|Turning it around in the Tillamook|
by Bruce Pokarney|
Last November, on a typical grey and damp day along the northern Oregon Coast, a small boat made its way up the Wilson River- one of five rivers that drain into Tillamook Bay from an intensive agricultural area. Among the four people on the boat was Oregon Department of Agriculture Assistant Director Lauren Henderson, who hoped that he and his son could land a steelhead or Chinook salmon.
"Our fishing guide was very experienced on that river and knew it well," recalls Henderson. "When he found out I was from ODA, he was quick to tell me how much better things were on the Wilson. He said the river was much cleaner and that the surrounding dairies had done a great job of making improvements."
What a difference a decade or two makes. In the past, it was not uncommon for the guide to see spray applications of liquid animal waste on fields abutting the river on rainy days. Runoff would carry the manure right into the river, which partly accounted for high bacterial counts that violated clean water standards. But the Tillamook area, with its well-known dairies and scenic bay, has been cleaning up its act.
A unique but powerful partnership that includes private landowners, local organizations, and public agencies is making a measurable difference, backing up the fishing guide's anecdotal evidence with real data. The Tillamook may end up being a model for other Oregon watersheds that have water quality limited streams.
Recognizing problems, discovering solutions
People in Tillamook are fond of saying that their home is a "land of trees, cheese, and ocean breeze." It's an area of major dairy production as part of a watershed that includes fishing and other recreational opportunities as well as commercial oyster production in the bay. Twenty years ago, it was generally acknowledged that water quality in the five rivers was impaired to some degree.
"Fingers were pointed at the dairies," says Mitch Cummings of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "Fecal coliform could have been coming from several sources including municipal systems, failed septic tanks, and wildlife. But there was no doubt that livestock was also a contributor."
Initially, a great deal of work was done by NRCS, the Tillamook County Soil and Water Conservation District, and other agencies to help dairies store manure so that it could be applied as a fertilizer to pastures at the proper times and rates. The first liquid manure tanks and dry manure storage buildings were installed 30 years ago, but it was a long, slow climb for the industry until several factors converged to bring about more rapid improvement.
In the late 1990s, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) added more than eight miles of the lower Wilson River to the state's list of impaired waters under the Clean Water Act. The Wilson is protected for what is called recreational contact use.
"When someone is fishing, boating, or swimming, our standard is set at a level low enough that people won't get sick through contact with the water," says DEQ's York Johnson.
A collection of public and private interests began to find solutions. Combining voluntary efforts and regulation started making a difference in water quality, but it didn't happen overnight.
In 1999, what is now known as the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership began working with other entities to implement a plan filled with recommended actions that could help improve water quality. Other partners chimed in, including ODA, DEQ, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, NRCS, Oregon State University, the Tillamook County SWCD, and the cooperative that represents the dairy farmers in the area.
"In the 1980s, water quality was limiting beneficial uses in the watershed," says Mark Wustenberg of the Tillamook County Creamery Association, makers of well-known Tillamook Cheese products. "For example, water quality was significantly impacting the local shellfish industry. Today, more area is approved for shellfish production and the frequency of closures has been reduced."
The state's Confined Animal Feeding Operation Program (CAFO) was well underway at this time and required annual inspections and an animal waste management plan on permitted facilities.
Before regulations were put in place, dairies didn't have a lot of manure storage.
"They may have had up to 10 days of storage, but when it got full, the farmers had few options but to apply the manure to the land," says Wym Matthews, manager of ODA's CAFO Program. "Then OSU extension and the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association (ODFA) started providing outreach and education. Producers learned that if they put in manure tanks, stored the animal waste, and avoided putting it out during the wet season, there would be fewer runoff-driven bacteria events in the nearby rivers."
Technical assistance and funding from participating agencies provided a shot-in-the-arm for dairy producers who were beginning to understand the role they could play in water quality improvement. Adequate storage of manure was the first step. Properly managing that waste as a beneficial resource was next.
ODA's water quality program also worked to adopt a plan and regulations in the area to deal with water quality concerns from erosion, riparian areas, and other agricultural sources. As part of this effort, Tillamook County SWCD received funding from ODA to help landowners with water quality protection projects.
Between 2002 and 2007, landowners-including dairy farmers-implemented a number of best management practices in the lower Wilson River watershed. With the help of various agencies, landowners completed 20 riparian enhancement projects that included planting, fencing, and invasive species removal. Streambanks were stabilized, cows were kept away from riparian areas.
"I can't think of a single dairy in Tillamook that hasn't done something to address its animal waste handling over the past several years or make other improvements," says the NRCS's Cummings. "Whether it was a storage tank they built on their own or it was participating in some other program, most people made an effort to improve water quality on their farm and in their community."
And the results speak for themselves.
Dissecting the data
For more than a decade, water quality monitoring has been routine on all five rivers-the Wilson, the Kilchis, the Miami, the Trask, and the Tillamook. But all the sampling in the world does no good without proper analysis. DEQ's York Johnson has closely examined the numbers every two years since 2006. When it comes to measuring bacteria in the water, those numbers are getting better.
"The data is exciting," he says. "The Wilson River came into compliance with water quality standards for recreational use in 2005. The Kilchis came into compliance in 2009. So we have two of the five major stream reaches that were on the list of impaired waters now meeting standards. That's a huge success."
Another river is moving in the right direction. Johnson uses the term "statistically significant decreasing trends," which really means bacteria levels are going down.
"The Tillamook River, while not yet meeting water quality standards for bacteria, is showing statistically significant decreasing trends at all its monitor sites," says Johnson. "If we can maintain the trends, pretty soon the Tillamook will also be in compliance."
The Trask and Miami rivers have more fluctuations with some decreasing trends at specific monitoring sites, but other sites are not consistently moving in that direction. Out of a total of 43 sites being monitored in the entire system of rivers, 22 are showing trends of improvement. Each of the five rivers has at least some areas of improved water quality.
Having solid data has encouraged landowners, including dairy operators, to keep up the good work and perhaps do more.
"It wasn't all doom and gloom from the start-we were able to show what is happening in the Wilson and Kilchis," says Johnson. "Once I was able to talk to people and tell them where we saw water quality improvements and where we still had problems, they were able to focus their efforts and concentrate on the issues they feel made the most difference. They took more ownership in the process and that's when we started to see improving trends."
Water quality monitoring remains important. Most everyone is optimistic that better management practices and handling of animal waste will continue to decrease bacteria levels in the nearby waters.
A model of success
Conservation systems that include manure storage, nutrient management, and riparian area restoration have reduced nutrient run-off from farmed lands adjacent to the Wilson and other rivers in the Tillamook area. There is enough credit to go around to a wide circle of hard working partners that includes landowners.
Just since 2008, NRCS has documented 52 comprehensive nutrient management plans in the area, several thousand feet of riparian fencing to keep the cows away from the rivers, installation of 31 waste storage facilities, and systems to move manure to field locations where it is needed most. The Tillamook County SWCD has helped secure other federal funds to support similar projects.
"There have been millions of dollars of technical assistance and cost share assistance provided by USDA and other partners in the Tillamook," says ODA's Matthews. "Has there been a benefit from that investment? The answer is, absolutely!"
Another question is whether success in the Tillamook can be applied elsewhere in Oregon where agriculture intersects with the waters of the state. The Tillamook has a tremendous advantage of having so many partner agencies physically located right in the heart of the community. Synergy has brought about significant results. But other key factors can lead to success wherever water quality problems exist.
"Through ODA's CAFO Program, all dairies have a permit," says Jim Krahn of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association. "CAFO establishes a system that if someone does not adhere to the regulation, they will be brought into compliance via regulation. An important key to success is regulation. Volunteer efforts will only achieve a certain amount."
However, the record shows that for the past two decades, Oregon dairy producers have taken a positive, proactive approach to improving water quality.
"The dairy industry statewide has supported major programs and efforts over the years to improve their management and reduce potential impacts they may have on watersheds," says OSU Extension Dairy Specialist Troy Downing, who has been in Tillamook for the past 15 years. "For Tillamook, it really has been this long term commitment from everyone involved that has allowed us to see water quality improvements over time."
It's a success story that has not reached its final chapter. There is room for improvement.
"The infrastructure we have in place both from a voluntary and a regulatory standpoint, will continue to drive water quality improvements within the Tillamook watershed," says Wustenberg of the Tillamook County Creamery Association.
All the partners are committed to continuing an effort that has already shown results. Agencies agree that the biggest "pat on the back" goes to the livestock facility operators. They are the ones who ultimately implement the myriad of rules and systems.
"When I started with ODA 10 years ago, I got fairly regular complaints from fishermen who noticed dairies pumping manure that got into the rivers in Tillamook," says Matthews. "My phone still rings, but the calls from Tillamook fishermen have pretty much stopped."
Another National Agriculture Day has come and gone, but once again, I'm hoping the celebration and observation of ag's importance becomes a year around event.
|Director Katy Coba|
The National Ag Day Program believes every American should understand how food, fiber, and renewable resource products are produced. I absolutely agree. Those of us in the industry know where food comes from and how it's produced. But we can't lose sight of the fact that most Americans don't. As we all know, most people are further and further removed from the farm and the ranch these days. A couple of generations ago, if you didn't grow up on a farm, you had an aunt, uncle, or grandfather on a farm. That's no longer the case. So it becomes incumbent upon those of us in agriculture to tell the story.
It may feel like we are being repetitive, but I don't think we can say often enough what farmers, ranchers, and processors in Oregon and the United States do day-to-day, the wonderful products they grow, and the fact that they get those products to market and into the hands of consumers at a relatively inexpensive cost. It truly is amazing.
Knowing and appreciating agriculture helps build public support for the industry, particularly when we look at what is going on politically and the fact that we have a Farm Bill up for re-authorization. There is a lot of debate on what should be in the Farm Bill. Americans need to understand agriculture and help us structure the right kind of support for our nation's farmers and ranchers so they can keep producing food for all of us.
Another key message every National Agriculture Day is the huge positive impact ag has on our economy. Let's use the export side as an example. For Oregon, 80 percent of what we grow leaves our state's borders, 40 percent goes to international markets. Agriculture contributes to one of the areas where we have a positive trade balance. The US still has a negative trade balance. We import more than we export. Without agriculture, that disparity would be even larger than it is now. It certainly helps us bring outside money here to the state of Oregon. Agriculture's contribution represents about 10 percent of the state's gross economy. That's very significant-second only to high tech in Oregon, and I predict that agriculture's importance to our economy is going to grow in the future.
There is still a lot more opportunity for agriculture to expand its economic footprint. It's going to take some decision making and probably some investment on the part of the state to make that happen-another reason why we need Oregonians to understand the importance of agriculture, what we do, how we do it, and its impact on the economy.
It's important for Oregonians to know where their food comes from, but it's also important for them to appreciate the abundance of safe, high quality food that is relatively affordable. We often forget how lucky we are. Most other places in the world don't have nearly the diversity and food choices that we have. People in other countries also pay a higher percentage of their income for their daily food needs. We can walk into a grocery store any time of the year and have an amazing array of fresh fruits and vegetables. The variety of all kinds of products that are available to us is something we often take for granted. I do think that we as Oregonians and Americans are becoming more aware of the importance of food, certainly with the concern around obesity and the need to focus on eating healthier that's coming to light. Agriculture plays a role in making sure we have that healthy food available to us.
From a food security standpoint, where do you want your food to come from? We debate this all the time when it comes to fuel. We are dependent on other nations for our energy sources. We do not want to become dependent on other nations for our food source-another reason why we've got to pay attention to what is going on in agriculture and continue to support farmers' and ranchers' ability to produce food in the United States.
As I reflect on all these things, the number one message for Oregonians during National Agriculture Week every year is to thank our farmers, our ranchers, our processors, and everyone who is involved in raising and getting food to our plate. It's a thank you that can be said every day, every week, every year.
|Board of Agriculture profile|
Editor's note: Bob Levy of Hermiston has completed two terms on the State Board of Agriculture. The AQ spoke to him recently about his experience.|
Q: After your eight years on the board, describe how the board has changed. Is it serving the industry, as well as the people of Oregon, better?
A: When I started serving, the board was advisory to the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Since then, the legislature has given the board more responsibility and made it a policy board. That gives us more responsibility to deal with issues important to agriculture, some of them controversial and far reaching. I have supported this change and I think the board now better serves both the industry and the people of Oregon. One thing hasn't changed in my eight years-board members still are talented and knowledgeable people who really care about agriculture and want to see it not only survive, but thrive.
Q: What do you consider the most significant achievement of the board during your tenure? What do you consider your most significant achievement during that time?
A: I really think the board has done a great job of reaching out to a wider variety of groups and people who have strong interest in Oregon agriculture. The board members no longer just talk among themselves, we have conversations with a larger circle so that we can gain a better perspective on the policies and issues agriculture deals with. Whether it has been conservation groups, other state and federal agencies, or those within agriculture who feel they really haven't had a voice before, we now encourage that dialogue. To the extent that I've helped make that all possible, I consider that a top personal achievement, but credit has to go to all 10 members of the Board of Agriculture.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges facing the board? Do you feel the board has made some progress in addressing those challenges?
A: There are still a lot of major challenges that are far bigger than what the board can effectively tackle. I still think the board can try to do more to get the general public informed about the good things farmers and ranchers do for the economy and the environment, and also make the public aware of the threats and hardships facing agriculture. We've made some progress by issuing our State of the Industry report to the governor and state legislature every two years. But sometimes we just preach to the choir when we ought to be targeting messages to Oregonians outside our circle. That's a daunting task because not everybody wants to hear about the challenges facing agriculture, but the board needs to try because it's really those people in Oregon not involved in production agriculture that are going to be the biggest influence on the industry. They elect officials who make policy decisions and they also vote with their pocketbook when they buy Oregon agricultural products.
Q: What do you see in the future for the State Board of Agriculture? What issues may emerge and how might the board continue to evolve to respond to those issues effectively?
A: I see the State Board of Agriculture continuing to be relevant to both the industry and the people of Oregon as a whole. The board members I've known work very hard to find solutions to those problems where we can make a difference. The board will be dealing even more with water quality issues, transportation, marketing, and I'm sure some things we can't imagine right now. By using our subcommittees to get into the details of these issues and then reporting to the full board, I think the board can continue to respond effectively no matter what the topic.
Q: Personally, how did you feel about the experience of being a part of the Board of Agriculture?
A: I've been privileged to be a member of the State Board of Agriculture. The past eight years have been enjoyable and rewarding. To work with a great group of people from around the state who represent the wide diversity of agricultural products has been a pleasure. They each bring unique experiences that help the board function in a more statewide manner. I have learned a lot from these folks. The only frustrating thing is knowing that we can't solve all of the industry's problems quickly or easily. We can only try to do our best, and I think the board has done just that.
Q: What advice do you have for whoever fills your position on the board?
A: My advice for anyone who wants to be on the board is to first make sure they have a passion for Oregon agriculture. That's the foundation for anyone to be successful. And even though it sounds like all work and no play, we all have fun being on the board. So my successor should make sure to enjoy the experience and not always take everything too seriously.
|Spotlight on Specialty Crop Grant Fund projects|
Northwest organic farmer food safety education and certification initiative|
Editor's note: In 2011, the Oregon Department of Agriculture awarded more than $1.7 million in federal funds to 24 projects aimed at boosting the competitiveness of the state's fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. Proposals for 2012 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding are currently being considered. The Agriculture Quarterly is periodically highlighting past projects and tracking their success.
Recipients of Specialty Crop Block Grant funds in Oregon have generally come from a list that includes agriculture industry associations, producer groups, processors, commodity commissions, non-profits, for profits, and local government agencies. Last year, for the first time, an agricultural distributor received specialty crop grant funds in Oregon.
"We were excited to see the proposal from Organically Grown Company, which is offering growers trainings, guidance, and third-party food safety certification," says Katie Pearmine, ODA's Specialty Crop Grant Program Coordinator. "It's great to see a distributor working directly with growers to address food safety issues."
Organically Grown, which received a $69,564 grant, is considered to be the Pacific Northwest's largest wholesaler of organic produce. It has operations in Eugene and Portland.The grant funding, at this point, is being put to good use.
"Widely publicized pathogen outbreaks have resulted in the recent passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act and imposition of food safety mandates by food service and grocery buyers," says Natalie Reitman-White, Director of Sustainability and Trade Advocacy for Organically Grown Company. "We applied for the Specialty Crops Block Grant to help small and mid-scale Oregon growers preserve market access for their local, organic, and nutritious produce."
The company believes farmers need to develop comprehensive on-farm food safety plans as a response to several challenges-fulfilling the moral obligation everyone in the supply chain has to protect the safety of food, mitigating the risk of litigation, responding to pending regulatory mandates, and meeting requirements set by retail stores and food service.
To date, 28 growers are participating in the project. Their farms include 1,679 acres of diverse organic specialty crops in Oregon and supply a variety of market channels including wholesale to retail, retail farm stands, farmers' markets, and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture).
"The 28 growers have welcomed the opportunity to receive comprehensive training on food safety and expert guidance on developing their own farm food safety plan," says Reitman-White. "Training topics have included water quality management, worker health and hygiene, manure and compost management, field and packing shed sanitation, hazard analysis, and traceability."
The opportunity to receive the training and certification has proved so popular that Organically Grown has a waiting list of additional growers who want to participate should a space open up. This winter, representatives of the 28 farms as well as OSU Small Farms Extension staff participated in two day-long training workshops in Eugene and Oregon City. They received an all-inclusive tool kit with practical templates and check lists that can be adapted, as well as access to a website portal with additional resources. Site visits of the 28 farms planned for April and May will provide hands-on technical assistance in preparation for a formal Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit.
"ODA's timely support for this project has been instrumental in providing the food safety technical assistance and support for GAP audits that growers need to meet emerging marketplace mandates," says Reitman-White. "It is a great example of how public support can be leveraged by the private sector to bring about a benefit that will ultimately be beneficial to the broader community."
That broader community includes consumers. Organically Grown Company has a special message for them.
"Our growers work hard everyday to deliver healthy organic fruits and vegetables to consumer tables," says Reitman-White. "Along the entire food supply chain, we all have a responsibility to address food safety issues wherever they arise, and farmers will continue to do their part."
With Oregon ranking fifth in the nation in the production of specialty crops-commonly recognized fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops-targeted federal funding goes a long way in meeting a variety of agricultural challenges, including food safety.
|Calling all "new" Oregon Century Farms & Ranches|
|Applications are now being accepted for the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program. The 2012 award year application deadline is June 1, 2012. Families throughout Oregon who have continuously farmed portions of their family acreage for the past 100 or 150 years are invited to apply.|
The Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program began in 1958, to honor farm and ranch families with century-long connections to the land. To qualify for a century or sesquicentennial award, interested families must follow a formal application process. Members of the Application Review Committee review each application against the qualifications, which include continuous family operation of the farm or ranch; a gross income from farm use of not less than $1,000 per year for at least three years out of five prior to application; and family members must live on or actively manage the farm or ranch activities. Application documentation may include photos, original deeds, personal stories, or other historic records. These records help support Oregon's agricultural history by providing valuable information about settlement patterns or statistics on livestock and crop cycles. All documents are archived for public access.
The Oregon Century Farm & Ranch application and program guidelines are available at http://www.oregonfb.org/programs/century-farm-ranch, or by contacting Sharon Leighty at 503-400-7884 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Successful applicants receive a personalized certificate with acknowledgment by the Governor and the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. A durable metal road side sign to identify the family's farm or ranch as having historic Century or Sesquicentennial status is also available. Each family will be honored during a special ceremony and reception at the Oregon State Fair, September 1, 2012.
Every Oregon farm and ranch has a unique history and special family story. The Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program encourages agriculture families to share, with a broader audience, these stories of century long connections. By promoting family stories, rich cultural heritage is passed down to future generations while educating Oregonians about the social and economic impact of Oregon agriculture. To date, 1,177 families have formally received the century designation and 23 families have received the sesquicentennial award.
|West Coast berry farmers unite for food safety|
As the saying goes, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. For West Coast growers of small fruits, one bad berry can spoil the entire crate no matter what type of berry it is or where it is grown. Berry commissions in Oregon, Washington, and California are banding together and taking a proactive approach to food safety. The effort begins this spring with education and training of growers and their on-farm workers on proper handling of fresh fruit.|
"Our goal is to provide and assure a safe and wholesome product," says Eric Pond, a blueberry grower from Jefferson who chairs the Oregon Blueberry Commission. "We think this kind of effort helps us consistently get there. We feel there is a need for all of us to work together because these issues can affect all of us."
Late last summer, more than a dozen confirmed cases of E.coli were traced to a single producer of fresh Oregon strawberries. One woman died and several people were hospitalized. It was the nation's first reported outbreak of E. coli traced to fresh strawberries. While the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon Health Authority worked to recall the berries in question, growers who were not implicated in the outbreak were extremely concerned. The Oregon Blueberry Commission and the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission monitored the recall effort and braced for any fallout that might include them. The California Strawberry Commission watched closely. Berry growers in Washington also paid close attention.
"The headlines in the newspaper said that E. coli was found in Oregon berries, but berry growers in our neighboring states were concerned that an outbreak in Oregon could have some impact on their crops as well," says Vance Bybee, administrator of ODA's Food Safety Division.
What used to be thought of as mostly a problem with manufactured food is now recognized as a reality with fresh produce. Recalls the past couple of years have rocked producers of leafy greens, nuts, and, most recently, Colorado cantaloupe.
"Of our last five recalls in Oregon, all have involved fresh, raw products," says Bybee.
The West Coast berry industry wanted to reduce the risk of a food recall and prepare to respond to a food illness outbreak. The Oregon Strawberry Commission asked ODA to host a food safety on-the-farm meeting that included the other Oregon berry commissions as well as those in Washington and California. The initial meeting established the need for a proactive, unified berry response. A followup meeting focused on the steps needed to get something in place for this upcoming growing season.
"It was decided that the first item to be addressed is the education of growers and their laborers on safe growing and handling practices on the farm," says Bybee. "The California Strawberry Commission has already developed a successful program for on-farm education and they are willing to provide it to all berry commissions in Oregon and Washington. The training will be done on the farm, and offered in Spanish and English."
A series of four to six on-farm trainings will take place in Oregon that will be open to all berry growers and harvest workers. Those receiving training will then be able to train crews prior to this year's harvest.
"These trainings will focus primarily on worker health and hygiene, but will also provide instruction on general good agricultural practices,"says Lindsay Eng, certification manager with ODA's Commodity Inspection Division, which will offer two trainings of its own directed to harvest crew managers. "For instance, workers will be trained to watch for signs of wildlife intrusion in the field."
The E. coli in strawberries incident last year was traced back to deer feces in the field.
Other important steps will be highlighted in the training such as keeping sick workers out of the field during harvest- something that seems common-sense, but isn't always applied.
At their meetings this winter, the commissions agreed it was important to get everyone to pull together and not point fingers regarding food safety concerns.
"When it comes to food safety, it doesn't matter what size of farm you have," says Bybee. "Food pathogens don't discriminate against any specific type of berry either. The message that needs to get out to all growers is that everyone needs to follow the proper practices on the farm."
The third agreed upon component of the unified berry response is to develop a food safety recall plan and protocol that will help growers do what is required during a recall of fresh berries. That includes how to prepare the proper documentation for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the first two steps are successful-the on-farm education and the unified efforts-step three is less likely to be needed.
It is clear that berry growers in the three states don't want to sit back and wait for the next outbreak of food borne illnesses-even if it doesn't involve fresh strawberries, blueberries, and caneberries.
"The berry industry is looking to be on the cutting edge of food safety," says Bybee. "They don't want to be on the defensive side and just wait until something happens. With this unified approach by the commissions, we believe consumers of Oregon, Washington, and California berries can be even more assured than ever before that the producers are taking steps to provide them with safe berries."
|FoodCorps looks for a new class in Oregon|
|FoodCorps, a national organization that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity in underserved communities, is combing through applications for its second annual class of service members. The selected emerging leaders will dedicate one year of full-time public service in school food systems sourcing healthy, local food for school cafeterias, expanding hands-on nutrition education programs, and building and tending school gardens.|
Oregon is one of 10 pilot states currently hosting the program. This school year, there are four FoodCorps members providing service in Marion, Lane, Benton, Multnomah, and Tillamook counties. This round of recruitment is expected to bring seven FoodCorps members to Oregon, starting in August 2012. FoodCorps in Oregon will expand to include a service placement in Baker County.
In its first year, FoodCorps gained national attention by attracting 1,229 applicants for just 50 positions, and by providing an innovative, grassroots, scalable approach to solving the national obesity epidemic. Since 1980, the percentage of American children who are overweight or obese has doubled. With one in four US children struggling with hunger and one in three obese or overweight, FoodCorps addresses the root cause of both: a lack of access to healthy food.
In Oregon, the first class of service members have already made a difference in local schools. For this school year to date, members have served more than 2,300 kids, built or revitalized 11 school or community gardens, and engaged 80 local volunteers. With the help of FoodCorps service members in Oregon, more than 1,500 pounds of produce from school or community gardens have been donated to food insecure families or food assistance programs.
"We would like the next crop of FoodCorps members in Oregon to match the passion and dedication of our current group," says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. "FoodCorps is yet another tool that supports procuring and promoting Oregon agricultural products into schools while teaching young people about healthy eating and where their food comes from. It's an exciting program and I'm pleased that Oregon is participating."
Oregon's next team of FoodCorps members will be announced in June.
|Oregon declares war on boxwood blight|
Beware of boxwood blight. The invasive fungal plant disease is new to North America and has been detected in a couple of Oregon nurseries, along with eight other states and a Canadian province. All eyes have been on nurseries that might harbor the disease, but there is a key role to be played by the public-especially those Oregonians who have boxwood as part of their own yard's landscape.
|Boxwood blight has been discovered in an Oregon nursery.|
"It is early in the process, so we have a chance of keeping boxwood blight from becoming a problem in Oregon," says Dan Hilburn, administrator of the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Plant Division. But it will take both the nurseries that carry boxwoods and homeowners to be vigilant for the diseases so it doesn't get started in our landscapes,"
Boxwood blight, Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum, has previously invaded Europe and New Zealand. Boxwoods are commonly grown and sold by nurseries. ODA discovered boxwood blight disease in an Oregon nursery in December. Since that time, at least one other nursery has detected the disease. Steps have been taken by those nurseries to destroy infected plants. Unlike the pathogen that causes sudden oak death, this newly-reported disease is no threat to the state's environment and only affects boxwoods, a plant species that is not native to Oregon.
Even though the disease only affects boxwoods, it can spread rapidly. The disease doesn't spread through the air but is transmitted from plant to plant by rain splash or contaminated trimmers. Boxwood blight infects leaves and branches, causing severe defoliation and dieback. Infected branches develop long blackish-brown cankers that appear as stripes on stems. In mild, humid conditions often found during spring in Oregon, the fungus produces clusters of white spores visible to the naked eye. Although boxwoods are not typically killed directly by the disease, rapid defoliation leaves boxwoods unmarketable and unsightly.
Outside the nursery environment, boxwood blight has caused significant damage in European landscapes. That's something Oregon and other US states want to avoid.
ODA and the industry believe they have set up a good system for detecting boxwood blight in nurseries, but now need the help of homeowners who may have boxwood hedges or individual plants.
"There are two important steps for homeowners," says Hilburn. "First, they need to be very careful when they purchase new boxwoods and only buy from reputable dealers. They should buy only healthy plants and avoid anything that doesn't appear to be perfectly healthy-even if it's on sale. Secondly, homeowners need to pay attention to the boxwoods they already have. Until now, boxwoods have been pretty much maintenance free. Now, homeowners need to look to see if those plants lose leaves when they aren't supposed to, starting from the bottom of the plant. Warm and wet conditions are ideal for the fungus and the boxwood could end up losing all of its leaves. If that happens, people need to take the boxwood out and quickly destroy it before it infects other boxwood plants in the hedge."
Homeowners are advised to sanitize hedge trimmers and trim less thrifty plants last.
Throughout the US, boxwood is an important ornamental hedge. While not as common in the Pacific Northwest, there are still plenty of places where boxwood is a featured landscape ingredient. Anyone who has walked the grounds of Oregon's State Capitol in Salem has probably seen the attractive boxwood hedges.
As one of the nation's leading nursery production states, Oregon produces a good share of the boxwoods on the market. About 200 Oregon nurseries grow many different varieties, with most of them going out of state. That's why ODA is focusing a great deal of effort on surveying Oregon nurseries for the disease.
The disease is serious enough to have prompted a pest alert by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. That alert targets nurseries but also underscores the importance of educating the public. Having additional eyes looking for any sign of boxwood blight in Oregon's yards, gardens, and landscapes can help detect outbreaks early, allowing for quick action to keep it from spreading. Anyone encountering a boxwood hedge or plant showing symptoms of the disease is encouraged to report it to ODA or their county extension agent. Officials can confirm the disease and would like to track any plant that has developed boxwood blight. A digital picture can be sent to ODA or a sprig from the boxwood plant can be placed in a bag and delivered to ODA's Plant Division.
One positive aspect of this latest invasive disease of Oregon plant life-boxwood blight does not approach the threat of sudden oak death in Oregon. Since there are no native boxwood species in the state's natural environment, officials don't have to deal with an outbreak in the wild. Sudden oak death has established itself in Curry County along the southern coast. Still, the two diseases share a common bond.
"The best way to deal with sudden oak death and boxwood blight is to not let these diseases get started in the first place," says Hilburn.
|ODA names new State Veterinarian|
Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba has announced the appointment of Dr. Brad LeaMaster as State Veterinarian. LeaMaster succeeds Dr. Don Hansen, who is retiring after serving as State Veterinarian for the past eight years. LeaMaster returns to ODA as the State Veterinarian after holding the position in 2003, prior to moving to the US Department of Agriculture in 2004.|
"We are pleased to have someone of Dr. LeaMaster's experience and expertise to step right in and carry on such an important responsibility," says Coba. "We are especially fortunate since Dr. LeaMaster has held the position in the past. He knows ODA, the livestock industry, and the issues. I expect him to hit the ground running. We also appreciate the great work Dr. Hansen has provided ODA and Oregon agriculture for the past eight years."
LeaMaster received his degree in veterinary medicine from Washington State University (WSU) and has worked as a veterinarian for nearly 30 years. Since 2004, LeaMaster has worked for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office in Salem where he served as area emergency coordinator. Other work experience includes 10 years with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and eight years as a veterinary extension specialist at the University of Hawaii prior to joining ODA as a field veterinarian in 1999.
LeaMaster earned undergraduate degrees from Eastern Oregon College in La Grande and Washington State University, a masters degree in animal nutrition from Oregon State University, his veterinary degree from WSU, and a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Hawaii.
The State Veterinarian's Office monitors infectious animal diseases in Oregon and maintains disease control plans throughout the state.
|ODA salutes 2012 Ag Progress Award Winners|
|Oregon agriculture saluted industry leaders this spring at the 20th annual Agricultural Progress Awards Dinner held in Pendleton. The event, hosted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, celebrates progress in agriculture made through partnerships between business, higher education, and state government. |
ODA Director Katy Coba presented awards in recognition of innovation and leadership
|A mixed bag this spring for ODA's bug busters|
Oregon's traditional insect pest of most concern seems to have been replaced this year by another unwanted bug. While populations of gypsy moth have been low the past couple of years, Japanese beetle activity has increased. As a result, there are no gypsy moth eradication projects scheduled this spring for the third year in a row. However, three separate eradication projects for Japanese beetle will be taking place this spring and summer in Oregon.|
The lack of gypsy moth activity is welcome news to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, but officials say it is way too early to end the vigilance.
"Gypsy moth is still an important invasive species we have to control and, in the western states, eradicate when we find it because of the impact this species has on our agriculture and natural resources," says Helmuth Rogg, manager of ODA's Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program.
Last year, for the first time since wide-scale trapping began back in the 1980s, not a single gypsy moth was detected among the 11,000 or so traps that were placed throughout the state. That followed a detection count of only one in 2010, and just six in 2009. By contrast, more than 19,000 of the plant-eating insect pests were trapped in Lane County alone in the mid-1980s.
"For three years now, we have not had a gypsy moth eradication project in Oregon," says ODA entomologist Barry Bai. "Historically, we have been treating gypsy moths nearly every year, but the last eradication project was in 2009, in south Eugene. Since then, it has been quiet."
It is tempting to believe that gypsy moth no longer is a threat to Oregon. But the invasive insect continues to be well established in other states back east and could easily be introduced once again. New introductions of gypsy moth to Oregon have routinely taken place in past years. New residents or travelers from areas where gypsy moth populations are high unwittingly bring the insect pest with them on such things as outdoor household furniture or other items that may harbor gypsy moth eggs. It only takes one female gypsy moth to lay eggs in Oregon and start up a new population of the invasive species. That's why the trapping program is so important, even in years when the detections are few. Finding gypsy moths as soon as possible and quickly eliminating breeding populations allows ODA to successfully prevent economic and environmental losses to Oregon, either through restrictive quarantines on commodities or by the loss of foliage and even trees due to expanding gypsy moth populations.
A break from treating gypsy moths this year gives ODA more time and resources to continue fighting Japanese beetle. A record-high 34 Japanese beetles were found in traps last year at three separate areas of Oregon. Each will receive treatment in both the spring and summer.
"Last year, we found 16 beetles at the Portland International Airport and the surrounding area," says Bai. "We also found four beetles in an area of Troutdale and 14 beetles in Cave Junction in southern Oregon."
Japanese beetle is a major plant pest in other parts of the United States. As a grub, it can be very destructive to turf. As an adult, the beetle feasts on a wide variety of plants including trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. For years, ODA has worked to detect and eradicate populations of the pest when they are discovered. Japanese beetle often hitches a ride on cargo planes originating in infested areas from other states. That's why detections frequently take place near the Portland Airport.
The Cave Junction infestation is traced to a new resident who moved from Iowa with potted plants that harbored Japanese beetle. It appears the insects were able to lay eggs in the soil surrounding the home, which led to detections the past two years.
Treatments this spring and summer will be localized. The first applications this spring will involve treating the soil of infested areas with a granular pesticide. In the summer, a pesticide spray will be applied to foliage in those targeted areas.
There are plenty of other insect pests of concern to keep ODA busy. Also on the radar this year, as it has been in past years, are brown marmorated stink bug, spotted wing drosophila, light brown apple moth-all of which have been detected in Oregon already-and at least two species that thankfully have not been detected yet, Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer. Detection efforts will continue to be important as ODA survey technicians get ready to check the Oregon landscape. It will certainly be another busy year for ODA's Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program even without a gypsy moth eradication project this spring.
|5th annual Oregon Ag Fest|
April 28-29, 2012
Oregon State Fairgrounds
This is a hands on educational opportunity to teach children about agriculture. The event is free to children 12 and under and $9.00 for ages 13 and up. For more information visit www.oragfest.com or call 1-800-874-7012.
Calling all artists, K-6: Agriculture in the Classroom Calendar Contest
Oregon students, grades K-6, are invited to submit original artwork about Oregon agriculture for the contest. Students are encouraged to use a lot of creativity and color in their artwork. Artwork must be submitted by May 15, 2012.
Every student who submits artwork receives a personalized certificate. The winning 13 students receive a $50 savings bond and their artwork will be published in the 2012-2013 school-year calendar.
More information and rules: http://aitc.oregonstate.edu/training/calendar.htm
8th annual Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week
R.2 I. P. - Report & Remove Invasive Plants
May 20-26, 2012
Do your part to report and remove invasive plants. Help protect Oregon's agriculture and natural resources. Activities for weed events throughout Oregon will be included on the events calendar: http://oregon.gov/ODA/PLANT/WEEDS/Pages/calendar.aspx
State Board of Agriculture
May 29-31, 2012
The exact location is yet to be announced, please watch the Board's website for location and agenda information: http://oregon.gov/ODA/Pages/boardoverview.aspx
Oregon Invasive Species Council
June 26 and 27, 2012
The exact location is yet to be announced, please watch the OISC website for location and agenda information.