that have had positive results.
A lot of people would point to his support of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds as being good for agriculture. The plan's intent was to take control of our own destiny as a state by developing an effective response to threatened fish populations. The alternative was a federal listing that would lead to a proscriptive approach dictated by the federal government. The Oregon Plan is a much better choice. Agriculture's main contribution to the plan is the Senate Bill 1010 effort, which has established agricultural water quality management plans in 39 basins statewide. The governor was a big supporter of that program, and letting farmers and ranchers develop their own solutions to identified problems rather than having government dictate what can or can't be done. We continue to focus on making that program even better, and I think we can rely on Governor Kitzhaber's support in the future.
Dealing with invasive species is another area that fits into Governor Kitzhaber's interests as part of an overall strategy for watershed health. We can expect his support for addressing problems with weeds, pests, and diseases affecting agriculture.
The new governor is also very knowledgeable about an integrated water resources strategy and the importance of addressing water quantity issues in the state. We have his attention on the topic, which is good news for agriculture. From an industry standpoint, there will be a continued push for a two-pronged effort to make advancements in conservation while looking for opportunities to identify new supplies of water in an environmentally-friendly way.
In his first two terms, Governor Kitzhaber was very supportive of our marketing efforts. I expect that to hold true over the next four years, particularly given our economic problems. The governor believes, as we do, that there needs to be a focus on providing markets for our agricultural products-whether those markets are local, regional, or international.
A real positive for agriculture is the governor's emphasis on the economy and what we can do to support business in Oregon. That includes looking at ways to reduce burdensome regulation. Obviously, agriculture is a business and agriculture has regulatory issues. We've been able to provide input to the governor's transition teams on these matters. Creating jobs and a positive business climate in Oregon can only help the agriculture industry.
Of course, the governor is fully aware that he won a very close race in November. I know he has a purposeful intent to reach out to all counties of the state and see what can be done to help them economically. Agriculture will play a role in that outreach.
The other big political change is in the Oregon Legislature. During the last session, the democrats held a super majority in both the house and senate. That no longer exists. Democrats hold a slim majority now in the senate, and the house of representatives is an even split between democrats and republicans. You can expect the 2011 session to be one of moderation-finding the middle ground in moving the economy forward, minimizing impacts to state agency budgets, and finding new ways of doing business. It's all going to require bipartisanship. From my standpoint, that's a good thing. I believe we will have a good balance in how we approach issues and solutions in 2011.
I'm excited to work with the incoming governor and the new legislature. It's going to be incredibly challenging, but I think there will be many opportunities for Oregon agriculture.
|Eat your vegetables! Kids say okay. |
By Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe
|Director Katy Coba with students at Leslie Middle School|
Kids eating so many vegetables they can't keep salad bars stocked? It's true. If they grow it, they will eat it. In Turner, Oregon, kids are not only growing vegetables in the school garden, they are also eating them in the cafeteria and learning about them in the classroom. To hear about all the great farm to school connections being made in Turner, we caught up with Barbara Calderwood. She is the Food Service Director for Cascade School District where they serve about 1,900 lunches daily.
What's happening in Cascade School District?
Turner Elementary is my prize school. We had three teachers and many parent volunteers who got together and organized a garden on the campus. All 170 kids participated. They planted five fruit trees and five berry bushes. We had old tractor tires donated that they filled with dirt and planted with strawberries. Each classroom got to build its own raised bed and plant its own selection of vegetables. They made another raised bed out of hay bales and every classroom planted a lettuce variety that they harvested before school was out. They started this project May 1, and before school was out in June, they harvested salad mix that was served on the salad bar for one whole week.
If kids didn't eat school lunch, were they still able to eat the salad grown in the school garden?
Yes. There was a sampling table so that everybody could have a sample of the harvest. In fact, the cook was having a hard time maintaining their demand for food from the salad bar. They actually ate everything on the salad bar that week. Kids wanted more. They ate more because they grew it and they knew where it came from.
Who takes care of the garden in the summer?
We had a big commitment from the families, and we had a summer school program. The teacher that ran the summer school program was also one of the teachers that headed up the garden project. She received donations and the volunteers and kids in the summer program watered and monitored the garden. The classrooms came up with a watering schedule and the families also volunteered time to water and maintain the garden during the summer.
Looking ahead, what's on the horizon for your program?
Working with FoodHub, I want to continue to connect with local farmers. I found there are three local farmers that can help me with apples and pears in the fall. We are working on coming up with a Produce of the Month program, highlighting a fruit or a vegetable on our salad bar to help promote education about food and where it comes from. Moving forward, I am also going to work with the FFA teacher. She is going to implement classroom instruction on seeds and growing. They will produce vegetables in the greenhouses that we can offer in the cafeteria.
What advice would you give farmers who want to sell to schools?
Don't be afraid to deal with schools. We need more communication from farmers as to what they have available that we can purchase. They can call us directly or connect with us directly through FoodHub.
Want to check out the 70 schools and childcare centers on FoodHub who are looking for locally produced food?
Go to: http://www.food-hub.org. For questions about working with schools via FoodHub, membership rates, or for a free week pass, contact Stacey Sobell, School Food Service Coordinator for FoodHub: 503-467-0751.
|National School lunch week|
Farm to school and school garden programs can play a vital role in securing a healthy future for Oregon's school children while providing them an opportunity to connect with agriculture. That was the take home message from a gathering of state and local officials at Salem's Leslie Middle School this fall in observance of National School Lunch Week. Activities included a ceremonial planting of blueberry bushes in the school's garden and the announcement of a federal specialty crop grant directed at farm to school efforts.
|Officials plant blueberrie bushes at Leslie Middle School|
"Bringing kids closer to agriculture through the cafeteria, the classroom, and the school garden is an exciting prospect for many reasons," said Katy Coba, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "These kids will take an active interest in the food they eat and better appreciate the bounty of local, and nutritious foods that we grow in this state. As a bonus, these programs help promote better health through good eating habits."
Coba announced a $45,000 specialty crop grant approved by ODA to be shared between Salem-Keizer schools and the North Powder School District in Baker County to integrate the school cafeteria with the classroom and community through such activities as school gardens and field trips to farms. Funds will be used to hire coordinators to help teachers and after school programs be successful.
To mark the occasion, officials were handed golden shovels to help students from Leslie Middle School plant blueberry bushes in the school garden. Officials then joined kids in the cafeteria for a lunch featuring locally-grown products.
The National School Lunch Week event underscored the commitment Oregon has shown towards farm to school and school garden programs. The event also emphasized the public-private partnerships that make the programs possible.
Oregon is the first state in the country to have a farm to school position in both the state departments of agriculture and education.
"Providing healthy, nutritious meals is fundamental to helping students learn," State Superintendent of Schools Susan Castillo said. "These programs help get local Oregon products and produce into our schools-and that means healthier kids and increased achievement. In addition, the program increases support for local farms and keeps dollars in the local economy."
Statewide, nearly 70 school districts are interested in procuring more local food for school lunches. There are about 200 school gardens also providing a hands-on learning environment for students.
|State agencies buy local|
|Public entities that purchase food through State of Oregon contracts will now be able to buy up to $5,000 worth of locally grown products per transaction as long as those products are within 10 percent of the cost of an out-of-state product. The ability to purchase local product is part of new contract administration by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). As a result, it will be easier for local foods to make their way into state agencies and other public institutions such as prisons, schools, and Oregon's university system.|
"This is great news for our local producers and makes it easier for public agencies to buy local," says Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "This means the local corrections facility, as an example, can buy a truck load of apples from the farmer down the road without having to purchase from the lowest bidder or from the main distributor who is under contract to supply that facility. We now hope to match state purchasers with local farmers and ranchers, and create some transactions."
ODA worked with DAS to implement HB 2763-co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Clem and Rep. Ben Cannon, and passed by the 2009 Oregon Legislature-which permits Oregon agricultural product purchases by state entities that use public funds to procure goods. The implementation is reflected by the latest state contracts for food purchases. In the past, food purchases were restricted to the lowest bid, often including products grown outside of Oregon.
The new contracts also require distributors who submitted bids to identify items sourced from within Oregon, thus making it easier for purchasers to specify these items, if desired.
More information, including resources available to connect public entities and local producers, can be found at http://oregon.gov/ODA/ADMD.
|Federal conservation programs popular in Oregon|
If government rental payments to Oregon landowners currently enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program were an agricultural crop, their value of nearly $27 million would make conservation the state's 25th ranked commodity. However, there is no crop grown on that land, which is exactly the way it's supposed to be. CRP, as it is known, voluntarily takes environmentally sensitive land out of production and enhances it through resource-conserving cover crops while providing participants with rental payments. It's a fair and popular exchange in Oregon, and one of many examples that show farmers and ranchers care about the state's natural resources.
|Federal programs help landowners establish riparian buffers.|
"Agriculture takes care of more than 17 million acres of land in Oregon," says Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "That's a lot of land. And as I like to say, if you didn't have a farmer or rancher out there taking care of that land, who would be? Our producers' participation in these conservation programs fits right in with Oregon's general environmental consciousness."
The US Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers CRP and a host of other federal programs that help landowners help the environment in an economically viable way. FSA's latest numbers of CRP enrollment in Oregon show 4,208 contracts involving 2,214 farms covering more than a half million acres. The first national CRP application period in four years took place in August and Oregon's agricultural landowners jumped at the opportunity to enroll. Nearly 87 percent of those seeking to participate in the program were accepted, a higher statewide average than neighboring Washington and Idaho. The latest enrollment adds 75,720 acres of environmentally-sensitive land to CRP.
"America's farmers have always stood at the forefront of natural resource stewardship, and Oregon's farmers and ranchers are no different," says Lynn Voigt, FSA's State Executive Director. "It is programs like the Conservation Reserve Program that help Oregon's agricultural producers continue and enhance that tradition. Because of the stewardship commitment of Oregon's producers, nearly 550,000 acres of Oregon's most fragile topsoil are safeguarded from erosion with the CRP program."
Nationally, about 31.2 million acres are enrolled in the program. There is room under the 32 million acre statutory cap to hold another signup in the spring. Oregon's farmers and ranchers are expected to add more acres into the program in 2011.
CRP and related programs involve more than just leaving the land alone. Planting those lands in grass cover conserves soil and water resources while protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat. The resulting reduction of wind and water erosion helps reduce any adverse impact agricultural land might have on water quality and other environmental concerns.
"In short, these programs make participants major contributors to increased wildlife populations, reduction of water runoff and sedimentation, protection of groundwater, and improvement of Oregon's rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams," says Voigt.
While it is true that farmers and ranchers have an economic incentive for participation in programs like CRP, Voigt says it isn't about paying people not to farm.
"Conservation of our nation's environmentally sensitive lands and the natural resources associated with them remains the primary focus," says Voigt. "Program participants sign up in furtherance of the program's conservation objectives, but there are economic benefits as well. Producers enrolled in the CRP program plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion, and develop wildlife habitat. In return, FSA provides participants with the economic benefits of rental payments and cost-share assistance in connection with their 10 to 15 year contracts."
Voigt is quick to point out that the public gets a direct benefit through enhanced natural resources.
Another popular FSA program in Oregon is the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) which has funded a number of on-the-ground projects and activities. CREP funds have been used for riparian fencing to keep livestock out of streams and off streambanks. In August, FSA implemented its Conservation Loan Program. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also has a variety of voluntary programs to protect natural resources while enhancing productivity. They include the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). And while the agencies and programs are a hodgepodge of acronyms, each contributes to putting agriculture in position to be a good environmental steward.
"Landowners are willing to protect environmentally-sensitive lands because that's what they do naturally," says Ray Jaindl, administrator of ODA's Natural Resources Division. "Their goal is to protect the land for their children and their children's children. They've been doing it for generations while producing a crop or raising livestock so they can maintain their livelihood as well. For growers to be successful, they need to sustain the land and water that sustains them."
ODA's involvement in these programs is indirect. Programs are federally funded and the technical assistance to help landowners on the ground primarily comes from the USDA agencies. However, ODA field staff work with federal partners to identify opportunities to participate in conservation programs and relay that information to landowners whenever possible. Soil and water conservation districts play a key role as well.
"We encourage landowners to take advantage of these programs," says Jaindl. "These opportunities are good for the economy, the local rural community, and, of course, the environment."
The take home message to the general public is simple- farmers and ranchers love the land and most are doing what they can to protect the resource. That's something for the public to appreciate.
|Tax credit supports farmers' fuel savings projects|
By Stephanie Page
|Allen Chapman prepares to seed clover with no-till drill|
Over the past two years, Oregon farmers and the Oregon Department of Energy have used Oregon's Business Energy Tax Credit to support a type of farm equipment that offers huge energy savings-no-till drills.
The Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit Program provides a 35 percent tax credit for a variety of on-farm energy efficiency projects, such as lighting upgrades, irrigation pump efficiency improvements, and greenhouse heating efficiency upgrades. Most projects must save at least 10 percent of the energy used in an industrial process, and lighting projects must save at least 25 percent.
Recently, farmers began to wonder if the credit could be used for no-till drills because of the fuel savings associated with converting from a conventional to no-till cropping system. Harrisburg-based Malpass Farms was the first to submit an application.
"With the reduction of field burning in the Willamette Valley, and very high fuel and fertilizer costs, we had been actively looking for new ways to farm the ground with stubble remaining in the field," explains Jane DeWall with Malpass Farms in Harrisburg. Jane's son Matt adds, "Even though it was the first no-till application, we were hopeful we would qualify when we figured the savings in fuel alone." Matt and Jane DeWall worked with their John Deere representative and the Oregon Department of Agriculture to prepare the application, which included calculations of the fuel that would be saved by converting to a no-till cropping system.
The Oregon Department of Energy determined that no-till drills were indeed eligible for the credit because they allow growers to achieve huge reductions in diesel fuel consumption. "The applications we've received for no-till drills have demonstrated fuel savings above and beyond the 10 percent savings criteria," explains Matt Hale with the Oregon Department of Energy. "No-till and reduced-till conversions allow growers to reduce their trips across the field, and their diesel fuel consumption, by half or even more."
Hale has worked closely with each applicant as part of the application review process to ensure the department receives the information it needs to issue the credit. "The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory conducts tests on tractors' fuel consumption and the test results are readily available," explains Hale. "Growers and their sales representatives can use these test results to calculate their existing fuel consumption and future fuel consumption under a no-till conversion. This shows us the amount of energy they'll save as part of the drill purchase."
Smith Bros. Farms in Shedd learned about the credit from Malpass Farms just as they were preparing to convert about 2,500 acres of annual ryegrass fields to no-till. They received a Business Energy Tax Credit for the no-till drill and used it during the 2010 planting season.
"It turned out just the way we thought," says Spence Smith of the equipment's performance. "The fuel saving numbers panned out with the way that we ran them. It was exciting to see that it wasn't just numbers and that it turned out that way." Smith Bros. Farms also received a credit for straw chopping attachments on two combines because the choppers eliminated the need for separate trips across the field to flail mow grass straw. "The choppers got the straw really fine, so we were able to plant right into it," says Smith. " The no-till drill, and the two combines we have with the chopping attachment, went hand in hand."
In addition to fuel savings, no-till and reduced-till cropping systems offer a variety of soil health and environmental benefits. "It's probably the best way to get your soil tilth up in shape by being able to leave the straw on there," explains Spence Smith.
Malpass Farms reports the seeder has helped assure completion of planting within their desired time frame. "We feel timing is very important in the planting season," explains Matt DeWall. "This large system saves time loading and planting, as well as fuel. The first year we purchased the system, we quadrupled our wheat acres. It was a blessing to have this system to assure the completion of the planting."
Yet converting from a conventional to no-till cropping system can be challenging and stressful. "There is a significant amount of risk for growers to go to a no-till system in a grass seed operation, with slugs, seed establishment, and insects," explains Jane DeWall. The Business Energy Tax Credit has helped support no-till conversions by offsetting part of the potential cost of the conversion to the grower.
"The credit made it feasible to implement a no-till system, given the way machinery costs nowadays," says Spence Smith with Smith Bros. Farms.
"With the weak economy and demands for new and different crops, we have actually replanted triple what we had originally figured and this system has helped make that possible," says Matt DeWall. "We don't know how we would have made it without this system or the help of this Business Energy Tax Credit."
Hubbard farmer Allen Chapman received a Business Energy Tax Credit this fall for a no-till drill. He used the drill to seed 238 acres of wheat and 50 acres of clover on his own farmland, and also did some custom work for other area farmers. "Planting season was stressful this year, but I'm happy with how it turned out," he says. "One field looks a little weak, but we just planted it. The rest looks beautiful. The clover couldn't be coming up any better."
Growers must apply for the credit prior to placing an order on a drill. The Energy Conservation tax credit application is available on the Oregon Department of Energy's website. Oregon Department of Agriculture has assisted several growers and equipment dealers to locate Nebraska tractor test data and calculate the energy savings data that must be submitted with the application.
If the application is complete and determined to be eligible for the credit, the grower will receive a preliminary certificate from the Oregon Department of Energy. After the applicant receives and uses the equipment, they submit additional documentation to the department, then receive a final certificate with a tax credit amount. Most credits are taken over a five-year period and can be carried forward for up to three years beyond the five-year period. If the eligible project costs are less than $20,000, the credit can be taken in one year.
The department has also issued Business Energy Tax Credits for certain other technologies that can help farmers save fuel. Several farmers have received credits for adding Global Positioning Systems to their tractors because of the reduced overlap during tillage.
While applications for Business Energy Tax Credits for renewable energy projects are currently limited to certain application periods and subject to a cap, energy conservation applications for no-till drills and other energy saving projects are accepted at any time. The credit is currently scheduled to expire on July 1, 2012.
For more information about the credit, visit the Oregon Department of Energy website, http://oregon.gov/ENERGY or contact Stephanie Page with the Oregon Department of Agriculture at 503-986-4565.
|Oregon not bugged as much in 2010 by insect pests|
They may fly, they may crawl. In either case, non-native insect pests are truly invaders and not welcome in Oregon. For decades, the state has battled bad bugs ranging from gypsy moths to exotic wood boring beetles. Some years are more challenging than others. For 2010, it was a relatively good year. However, that may not have any bearing on what to expect in 2011. In the case of one species, there are signs now of a potentially serious problem in the new year.
|Crew of ODA's Japanese beetle eradication efforts|
The Oregon Department of Agriculture's Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program (IPPM) relies on a strong detection program to determine the presence of unwanted invasive species. This past year, ODA kept its eye on four species in particular.
With 12,000 gypsy moth traps placed throughout the state in the spring of 2010, only one gypsy moth was caught-the lowest count since ODA started trapping the insect in 1979. It's also the sixth time this decade that the number of gypsy moth detections in Oregon has been in single-digits, a far cry from the mid-1980s when more than 19,000 gypsy moths were trapped in Lane County alone.
"We were hoping for zero, but catching just one is good news," says Helmuth Rogg, ODA's IPPM supervisor. "This means for the second year in a row, there is no planned gypsy moth eradication program in the spring. Since our program began more than 30 years ago, we've never gone consecutive years without a spray program for gypsy moth."
Extra traps will be placed next spring in the Beaverton area where the lone gypsy moth was trapped last summer.
The recent trend of gypsy moth trapping is encouraging. The number of detections dropped from 12 in 2008, to six in 2009. There were no spray programs in 2002, 2006, and last year.
Japanese beetle is another invader drawing ODA's attention each year. The third year of Japanese beetle eradication treatments at Portland International Airport were completed last summer. Only a single Japanese beetle was caught at the airport this year, indicating treatments to eradicate its population at the site are working. However, two years of negative trapping are required to verify eradication. The Port of Portland cooperated throughout the treatment cycle and provided most of the funding. In the southern part of the state, five Japanese beetles were caught in Cave Junction in early August associated with potted plants belonging to a resident who recently moved from Iowa. Irrigated lawns in the neighborhood were treated with a granular insecticide this fall.
Spotted Wing Drosophila
A year ago, Oregon's fruit industry was alarmed by the presence of a tiny vinegar fly that was destroying healthy fruit. Detection of the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) prompted a comprehensive response plan that started in the spring, involving monitoring and treatment efforts by growers along with the help of a private consulting firm (Peerbolt Consulting) and Oregon State University. Additional outreach was provided by ODA. That plan probably had a lot to do with an improved situation in 2010. SWD populations continued to build through the summer and early fall. But protective measures taken by commercial growers-both conventional and organic-minimized the insect's impact and reports of fruit damage were not serious. Some backyard fruit and organic U-pick operations did experience fruit damage, but insect populations were spotty. Weather conditions and other factors may have helped along the way.
Brown marmorated stink bug
Trouble may be brewing with brown marmorated stink bug-a pest that has caused great damage to agriculture on the east coast and has been found the past few years in homes located in Oregon. The bug may be entering more homes now as it seeks winter shelter inside buildings. The stink bug has become established in Aurora, McMinnville, Salem, and from Portland west to Hillsboro, south to Tualatin, and east to Sandy. Back east, the stink bug has attacked tree fruits, berries, vegetable crops, and has even damaged young trees. The public can help ODA determine the distribution of the pest by calling the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline at (1-866-INVADER) to report brown marmorated stink bugs found in new areas around the state. In order to confirm a report, ODA requires a specimen. The hotline has details on preserving and sending suspect bugs.
Insect pest populations are often cyclical and there is no way to know for sure what 2011 will bring. ODA will once again put out its traps in the spring and summer, and be ready to respond quickly should a problem arise.
|ODA gets ready for next round of specialty crop grants|
|The Oregon Department of Agriculture is preparing to accept concept proposals for project ideas as part of a federal program for specialty crops. Approximately $1 million will be made available to agriculture industry associations, producer groups, commodity commissions, non-profits, for profits, and local government agencies in Oregon. ODA is requesting two-to-three page concept proposals from applicants describing their proposed projects.|
Concept proposals can be submitted online starting January 1, 2011 and must be received by February 15, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
The federal funds are part of the US Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. 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.
In November and December, ODA held two-hour grant writing workshops for the public across the state, providing an in-depth look at the program and going through the grant writing process step-by-step. ODA will continue to fund projects in the following areas as priorities for 2011 (not listed in order of preference):
Oregon's specialty crop grant program has a two-phase competitive process. An advisory board of industry representatives will evaluate concept proposals and select the top ranked applicants by March 30, 2011. Selected applicants will then be asked to submit full grant proposals by May 16, 2011, for a second round of evaluation. Projects chosen to receive funding will be announced by October or November of 2011.
- Market development and access, both international and farm-direct/local
- Product and varietal development
- Value-added initiatives
- Innovation and productivity
- Consumer education
- Food safety and traceability
- Certification and producer outreach, including, but not limited to, GAP/GHP, identity preserved, organic, sustainability, or other market assurance programs
ODA and the advisory board are looking for innovative proposals, and encourage interested parties to work regionally to submit collaborative project proposals that benefit Oregon producers as well as partners in other states that share common specialty crops. Projects that benefit new producers or socially-disadvantaged farmers are also strongly encouraged.
Concept proposals may be submitted for a project within the suggested funding range of $25,000 to $100,000, and for a project timeline of up to two years. Applicants are highly encouraged to provide a dollar-for-dollar cash match.
ODA staff is available to provide applicants an understanding of the 2011 granting process and requirements. However, to ensure that all applicants receive equal treatment, staff cannot provide assistance with preparing concept proposals. Directions on submitting concept papers and other information is available at http://oregon.gov/ODA/ADMD/grants_spec_crops.shtml or by contacting Katie Pearmine at ODA's Agricultural Development and Marketing Division at 503-872-6600.
|Three new publications available from ODA|
|The State of Oregon Agriculture|
An industry report from the State Board of Agriculture
Oregon Department of Agriculture Biennial Report
Provides a summary of what we do, what we have accomplished, and where we are headed.
2010 Oregon Agripedia
Handy reference for Oregon agriculture facts, laws, and resources
|Local Food Connection|
Now in its fifth year, this lively event brings together local food producers and buyers for business connections and to share information about building strong sustainable food networks. Details & registration at: http://localfoodconnection.org
- February 7, 2011
- Eugene OR.
Oregon State Board of Agriculture Meeting
- March 10-11, 2011
- Board of Agriculture Subcommittees meet March 9.
Oregon Department of Agriculture Building
635 Capitol St NE
Save the date-Ag Progress Awards Dinner
Oregon State University Campus
Oregon State University offers low-cost energy audits
Producers looking for energy saving opportunities on their farms can now schedule a low-cost assessment with Oregon State University's Energy Efficiency Center. The Center successfully received a grant from USDA Rural and Community Development, allowing the Center to provide up to 90 assessments on agricultural operations and rural small businesses throughout Oregon at $370 per assessment, one-quarter of the typical cost.
OSU's Energy Efficiency Center has identified energy saving strategies for agricultural producers, including irrigation systems, insulating greenhouses, and lighting improvements, along with other savings opportunities. For more information about the program, contact the Energy Efficiency Center at email@example.com or 541-737-3004.
Get ODA "Story of the Week" and News Releases electronically
Beginning in 2011, ODA will no longer mail printed copies of news releases and stories of the week. However, you can have your ag news delivered straight to your e-mail box. To register for ODA ag news, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive an automatic confirmation e-mail with instructions to complete the subscription process. Questions? Contact Bruce Pokarney, email@example.com, 503-986-4559. You can also find our "Story of the Week" and news releases on the ODA webpage at http://oregon.gov/ODA.