By Mitch lies
Gov. John Kitzhaber on Aug. 14 signed a bill banning canola production in the Willamette Valley until 2019 at the earliest.
By signing House Bill 2427, Kitzhaber agreed with lawmakers to overturn a decision by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to allow up to 2,500 acres of the crop in the valley.
HB2427 stipulates that commercial canola production is banned in the valley for five years while OSU researchers study whether it poses a risk for specialty seed production.
The bill provides OSU $679,000 to study the impacts of 500 acres of canola on the specialty seed industry over a five year period, including three years of crop production and two years of monitoring fields where the crop was grown.
The research also includes funding to study 500 acres of radish and 500 acres of turnips, both, like canola, brassica crops.
In signing the bill, Kitzhaber included an explanatory letter addressed to Secretary of State Kate Brown in which he issued a stinging caveat to specialty seed growers. Kitzhaber wrote that he expects the specialty seed industry to cooperate with OSU researchers in the study.
"If this cooperation is not forthcoming, I will work with interested legislators to resolve conflicts between the specialty seed industry and canola growers," Kitzhaber wrote, "recognizing that the specialty seed industry has made it impossible to base that resolution on productive research."
The proposal includes a provision that if no significant differences in pest incidence or volunteer plants occur among radish, turnip and canola fields of similar size, "then these crops should be treated equitably in any regulatory process."
Research objectives, according to the research proposal include to conduct a comprehensive literature review of brassica crop production, to monitor the fields, and to map the Willamette Valley for available acres to determine how many acres of brassica crops can be grown, while maintaining the viability of the specialty seed industry.
The mapping, particularly, will require access to data held by the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association, Kitzhaber wrote.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture, in February of this year, approved up to 2,500 acres of canola production in the valley. Commercial canola production has been restricted in the valley since 2005.
Specialty seed growers contend canola will run the vegetable seed industry out of the valley, while growers hoping to grow canola as a rotation crop say it can be grown in the valley without damaging the specialty seed industry.